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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. Carlton: The remarkable life of Sister Maureen

    Human Interest

    Weekdays, the street-worn men and women pushed through the doors to Trinity Cafe at the edge of downtown Tampa, into the warm smells of good soup, meat and vegetables, for some of them the day's only real meal. Nearly always, Sister Maureen was there greeting them, touching an arm and asking how someone was doing, knowing their names and their stories.

    She was Sister Maureen Dorr, though I don't remember anyone saying her last name, just Sister Maureen. I met her when I was writing about this remarkable cafe that serves sit-down meals to anyone hungry, sometimes 300 in a single lunch. You couldn't miss how she looked into their faces, how she did not shy from hugging anyone....

    Sister Maureen Dorr touches the face of Juan Rodriguez, a man who came to eat at Trinity Cafe in Tampa, where she volunteered. Sister Maureen was known for remembering people’s names — and dancing.
  2. Carlton: Taking a ride to compromise on Uber


    It would be fair to say Hills­borough County Commissioner Victor Crist, chairman of the board that regulates local taxis and limos, has been one big roadblock for Uber.

    The hip rideshare company that brings nearby drivers in their own cars to customers with the tap of a free app on a smartphone has clashed with local governments across Florida over regulations from background checks to car inspections....

    Hillsborough PTC Chairman Victor Crist tried Uber last weekend.
  3. Carlton: What a stinky mushroom can teach us about Tallahassee


    When you are Florida-born and raised, you tend to think you have seen every form of bug, bush, slug and shorebird your state can come up with. Still, Florida can surprise you.

    But nature is not always pretty — in fact, the nature I'm talking about smelled like something died in the yard and then broiled a good long while under the Florida sun. Under the bush from which the stench came was a bizarre thing of which I had never seen the like: baseball-sized and red with sticky-looking black spots in a freakish ladybug pattern. It was vegetative and rooted in the fresh damp mulch, like something that fell from space. And did it ever stink....

    This stinkhorn mushroom’s rather unpleasant odor belies its many benefits.
  4. Carlton: Activist Rashid flexes muscle, and a showdown with the mayor


    Who's afraid of Sam Rashid?

    The powerful Republican activist who opposes a proposed transportation tax is no doubt pleased with recent stories alleging, among other things, cronyism in the awarding of a contract. That controversy is widely expected to kill off chances for a voter referendum to pay for roads and transportation improvements.

    A writer of checks to campaigns, Rashid recently flexed his political muscle in a letter to Hillsborough County Commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman. In it, he opined that the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office — recently brought in to investigate and determine if there's substance or smoke there — is not "qualified or capable" to work a case involving "the potential of graft, public corruption or sunshine law violations."...

  5. Carlton: Diversion derails mass transportation we badly need


    Right about now, the antitax types are high-fiving and doing the Snoopy dance over what they hope is the end of Go Hillsborough, the latest push for transportation improvements we badly need.

    By now the strategy is familiar. It goes like this:

    Anyone who has tried to get around the Tampa Bay area knows we need to fix roads and public transportation, that we're woefully behind, that it's time to look hard at the option of a sales tax that will be able to ...

  6. Carlton: On politics, religion and a market whose time has come


    When it comes to who might want to be Tampa's next mayor after Bob Buckhorn reluctantly terms out, a better question might be:

    Who doesn't?

    Speculation has included much of the Tampa City Council, most of the Hillsborough County Commission, a couple of former office holders and a state rep, just for starters.

    But at least one rumored contender made it official this week with a big no thanks: Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden, who has filed to run again for the office he's held since 1998 and says he has no plans to quit midterm....

  7. Carlton: Out of Mayberry, compromise on police board could go a long way


    Just before the Tampa City Council took up one of its most explosive issues in years Thursday — creating a panel of citizens to review police actions — there was an unlikely Mayberry moment.

    A police officer who patrols tough neighborhoods stood up to be honored as Officer of the Month. One by one, local businesses presented her with gifts of appreciation: restaurant dinners, a limo ride, a toy police car, cookies, free cable, a hotel stay, even a bouquet of flowers for her spouse. (Okay, her spouse happened to be a woman, so maybe a little more modern than Mayberry.)...

  8. Carlton: In political fallout, Gov. Scott overlooks sexist slur


    For nearly three weeks now, Gov. Rick Scott has danced the dance with Sam Rashid.

