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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: Foster kids deserve more than makeshift


    It's not the worst story we've heard about how abused or neglected children taken from their homes are treated once they're in the system. Sadly, it's not even close.

    But kids sleeping on air mattresses in offices because there are no foster beds — because there's nowhere else for them to go — is not okay. It's not okay even in Florida, with our abysmal record for how we treat kids who need help the most....

  2. Carlton: A Joe Redner you may not know


    Joe Redner is on fire, mad at the state of the world.

    Tampa's undisputed strip club king and official rabble-rouser is running for his umpteenth political office, for the state Senate, his toughest opponent being Republican Rep. Dana Young. When I ask why he's angry, he is up from his desk and pointing at stacks of press clippings and other damning documents laid out on a table in precise piles....

  3. Can you spell "commission?"


    Candidates in the crowded District 6 race for the Hillsborough County Commission have a potential new campaign slogan against a former commissioner hoping for a comeback:

    Jim Norman Can’t Even Spell County Commission!

    Norman, a former state senator who withdrew from re-election in 2012 after an ethics scandal, is now running for a county seat against Democrats Tom Scott, John Dicks, Pat Kemp and Brian Willis and fellow Republican Tim Schock....

    Hillsborough County Commission candidate Jim Norman's
  4. Carlton: What Stacy would want you to know


    When someone you know dies unexpectedly and too young, you tend to make them larger than life, maybe to hold on to the best things about them.

    But with Stacy Frank, there was no need. Stacy spoke for herself.

    If you knew her you felt one way or the other about her — no gray area. She was a political wonk who took wonking up a notch, a fierce Democrat on the phone to friends mornings after absorbing her newspapers and cable news. She fished and boated and loved everything about Florida, except the politics and politicians who seem determined to hurt it....

    Stacy Frank, a non-smoker, died six months after a lung cancer diagnosis.
  5. Carlton: The politics of jury duty, pontificating and Prince


    If you think only working stiffs and people without courthouse connections get stuck with jury duty, consider this:

    Among the Hillsborough County citizens summoned to show up Monday morning is Mark Ober, who would have to take the day off from being the state attorney.

    You know, the elected official responsible for the criminal charges faced by people going on trial.

    One could assume Ober would have a pretty good excuse for ducking jury duty — not to mention some useful courthouse connections....

  6. Carlton: Tampa Bay's new urban frontier: up, with a view

    Economic Development

    First, it was the water, or more specifically, the waterfront.

    Florida long ago realized the huge value in simply allowing people to see it — from epic views of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico to riverfronts, lakesides and the occasional overhyped, alligator-infested borrow pit beside a restaurant. St. Petersburg has known forever what Tampa's just starting to pick up: Parks, bistro tables and walks on your waterfront can really pack a place....

  7. Carlton: The answer can't be more guns

    Public Safety

    At the library, outside a restaurant down the street, at your local courthouse, the American flag drifts downward at half-staff. Again.

    Deranged men with too easy access to too many guns have killed children in an elementary school, people in church, patrons at a movie theater. Did we even get the chance to raise the flag after last month's massacre at an Orlando nightclub before new violence left five police officers dead in Dallas last week?...

  8. Trump, Hillary in political bake-off at Tampa's Alessi Bakery


    It’s a sure sign of politics heating up around here: Tampa’s Alessi Bakery begins its official presidential cookie poll Wednesday. The 104-year-old bakery at 2909 W Cypress St., know for Cuban sandwiches, devil crabs and a unique cold pizza called scachatta, has for years made a tradition of selling shortbread cookies bearing the faces of candidates local, state, and national.

    Through election day, sales results are tallied on a chalkboard behind the cash register — the purchase of one candidate’s cookie often spurring a run on his rival by a customer of a different political stripe. Hillary Clinton’s or Donald Trump’s face in pastry will cost you $2.45 per cookie....

