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Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Steve Contorno

Steve Contorno is a staff writer for PolitiFact in the Tampa Bay Times Washington, D.C., bureau. He previously covered Congress and Virginia politics for the Washington Examiner as well as state and local governments in Wisconsin for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. A native of the Chicago suburbs, Steve graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism and a minor in political science, and holds a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he covered the Illinois legislature for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Phone: (202) 463-0575


The Contorno file:

Twitter: @scontorno

  1. Pat Frank seeks fourth term as Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Court

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank is officially running for a fourth term, kicking off a primary showdown with County Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

    Frank, 85, filed the paperwork to run Thursday. She previously said she was unlikely to enter the race so early — the election isn't until August 2016 — but her hands were tied in part by Beckner's fast start....

  2. Confederate flag in Hillsborough County headquarters becomes target of debate

    Local Government


    A Confederate flag hangs in the foyer of Hillsborough County's government headquarters, but maybe not for long.

    County commissioners will consider removing the flag from its stand above the Frederick B. Karl County Center front desk when they next meet July 15. It has been up there for two decades.

    Hillsborough County would become the latest Southern government to distance itself from the flag in the wake of the racially motivated shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church that left nine black men and women dead. The shooting suspect has been photographed holding the Confederate flag....

    A Confederate flag hangs in the Hillsborough County Center building on E Kennedy Avenue. [MICHAEL BOU-NACKLIE   |   Times]
  3. Rick Garrity retires after 15 years as Hillsborough's environmental chief

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The cake was waiting in the hallway for Rick Garrity to wrap up his final meeting as Hillsborough County's chief environmentalist.

    Its bright blue frosting, shaped into waves, was a sugary homage to the healthier bay that Garrity leaves behind when he steps down Tuesday as executive director of the Environmental Protection Commission.

    But the cake had to wait. Garrity was still in the meeting, quietly listening as Hillsborough County commissioners put the brakes on a proposal to plan for the effects of climate change....

    Rick Garrity, credited with restoring Tampa Bay’s sea grass levels, said he’ll remain active in environmental causes.
  4. Hillsborough's environmental commission holds firm on politicking ban for new director

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County's environmental commission on Wednesday rebuffed an attempt by its incoming executive director to soften a proposed ban on her political activity.

    In a drawn out public negotiation, Janet Dougherty criticized the ban as "ambiguous." She said it would hinder her ability to lobby Tallahassee in her capacity as Hillsborough's top environmental official.

    But the Environmental Protection Commission, made up of the seven county commissioners, firmly insisted the prohibition on politicking was critical to the agency's integrity....

    Janet Dougherty is supposed to take office next week.
  5. Prohibition on politicking delays contract talks with new Hillsborough environmental chief

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Janet Dougherty is supposed to take over as Hillsborough County's new environmental chief in a week, but she still doesn't have a contract.

    Holding up an agreement is a provision that would prevent Dougherty from engaging in political activity once she becomes the executive director of the county's Environmental Protection Commission on July 1. Dougherty is a two-time candidate for county commissioner....

    Janet Dougherty wants her lawyer to review the clause on political activity.
  6. Controversial probation company Sentinel could bring checkered past to Hillsborough

    Local Government

    TAMPA — While neighboring counties tout in-house solutions to managing low-level criminal offenders, Hillsborough County is poised to hand over its probation operations to a controversial California company with a history of legal disputes.

    Sentinel Offender Services finished as the winning bidder in a heavily contested county procurement battle in May. The prize: A three-year, $7.2 million contract to monitor more than 2,000 misdemeanor defendants....

  7. Bush finds friendly crowd at GOP dinner as he makes Tampa his statewide campaign headquarters

    State Roundup

    TAMPA — Jeb Bush recounted his record as Florida's governor to a home-state audience Friday, reminding Republicans here why they twice sent him to Tallahassee as he lobbies for their votes in 2016.

    "I know we can fix the problems in Washington, D.C., because we did it together here," Bush told the Hillsborough County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner at TPepin's Hospitality Centre. "If we fix a few big, complex things, this is the most extraordinary time to be alive."...

    Jeb Bush speaks at the Hillsborough County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre on Friday.
  8. Jeb Bush to headline Hillsborough GOP dinner Friday


    TAMPA — Just days after kicking off his presidential campaign Monday in Miami, Jeb Bush will return to his home state tonight for a speech in Tampa.

    The former Florida governor is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the Hillsborough County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner to be held at TPepin's Hospitality Centre in Tampa. A VIP reception will kick off the event at 5:45 p.m. with dinner and the program starting at 7:15 p.m....

