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Sue Carlton, Times Columnist

Sue Carlton

Sue Carlton is a native Floridian from a longtime Southern family that her father always said consisted of thieves and cattle rustlers run out of Georgia. She grew up in Miami and joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1988. Over the years she has covered community news, politics, cops, government, and her all-time favorite, criminal courts. For nearly nine years she wrote about the kind of strange cases that only seem to happen here, about intriguing legal issues and courthouse politics. On that beat, she authored a lengthy narrative series on a trooper who killed his wife and co-authored a series on a suburban mother murdered by her teenage daughter and her friends. Sue was the deputy editor of the features section and was the Tampa city editor before she became a columnist in 2005. Three times a week, she writes about politics, outrages, observations, court cases of the day and whatever else comes up. She lives in Tampa with her husband and their very good dog.

Phone: (813) 226-3376 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 3376


  1. A mayor on a chair and other Tampa tales


    Was that former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman standing barefoot on a chair at the fancy Mise en Place restaurant this week?

    It was, indeed. Freedman addressed a packed house of Hillary Clinton supporters at a $25 per person fundraiser (more, for those inclined). At 5 feet plus a half-inch ("I'm not vertically tall in terms of inches, but I stand tall," she says), Freedman has been known to kick off her shoes and climb atop a chair to make an announcement....

  2. Carlton: The good that could come from the Confederate flag by the interstate

    Human Interest

    Hillsborough County commissioners are just the latest elected officials to take up whether a divisive Confederate flag belongs at a building where they do The People's business.

    But what about Hillsborough's better-known Confederate flag, 30-by-60 feet and flying high atop a pole on private property near busy Interstates 4 and 75 — the one that must make motorists passing through wonder who lives here?...

  3. Carlton: In a city of gun violence, public pools cool things down

    Public Safety

    On this sweltering afternoon, the bright sounds rising from the sprawling city park seem out of synch with the neighborhood around it, a tired urban landscape of tattered duplexes and sagging chain-link fences. It's the sound of kids, dozens and dozens of them, laughing, squealing, calling to each other in the universal language of having fun.

    This is Tampa's Copeland Park, just across the railroad tracks from busy Fowler Avenue or, more specifically, the cool chlorine-scented waters of the park's public pool. On a day when the feels-like temperature has hit triple digits, kids out of school for the summer have come to this pool in droves, spreading their bright towels on the concrete, toeing off shoes and taking to the blue waters with abandon. They swim and splash and show off on the diving boards, lifeguards watching over them....

  4. Carlton: Gay marriage, and where they were when they heard

    Public Safety

    There were a lot of places Nadine Smith could have been Friday morning while awaiting the news of a world about to change. Or, to unharden its heart, depending on your perspective.

    As CEO of Equality Florida, she could have been at the office when the U.S. Supreme Court officially made it okay to marry whom you want. Instead, Smith was at the cozy Banyan Cafe in St. Petersburg, she and her wife, Andrea, diving into eggs over medium with Cuban toast and 4-year-old son Logan demolishing his waffle. Her phone sat on the table, ready for that momentous text, but the work part could wait....

    Largo police officers arrest Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, after she was asked to stop passing out fliers in City Hall in 2007.
  5. Carlton: For-profit probation a bad choice for justice


    Your government has been known to go for some pretty bad ideas in the name of saving money and letting someone else do the work.

    Here's one: Hillsborough County is about to make a monumental change in how it handles people on misdemeanor probation and give the job to a for-profit company with the potential to benefit the longer someone stays in the system.

    Which doesn't say much for putting people on the right path....

  6. Sue Carlton: A South Tampa tempest brews over cocktails at the Yacht Club

    Human Interest

    Could members of the South Tampa elite soon have to go without their cocktails by the pool?

    Might the Tampa Yacht & Country Club actually go dry outside?

    This is one of those classic Tampa stories, playing out at the uber-exclusive club nestled among the moss-draped oaks below the southernmost curve of Bayshore Boulevard. And it is proof that even the upper crust can go bare-knuckled for a good neighborhood fight....

  7. Carlton: Pound dog, sock thief, family

    Human Interest

    We were at our third animal shelter on a Saturday afternoon when we saw her, black and glossy and roughly the size of a fat baked potato, standing up against the bars of the cage intending to be noticed. She was only weeks old but, in that packed shelter, already marked half-price.

    My husband was reluctant to adopt a dog, in part, I believe, due to a particularly obnoxious cat I brought into the marriage. But at first sight, he had no question on the (50 percent off) puppy: This would be our dog....