    Local bakery Alessi Bakery is continuing its tradition of a cookie-based poll.
  9. Carlton: Pro wrestler street-preaches love in Ybor. Hey, it happened.

    Human Interest

    So the other day I'm driving through Ybor City down Seventh Avenue, arguably the most interesting street in all of Tampa.

    It's Mohawks and tattoos mixed with the smell of Cuban cigars and the sipping of cafe con leche. It's bars and bistros, pizza and picadillo, hipsters and homeless, all against a backdrop of Ybor's historic red brick.

    And let's just say that on this day, after a cop stopped traffic for something going on up ahead, things are looking particularly diverse....

  10. Carlton: Hillsborough County School Board ducks on progress for LGBT kids


    The Hillsborough County School Board just backed off on a vote for inclusion, sending conservative activist Terry Kemple and his pack of pastors on a victory lap.

    And why is this a surprise?

    Maybe because it sounded like a promising idea to better protect gay, lesbian and transgender students in public schools at a time we could use it.

    Board member Cindy Stuart wanted to strengthen existing policy that already forbids discrimination based on someone's race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. So why might we need this, too?...

  11. Carlton: A peaceful Pride, the return of Redner and other news


    On the eve of what is sure to be an especially poignant St. Pete Pride in the wake of the Orlando murders, St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway made a commonsense request.

    He suggested — suggested, mind you — that people leave their guns at home.

    The event will have heightened security, and if something happened, police could have difficulty telling the good guys from the bad. This, by the way, is a concern you hear echoed from law enforcement across the state in the thankfully so-far-unsuccessful push for a law to let Floridians carry guns out in the open. Just what Florida needs....

  12. Carlton: Bears 1, Hunters 0


    This bear had some seriously bad timing.

    A 250-pound Florida black bear turned up this week where he should not have — in a densely populated Tampa neighborhood near the Adventure Island water park. He was darted with tranquilizers and summarily taken away to a more bear-friendly place.

    All of which happened on the eve of a big vote on whether our state would host the second annual brutal bear hunt....

    A Florida black bear lounges in a tree across the street from Adventure Island in Tampa on Tuesday. It was tranquilized and removed by state wildlife officials. All of this happened on the eve of the vote on whether Florida would host a second annual bear hunt. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 4-3 to put off the hunt for a year to gather more information.
  13. Carlton: The county commissioner and the unbearable display of gay pride


    The voice mail message came in after regular business hours to the office of Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White.

    The woman doesn't give her name. She says she's a county employee. She's calling about the flag — the rainbow-colored gay pride flag that had just been raised outside the County Center building in downtown Tampa, where she works....

  14. Carlton: After Orlando and despite pastors, Hillsborough School Board can show solidarity


    Even after a tragedy beyond imagining, all that was missing at this week's Hillsborough School Board meeting were the pitchforks.

    Just days after the horror in Orlando, a pack of pastors trooped one by one to a lectern to verbally shake their fists and vow election consequences if School Board members dared cast a small vote for inclusion.

    It could not be possible that these men and women of God were unaware that a city just down Interstate 4 had suffered, and is still suffering, a terrible mass shooting, with 49 people dead in a gay nightclub....

    A stack of these pages was left on a seat in the rear of the Hillsborough School Board auditorium on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, after a meeting that included more than 30 minutes of testimony from religious leaders concerned about transgender students choosing their own bathrooms. "Don't be concerned that everyone is saying the same thing," the notice advises. Then, in bold type: "The object is to let them know that the Church is activated on this and if they don't listen to us there will be electoral consequences." [Marlene Sokol | Times]
  15. Carlton: Pam Bondi deserved Anderson Cooper's sharp questions after Orlando shooting


    Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi found herself in a tough spot this week — one she spent a lot of time in Tallahassee creating.

    Bondi was in Orlando, a city shell-shocked and heartsick after a horrible mass shooting. As the world knows by now, 49 people were murdered in a gay nightclub by a man with an assault-style rifle and God only knows what strain of madness and hate running through his brain....