Monday, August 20, 2018


Mark Puente

Mark Puente

Mark Puente covers Pinellas County government, including the constitutional officers and the way they operate their offices. Puente returned to the Tampa Bay Times in July after two years at The Baltimore Sun. He worked as an investigative reporter and was on the team that was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the Freddie Gray saga and city's riots. His "Undue Force" series about police brutality led to reform efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Baltimore. The series won the Institute on Political Journalism's Clark Mollenhoff Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism's Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award for reporting on racial or religious hatred, intolerance or discrimination in the United States. He joined the Times in November 2010 and covered real estate issues as part of the Times' Business team until June 2012. He then covered St. Petersburg City Hall until March 2014. He spent more than five years with the Plain Dealer in Cleveland where he won multiple journalism awards for his investigative work. His reporting forced a 32-year sheriff in Ohio's largest county to resign from office in 2009 and plead guilty to theft-in-office charges. He took a different path to journalism, logging more than 1 million miles in the cab of a semitrailer truck over 14 years. After leaving the trucking industry, Puente earned a political science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has a wife and three sons. Go Tar Heels!


Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

ST. PETERSBURG — A political newcomer seeking a Pinellas County Commission seat has faced accusations of physical abuse and stalking from her former fiance, who twice sought court-ordered protection from her.Both allegations came after Democrat...
Published: 08/17/18
Lake County, Ill., administrator Barry Burton was tabbed to become the next administrator of Pinellas County on Thursday. [MARK PUENTE  |  Times]

Pinellas County’s top choice for top job: Barry Burton

A nationwide search ended Thursday when the Pinellas County Commission unanimously selected an official from outside Chicago to be the next county administrator.Now, all Barry Burton has to do is accept the job.It took the...
Published: 08/16/18
Pinellas County Commission District 6 candidates discussed local and federal issues at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club election forum in July. From left to right: Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole; Barb Haselden, citizen activst; Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasedena; moderator Todd Jennings.

In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

As the Aug. 28 primary election approaches, three Republicans are battling to represent a Pinellas County Commission district that hasn’t witnessed a competitive contest for more than 15 years.State Reps. Larry Ahern of Seminole and Kathleen...
Published: 08/16/18
These are the four candidates vying to become the next administrator of Pinellas County: Barry Burton the administrator of Lake County, Ill. (top left); Roberto Hernandez, the city manager of Savannah, Ga. (top right); Steve Howard, the administrator of Camden County, Ga. (bottom left); and Jill Silverboard, the deputy city manager of Clearwater (bottom right), [MARK PUENTE | Times]

Pinellas commissioners interview county administrator candidates

ST. PETERSBURG — The four candidates vying to become the next administrator of Pinellas County spent the past two days making their pitch to dozens of community leaders — and to their future bosses, the County Commission.Now...
Published: 08/14/18
Scott Keeler/tbt*
Some higher priced bourbons are available at Norman\u2019s Liquors and Fine Wines, 5235 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach, August 1, 2018, From left to right: Whistle Pig-Farmstock, Whistle Pig-The Boss Hog, Yippee Ki-Yay, High West Distillery-Bourye, Old Fitzgerald- Bottled in Bond, Woodford Reserve- Master\u2019s Collection, Little Book by Freddie Noe, and Kentucky Owl.

To drink fine bourbon on a budget, hunt ‘unicorns’

For more than year, I have chased unicorns.I’ve searched the Tampa Bay area. I’ve hunted in Baltimore, Denver, Detroit, Cleveland andLas Vegas. I’ve walked through dozens of doors, but I often strike out.I’m not chasing mythical...
Published: 08/09/18
Cracks have developed in the exteriors walls at the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center on Ulmerton Road, which is also home to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, The paint has also faded on the entire facility. The county spent $81 million to build the center, which opened in 2014. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

Pinellas County won’t wait on lawsuit to fix Public Safety Complex

Pinellas County officials don't plan to wait for a court to decide who's to blame for cracks in the walls of their four-year-old Public Safety Complex before fixing them.In a memo County Administrator Mark Woodard sent to commissioners...
Published: 08/08/18
Updated: 08/16/18
A handful of unlicensed contractors are cuffed as they are moved into a different vehicle during a press conference as Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announces the results of undercover stings that are catching unlicensed contractors at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) located at 4145 34th Street North in St. Petersburg, Monday morning. [DIRK SHADD | Times]

Pinellas deputies arrest 30 unlicensed contractors in undercover sting

ST. PETERSBURG –– From Saturday through early Monday, 30 people waltzed into a business in a busy plaza to pitch electrical, drywall and other construction services.They left in handcuffs, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced on Monday, as his...
Published: 08/06/18
Marc Anthony Perez, an unlicensed contractor who faked his death in 2017, faces felonies and misdemeanors for ripping off Seminole homeowners. Photo courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Pinellas contractor who faked death settles lawsuit, faces criminal charges

CLEARWATER –– Marc Anthony Perez, the unlicensed contractor who faked his death last summer to avoid paying a couple back for incomplete work, reached a confidential settlement to end a lawsuit that accused him of stealing more than $20,000.But...
Updated one month ago
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman speaks to the crowd at St. Petersburg City Hall after he was sworn in for a second term. (SCOTT KEELER   |   Times)

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman doesn’t believe allegations against Kevin King

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman said he doesn’t believe allegations that one of his top aides "preys" on homeless black men.Kriseman made the declaration in response to a woman and several members of the International People’s Democratic...
Updated one month ago
Kevin King, the chief of policy & public engagement for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. (Times files)

A Florida mayor is being asked to resign after citizens allege his chief of staff ‘preys’ on homeless black men

ST. PETERSBURG — At Thursday’s City Council meeting, seven residents called for the resignation of Mayor Rick Kriseman and Kevin King — one of his closest confidants — over allegations that King "preys" on homeless black men.Jesse Nevel, the...
Updated one month ago