    That's how long it's been since Rashid — Republican activist, political kingmaker, Scott appointee to the important board that oversees Tampa International Airport and self-proclaimed flamethrower — made headlines. This time, he was calling Beth Leytham, who runs a successful public relations consulting business, a "tax-payer subsidized slut" who made millions "as an unregistered Lobbyist by having an intimately close relationship with three of our local elected officials."...

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s spokespeople have sent out missives that say, “Governor Scott expects him to resign and would accept his resignation” about Sam Rashid. [Associated Press] 
  9. Carlton: Discord and subterfuge: The week in politics


    Given the state of police relations across the country, establishing a board of Tampa citizens to review cases involving use of force and chases should be a no-brainer.

    But Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the City Council can't seem to come together in what's morphed from a well-intended effort to a power play.

    While the City Council was discussing such a board, Buckhorn, who takes that whole strong-mayor form of government thing very seriously, said the council lacked the authority and pushed forward to establish one himself. It devolved from there, a central squabble being who gets to appoint those who will serve on the board....

  10. Carlton: Maybe the mayor won't run for governor, and other political intrigue


    In Tampa, a town where political speculation never sleeps, an interesting one is making the rounds:

    Might the mayor opt out of that long-rumored run for governor?

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn has sounded like a mighty likely candidate for 2018 — the Democrat striking a decidedly bipartisan note supporting the Republican governor's push to bring new companies to town, declining to visit Cuba and never quite confirming or squelching speculation that he has an eye toward Tallahassee....

  11. Governor, mayor lean toward resignation for appointee who made "slut" post


    TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn weighed in Tuesday on whether an influential Republican activist should step down from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority after he called a local businesswoman a "tax-payer subsidized slut" on Facebook.

    Both indicated Sam Rashid should resign.

    The governor, in Tampa for a jobs event at a tech company, said he had not seen Rashid's comments last week about Beth Leytham, public relations consultant for a Hillsborough County transportation referendum. "But I expect everyone to live up to the highest standards," the governor said. "I expect that if it's true, he would resign, and I would accept his resignation."...

    Sam Rashid, a Hillsborough airport board member, is under fire for calling a consultant a “slut.”
  12. Carlton: Leave my driver's license alone


    Truth is, we Floridians have this whole getting-a-driver's license thing pretty much down pat.

    Unless we're renewing our licenses online, we schlep over to our local tax collector's office. Maybe we whiz through the line, maybe we wait awhile, and odds are good we won't like whatever picture they take of us. But at the end of the day, we walk out with that shiny new bad-boy driver's license tucked in our wallets, task finished, job done, all good....

  13. Carlton: Political activist, Facebook sexist


    Forget Donald Trump. We've got Sam Rashid.

    This week on Facebook, the powerful Republican activist whom politicians have appointed to important boards called the woman handling public relations for a Hillsborough transportation initiative a "tax-payer subsidized slut."

    What's more, Rashid said Beth Leytham — who has never met him, by the way — has made millions by having "an intimately close relationship with three of our local elected officials."...

    Sam Rashid, a Republican activist, says his remarks aren’t sexist.
  14. Carlton: Lawyers in DUI setup could have come clean


    For three Tampa lawyers gone rogue, it's about to end as badly as possible. But maybe it didn't have to.

    The judge overseeing the infamous disciplinary case against Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut is recommending what amounts to a career death sentence: All three should be disbarred for good for plotting and pulling off the DUI arrest of opposing counsel one night after court....

    Lawyers Stephen Diaco, left, Adam Filthaut, center, and Robert Adams are shown in August at the Pinellas County Justice Center during the case in which they were accused of orchestrating a DUI setup. The judge in the disciplinary case is recommending all three be permanently disbarred. 
  15. After sprawl and scandal, Jim Norman seeks comeback on Hillsborough County Commission

    Local Government

    Tucked in a secluded corner of the Ozark Mountains, far from the traffic and sprawl of Hillsborough County, is the house that took down Jim Norman.

    It is a vacation getaway, two stories with a dock and boathouse overlooking a picturesque lake in a resort community where Arkansas meets Missouri.

    Five years ago, revelations about who paid for this house fueled a scandal that derailed Norman's political career. A powerful Hillsborough County commissioner and rising Republican star, Norman was headed to a bigger stage in the Florida Legislature when the story broke....

    New Senator-elect Jim Norman and his wife, Mearline, look around the Senate chamber in 2010.