12/06/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill finally decided this week that his Animal Services director was not up to the task of reforming that agency after months of turmoil at the shelter.
But instead of firing Ian Hallett, Merrill transferred him to a different management role in the county's Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, where he has no experience.
Merrill said he decided to retain Hallett because he's smart and a hard worker who actually made progress in achieving county commissioners' desire to see fewer animals killed at the shelter each year and more adopted. Where he struggled was in his ability to negotiate the various people and groups who take a passionate and sometimes hard-line interest in animal welfare issues....
12/04/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Residents of the East Lake community who say they suffer from dirty tap water and high costs for the most fundamental of services from a private utility may someday get relief.
Hillsborough County commissioners took a vote Wednesday that essentially puts the county in a position to buy the Pluris Eastlake utility franchise and replace the pipes and treatment system that serve nearly 1,000 homes in the community east of Tampa. The unanimous vote was greeted by cheers from audience members who waved signs, such as one that read: "All we want for Christmas is Pluris gone."...
12/04/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County Animal Services may be in a bit of upheaval with the reassignment of its director this week.
But that didn't stop county commissioners from moving forward Wednesday with perhaps the most controversial component of their efforts to lower the kill rate at the animal shelter.
Commissioners voted 6-1 to hold a public hearing Dec. 18 on an ordinance to allow the county to trap stray cats, spay or neuter them, then release them near where they were picked up. Commissioner Victor Crist was the lone opposing vote....
11/30/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County's first internal performance auditor quit after receiving poor reviews of her management abilities and completing few actual audits.
Commissioners fired the second after a heap of controversy, from public bouts with his employees to criticism of the few audits he performed even as he repeatedly sought pay raises.
Both struggled to negotiate the challenges of having seven elected bosses telling them what to do by siccing them on agencies or offices that met their disfavor....
TAMPA — Picking a board chairman is one of the more painful political decisions Hillsborough County commissioners make each year.
Arms get twisted by supporters of those vying for the title and the $10,000 stipend that comes with it. Feelings get hurt by the inevitable snubs.
"It creates bad feelings between the board members and puts them unnecessarily at odds," said Commissioner Victor Crist. "That creates a negative environment that lasts through the year."...
11/20/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Neighbors of a proposed big-box development next to the Bloomingdale Public Library have filed their long-awaited lawsuit seeking to overturn its approval by Hillsborough County commissioners.
The lawsuit asserts the development project was reviewed improperly by commissioners, in a manner that denied them proper notice and prevented them from having meaningful input about it. As such, it deprived them of their due process rights, the suit says....
TAMPA — It took a jury less than an hour Tuesday to decide that Dontae Morris, 28, should pay with his life for the murders of two Tampa police officers.
The unanimous recommendation, which won't take effect until confirmed by Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente, concludes Morris' trial for the 2010 killings of Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.
Last week, the same jury found Morris guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of escaping from custody....
11/16/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Charleston Corners resident Rosemary McGuire wasn't so impressed with the rollout of new residential garbage collection last month in unincorporated Hillsborough County.
Much of her street went without a pickup by hauler Republic Services of Florida for the first week, which just happened to overlap with a community-wide yard sale in Westchase, where her neighborhood is located....
TAMPA — Mark Sharpe will finally get to serve as chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission in his final year on the board.
Commissioners voted 4-3 to make Sharpe their chairman, a yearlong largely ceremonial position he has coveted for the past few years but failed to win. He leaves the board after eight years in 2014 due to term limits.
"I'm honored," he said. "And I'm very eager to serve this board and the citizens in this capacity."...
Mark Sharpe will finally get to serve as chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission in his final year on the board.
Commissioners voted 4-3 to make Sharpe their chairman, a year-long largely ceremonial position he has coveted for the past few years but failed to win. He leaves the board after eight years in 2014 due to term limits.
"I'm honored," Sharpe said. "And I'm very eager to serve this board and the citizens in this capacity."...
TAMPA — A department director who supervised children's programs has resigned from Hillsborough County government after an investigation found she gave unsolicited sexual advice to co-workers, including subordinates.
Erica Moore, interim director of the county's Head Start program, stepped down Nov. 1 after the investigation. The Tampa Bay Times obtained a summary of the report Friday....
11/06/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Some Hillsborough County commissioners are starting to question whether the right leadership is in place at the public animal shelter.
They expressed frustration Wednesday about the number of complaints they continue to receive from animal welfare advocates about disease, botched euthanasias and poor management at the shelter. At the same time, they acknowledged the passion of those advocates and acknowledged having a hard time judging the seriousness of some complaints and whether Animal Services director Ian Hallett can eventually quell them....
11/06/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Hispanics who spent years pushing for a Hillsborough County Commission district that would enable them to elect one of their own thought that was finally going to happen Wednesday.
But commissioners rejected the idea, refusing in a largely partisan vote to put the issue on the 2014 ballot.
Commissioners voting in opposition said they didn't like the proposal, which would have converted an at-large, countywide seat into a district post representing a portion of Hillsborough. The current configuration of the seven-member board has three countywide seats and four district posts, including one drawn to improve the chances for a black candidate to get elected....
11/05/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Three Hillsborough County animal shelter employees are on paid leave while human resources finalizes an investigation into what led to the mistaken euthanasia of a dog that was going to be adopted.
JoJo, a 1-year-old German shepherd, was scheduled to go home with a new family last month when he was killed before that could happen. Animal Services director Ian Hallett has previously said human error likely led to the error, though he said no details could be provided while the investigation is ongoing....
11/04/13 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials are looking at a curious possibility for leading the office that reviews proposals to build on or develop land.
Among four finalists for the director of development services position is Pete Flint, an executive with Redstone Development, the folks behind one of the most controversial proposed construction projects in years.
Redstone is proposing to bring a possible big-box commercial project and apartment complex on Bloomingdale Avenue that has stirred residential ire and opposition like few others....