    Fitz adored people (except the mailman), doughnut holes and nabbing socks. She was close to age 16, and then she was gone.
  8. Carlton: It's a Riverwalk, not a racetrack

    Local Government

    A recent morning in downtown Tampa could not have been more perfect had city boosters photoshopped the whole thing.

    Sunlight bathed the tall shiny buildings as people walked and jogged the newly opened ribbon of Riverwalk, following its curves along the edge of the city. A leashed beagle stopped to socialize with a setter. People sat on benches and chatted and looked across the water, where rowers sliced across the surface with the picturesque University of Tampa minarets as a backdrop. It was exactly how you want your town to feel....

    A bicyclist rides down the Riverwalk in Tampa. A 5 mph speed limit for cyclists has been posted, but some still want to fly.
  9. Carlton: We got your hockey town right here

    Human Interest

    This week, officials expected as many as 4,000 fans — 4,000! — to fill downtown Tampa's sprawling Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park for the big watch party to see the Tampa Bay Lightning play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final in Chicago. Even the expansive courtyard at the Amalie Arena, home of the Lightning, would be too small for 4,000 fans.

    An estimated 5,000 showed up.

    Naysayers predicted a hockey team from the Sun Belt (insert snort of derision here) would not fare well in the TV ratings. But the first two games of the final averaged 6 million U.S. viewers....

    Thousands of people packed Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Tampa on Monday to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final. 
  10. Carlton: Cops opening our cars crosses a line


    Citizens do not lock their cars and are astonished — astonished! — to find their vehicles stolen, or at least burgled right down to the air freshener hanging from the rearview. And sometimes it's not just stereos and spare change that disappear — it's guns.

    So when traditional attempts at public awareness about the need to lock our cars weren't working, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office started something else. Six years ago, deputies began checking car doors. When they found one unlocked, they opened it....

  11. Carlton: The good, the bad, the government


    Once upon a time, you walked into the Hills­borough elections office in downtown Tampa only to encounter a receptionist behind plexiglass and a buzzer to ensure no one got in unnoticed. This seemed odd for a supposedly public office, but the elections boss back then, Buddy Johnson, was a secretive sort of guy. There were rumors of a hidden back exit, too.

    Turned out there was plenty to keep under wraps during Johnson's tenure — uncounted votes, mysteriously moved polling places, irresponsible public spending, plummeting staff morale and generally little reason to believe the important job of running elections was getting done right....

    Craig Latimer
  12. Carlton: Hockey and the Dead: Only in Tampa


    This city is electric. Downtown Tampa teems and streams with bold Lightning blue, and on game day Saturday so will even the body of water that runs behind the arena. Any city can go river-green for St. Patrick's Day, yawn, but this is Tampa.

    Yes, Chicago, we are a town of quirks. Speaking of which:

    One of the best things about having a hockey team with heart is how it can bring out the inner uber-fan in the most interesting ways. Take, for instance, Dick and Lucy, who combine their longtime fandom for the Grateful Dead with their fierce loyalty to the Lightning to become — wait for it — the Deadbolts....

    Lucy Brown and Dick Pynigar are passionate about two things: the Grateful Dead and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fellow fans called them the Deadbolts, and the tag stuck. Here, they arrive at Wednesday’s game.
  13. Carlton: Session not special enough for Rep. Dana Young


    A question, as the contentious special session of your Legislature plays out in Tallahassee this week:

    Where in the world is Tampa's own Rep. Dana Young — who is no less than the House majority leader?

    The session that began Monday is intended to mop up the mess that was left when House members walked off the job three days early during the regular session, leaving voters frustrated and important issues like health insurance for low-income Floridians hanging in the balance....

  14. Carlton: Solutions to street violence elusive amid anti-snitching culture


    It was Sunday, and the mayor was taking his youngest daughter fishing along the Davis Islands channel. They weren't far from home, and this was something they had done since she was little, wetting a line for an hour or so with the shiny buildings of downtown Tampa in the distance.

    Then the call came, and Bob Buckhorn was standing in another part of a city that has seen an alarming rise in violence, talking to a woman who had heard the latest gunshots....

  15. Carlton: Diaco ends with some yucks, judges get fashion tips


    Is radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem sweating the trial that could end the legal careers of lawyers who represented him?

    One of them being pal Stephen Diaco?

    All signs point to: Nah.

    Thursday morning, as the Florida Bar disciplinary trial was about to conclude against Diaco and two others at his firm — all accused of conspiring to set up an enemy lawyer for a DUI arrest during a trial involving Clem — the shock jock was hanging out on-air with Diaco's brother Dan, the plastic surgeon best known for breast enhancements called "Diacos."...

    Bubba the Love Sponge Clem has been up to his usual shock jock ways.