Circuit Judge | Group 3
Incumbent Sandy K. Kautz has drawn three challengers to the nonpartisan seat she has held since 2008. Although generally well-regarded by colleagues and peers, Kautz drew some fire recently from the Judicial Qualifications Commission when it was alleged she tried to use her influence in a family matter before the court. The commission's recommendation that she be publicly reprimanded has yet to be acted upon by the Supreme Court. If no one receives more than 50 percent of the primary vote in the August primary election, the top two finishers will face each other in November....
SPRING HILL — The Florida Supreme Court has suspended a Spring Hill lawyer for 91 days for engaging in actions that it said involved "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation" in a divorce case against his wife of seven years.
George Allen Routh, 82, who has practiced law in Florida for 53 years, was found culpable of infractions between 2005 and 2012 that occurred during the breakup of his marriage to Sarah Thompson. According to a complaint filed by the Florida Bar, many of Routh's actions were meant to deny his wife of her rightful benefit of joint assets....
08/01/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — For the past couple of months, the mosquitoes in and around Harold Johnson's home at Southern Hills Plantation Club had gotten so bad that he and his neighbors were reluctant to step outside after dusk for even a brief walk around the neighborhood.
"It's probably about as bad as I've ever seen it," Johnson said. "Everyone I know says the same thing."
Johnson wanted answers as to why the mosquito problem had gotten so out of hand this summer, so he called Hernando County Mosquito Control. He was told by coordinator/surveillance technician Rene Snow that it wasn't the county's problem....
BROOKSVILLE — Cynthia Lynn Herr, a former Hernando County teacher accused last year of having sexual activity with a 16-year-old boy, received a six-year prison sentence Thursday in exchange for a guilty plea. Once she is released, she must serve nine years of sexual offender probation.
Standing beside her attorney, Mike Mastrogiovanni, a tearful Herr, 36, appeared before Hernando Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr., who also required that she surrender her state teaching certificate....
07/31/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — When Don Barbee took the reins last year as Hernando County clerk of the court, he inherited a huge problem. Not only were foreclosure filings continuing at a high level, there was the dilemma of what to do about cases that had languished far longer than normal in the courts.
The foreclosure logjam dated back several years, but by January 2013 it had reached critical mass, with nearly 3,500 cases on the books and only two judges hearing them. At the same time, Barbee's office was dealing with deep budget cuts that gripped every county government agency....
BROOKSVILLE — His eyes locked on the six jurors before him, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino held up two photos and made a somber comparison Wednesday in Hernando Circuit Judge Stephen E. Toner's courtroom.
"Ivan Horne in life," Magrino remarked, holding up the first photo. "Ivan Horne in death," he said, as he showed the second picture, taken the morning of May, 4, 2010, when authorities discovered Horne's body in a yard in Ridge Manor, in eastern Hernando County....
BROOKSVILLE — For the next couple of days, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino is expected to cover some familiar territory during the retrial of Stephen Horne.
Many of the same witnesses will be called, and jurors will see most of the same evidence presented three years ago when Horne was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder and armed robbery of his 47-year-old father, Ivan Horne....
07/24/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville Vision Foundation is looking to formally present its plan to eliminate the one-way streets through downtown Brooksville to the Florida Department of Transportation by the end of the year.
Foundation president Cliff Manuel said during the organization's monthly meeting Tuesday that DOT officials want the group to work with the newly combined Hernando-Citrus Metropolitan Planning Organization to get the project put on the DOT's "cost-affordable" plan for long-term transportation projects. From there, the plan would likely gain momentum from DOT officials, who are currently in the process of putting together a new 20-year transportation plan....
07/22/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — The opening strains of budget season in Brooksville on Monday night lacked the ominous tone of the past few years.
Optimism about rising property values, some cautious improvement in the county's jobless numbers and even signs of new construction in places such as Southern Hills Plantation Club and the Cascades have been hopeful indicators that the Great Recession is finally abating....
07/17/14 Human Interest
BROOKSVILLE — With some formidable challenges ahead, incoming Hernando County Fair Association President Shari Klimas says she is counting on the community, volunteers and board members to work together and come up with ideas on how to improve the organization's financial picture.
Klimas, who has been on the board for seven years, six as treasurer, said renewing the community's faith is key to propelling the fair association out of the financial doldrums that have led the organization to continue spending more money than it takes in each year. She wants the board to take a hard look at ways to save money and raise more revenue....
BROOKSVILLE — Virginia Jackson always loved old photographs because when she looked at them it made her feel like she had been invited on a journey back in time.
"I've always felt that knowledge of the past is key to the future," Mrs. Jackson once said. "If we ignore who we are and how we got here, we miss out on a lot of good things in life."
For more than three decades as perhaps Hernando County's best-known historian and community volunteer, Mrs. Jackson lent her expertise and knowledge to the Hernando County Historical Society and Heritage Museum, where she served as executive director for more than 20 years....
07/10/14 Human Interest
BROOKSVILLE — Every January, a couple of thousand Civil War re-enactors gather at Spring Hill to commemorate the area's only notable military action during the war. But while the grand spectacle known as the Brooksville Raid — with its legions of blue- and gray-coated soldiers firing barrage after barrage of rifle and cannon volleys — might make for fascinating battle theater, it doesn't exactly square with historical fact....
HERNANDO BEACH — On any given day from May to early July, one or two dozen boats, most manned by experienced guides, troll the shallow waters off Hernando County. Their hunted game is silver king tarpon, a behemoth of a sport fish that's considered among the Gulf Of Mexico's most elusive species.
The hope of landing a prized tarpon lures some of the most dedicated saltwater anglers in the world. And to those in the know, the area from Bayport north to Homosassa Springs is prime ground where migrating tarpon gather before heading into deeper waters to spawn. Baseball great Ted Williams fished the area often. So have singer Harry Connick Jr. and golf legend Jack Nicklaus....
BROOKSVILLE — Former Brooksville Fire Department Capt. Sam Schey says that even though he resigned after an incident involving his unauthorized use of a fire truck on April 6 to demonstrate the apparatus to a family member, he regrets doing so.
In an interview this week with the Times, Schey, 37, said an internal affairs investigation done by the Brooksville Police Department contained several factual errors and its conclusion painted an inaccurate picture of the events that occurred that day. The incident led not only to Schey's resignation but the firing of another department captain, Bill Kaplan, who was terminated for unacceptable conduct as a supervisor and inefficiency of performance of duties....
07/01/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Property Appraiser John Emerson delivered some positive news this week to the county's taxing authorities: Based on preliminary tax roll values, the governmental bodies stand to collect significantly more in revenue this year.
It effectively signals an end to the seven-year downturn in property values across Hernando.
The county's certified taxable value of $7.112 billion was roughly a 2.32 percent increase over last year's preliminary certified value and is the final key factor in the formula used by government officials to construct their annual spending plans for the 2014-15 fiscal year....