    Republican U.S. presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will speak at the Hillsborough County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner  at TPepin's Hospitality Centre in Tampa. [ALEX WONG  |  Getty Images]
  9. County staff gets raises, residents gets parks in proposed Hillsborough budget

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County employees will get raises and residents will get new parks while the tax rate remains unchanged.

    Those are some of the developments that can be expected under a two-year budget unveiled Wednesday by county Administrator Mike Merrill.

    The $4.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2016 is full of indicators that Hillsborough County, like the rest of the country, is emerging from the recession....

    Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill on Wednesday presented the proposed 2016 budget to the County Commission. The millage rate for the next two years is unchanged from the current fiscal year. But the county will still raise $38 million more in revenue from taxpayers as a result of a growing tax base from new homes and rising property values.
  10. Hillsborough delays proposed agreement with for-profit probation company

    Local Government

    TAMPA — A vote to approve a proposed three-year, $7.2 million agreement with Sentinel Offender Services to handle probation programs for Hillsborough County has been delayed for at least a month.

    County staff announced late today that an agenda item to address the contract at Wednesday's County Commission meeting was pushed back to the July 15 meeting. Because the pending agreement with Sentinel was still in the procurement process, county officials were not permitted to say what led to the delay....

  11. Hillsborough eyes controversial for-profit company to handle probation services

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County is poised to give a $7.2 million contract to run its probation operations to Sentinel Offender Services, a company at the center of controversy in other states for similar work.

    Commissioners will vote Wednesday on a three-year agreement that will pay Sentinel $2.4 million per year to manage misdemeanor probation in the county, which includes drug testing, providing intervention programs and monitoring about 3,000 defendants....

  12. Tampa expands park hours, access for teens this summer

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Amid growing concern over gun violence this summer, Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced Thursday the city would extend hours at park facilities and provide teenagers with free access to recreation centers.

    Once fully implemented, nine parks and recreation facilities, namely in east Tampa, will remain open until midnight seven days a week. Teens who come to the extended hours will receive a free "rec card" that will give them one year of access to the city's recreation facilities....

  13. Stanley Cup Finals tickets in Chicago twice the cost of games in Tampa


    TAMPA — Tickets for a potential Stanley Cup-clinching Game 6 in Chicago are going for twice as much on resale markets than for Game 5 in Tampa.

    The average price of a ticket for Saturday's Game 5 in Tampa is $771 on StubHub, according to figures provided by the online ticket company. For Monday's Game 6 in Chicago, the average cost is $1,544.

    The most expensive ticket on StubHub to Game 6 is nearly $7,000; it's $5,805 for Game 5....

  14. Engine No. 9 serves as sanctuary for Chicago Blackhawks fans in Tampa Bay Lightning country

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Around 10:40 p.m. Wednesday, after the hometown Lightning surrendered a second goal to the Chicago Blackhawks to cough up Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, a strange noise emanated from the corner of First Avenue N and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

    Raucous, joyous cheers.

    The source of this out-of-place excitement? Engine No. 9, a bar and highly regarded burger joint in St. Petersburg where the Blackhawks fan-per-capita is often higher than anywhere else in Tampa Bay. It's designated an official Blackhawks bar by the team — the only one outside of Illinois and Wisconsin — and will be hosting Chicago fans again when Game 3 starts tonight....

    Chicago Blackhawks fans rejoice after their team scores a point against the Tampa Bay Lightning Bolts during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Engine 9, a bar in St. Petersburg which caters to Chicago Blackhawks fans, Saturday June 6. The bar is owned in part by legendary Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito's son.
  15. Tampa Army captain complains Lightning 'strong-arming' him over his Stanley Cup tickets


    TAMPA — When Paul Dhillon, an Army captain, learned in 2013 that he was going to be stationed in Tampa, he immediately purchased a 10-game Tampa Bay Lightning ticket package.

    This season, he splurged on two season tickets right behind the Lightning bench. You could often see him on TV wearing Tampa Bay blue and white, especially during head coach Jon Cooper's midgame interviews.

    But you won't see Dhillon on TV during the Stanley Cup final. He's stationed in Fort Knox, Ky., for five weeks of Army training, part of his duties as an assistant professor at the University of South Florida Army ROTC program. ...

    Paul Dhillon, a captain in the United States Army and Lightning season ticket holder, is honored as the Lightning's "Hero of the Game" on April 8, 2014, along with wife Shahlaine Dhillon and son Arjun Dhillon. [Courtesy of Paul Dhillon]