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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: A giant dinosaur may be on Tampa's horizon


    Remember those 3-D posters that looked like some random pattern until you stared long enough for the underlying picture of, say, a cowboy or a unicorn or even a city skyline to come into focus, totally surprising you with the big picture?

    Yeah, that's pretty much downtown Tampa at the moment.

    The latest potential puzzle piece for a city coming together involves a beleaguered science museum that for 34 years has sprawled 11 miles away across 75-plus county-owned acres across from the University of South Florida....

  2. Carlton: From Go Hillsborough to No Hillsborough, scoring your elected officials


    Three long years, endless meetings, some bare-knuckle politics and one debunked scandal later, Hillsborough County remains stalled on a road to nowhere.

    In a decision Wednesday night critical to the county's transportation needs, commissioners voted 4-3 to deny voters the right to decide on a half-penny sales tax for roads and other transit fixes — a hard-fought proposal called Go Hillsborough....

  3. Carlton: Hillsborough's transportation tax plan is not perfect. Pass it anyway.


    It's been two years of hard road leading to tonight's Hillsborough County Commission vote on a half-penny sales tax for transportation, a decision so big a couple of hundred citizens might just show up to share their thoughts.

    So here's the current buzz from all sides on the battered proposal known as Go Hillsborough:

    It's too much to ask of taxpayers.

    It's not nearly enough to get the job done....

    The anti-tax crowd is content with us sitting in traffic for the next few decades or so, one person per car, with roads that need widening the minute they’re built. But commissioners should move past the politics and vote the Go Hillsborough proposal onto the November ballot for taxpayers to decide. [ZACK WITTMAN | Times]
  4. Sue Carlton column: Politics and an Irish donkey


    While this country was living through the latest episode of our TV reality show of a presidential race, I was away in Ireland, where I met a donkey named Bertie.

    Bertie has it pretty good, living a donkey's life in a field overlooking the hills down the rugged Atlantic coast, eating hay and oats and apples offered from the lunches of passing schoolchildren. He was named for former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who left office amid allegations of financial improprieties, which he denied, a storyline as American as apple pie. ...

  5. Carlton: No gray for Greco, son of Kirk?, and the world's dumbest gun

    Human Interest

    Former Tampa mayor and bi-county icon Dick Greco was officially sprung this week after more than two months in the hospital.

    And because it was Greco, it had to include a party.

    Last Sunday, more than 100 well-wishers — muckety-mucks, friends, family and hospital personnel who got to know a man who never met a stranger, much less shied from hugging one — gathered at Florida Hospital Tampa for a surprise celebration as he was being wheeled back out into the real world. They sipped lemonade and ice tea and nibbled appetizers as Greco was called honorary hospital mayor. Well, of course he was....

  6. Carlton: Goodbye fried shrimp, first dates and a city's history: Goodbye, Colonnade

    Human Interest

    Fair to say you probably did not go to the Colonnade, the seafood restaurant on a particularly pretty part of South Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard, just for the food.

    Maybe you had a fondness for the tiny, old-fashioned muffins they served, for the fried shrimp or the fat onion rings. If you grew up here, maybe the place threads through your family history for generations of birthdays, anniversaries and pre-prom dinners, for grandparents' stories of buying their dates Colonnade Cokes served with olives in them....

    The Colonnade seafood restaurant on Bayshore Boulevard closed Wednesday. A message was written on a white board outside the main entrance, “Thank you for 80 amazing years! We will miss you all! 1935-2016.”
  7. Carlton: For David A. Straz Jr., a small award for a big no


    It's not like prominent Tampa philanthropist David A. Straz Jr., whose name is splashed across the town's performing arts center (among other buildings), is unfamiliar with governmentally doled-out accolades.

    Hanging in his office, in fact, are plaques bearing keys to not just the city but also the county, each thanking him for his generosity in the usual overstuffed language of such awards....

    David A. Straz Jr. will receive a commendation from the Tampa City Council on Thursday for nearly 20 years of “outstanding” service on Tampa General Hospital’s governing board. [DIRK SHADD | Times (2013)] 
  8. Carlton: Is Tampa losing its ugly?

    Human Interest

    Is it possible? Is Tampa losing its ugly?

    For years, for decades, you could find ugly everywhere in this town — in old hotels gone to seed, in abandoned buildings, in indefensible public housing complexes that were a study in blight. Even much of the Hillsborough River was ugly, what you could see of it — a peek of it between ugly downtown buildings or from a patch of grass near the ugly interstate....

  9. Political intrigue in Tampa's own House of Cards


    Behind-the-scenes lobbying. Rumors of powerful endorsements and political retribution. And the intriguing question of whether some of the voters will factor in that a candidate once implied they were butt-kissers.

    It's all there in Tampa's own House of Cards.

    Next week's election of the City Council chair is why some people love politics the way Netflix bingers can't wait to find out what that crafty President Frank Underwood will get up to next....

    TP_361418_WALL_safestreet_3 (10/23/2012  Tampa) Tampa City Council district five representative Frank Reddick speaks as Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveils plans to add 8,400 street lights to city streets over the next five years. [DANIEL WALLACE, Times]
  10. Carlton: Scandal at the Florida State Fair? Time and history will tell


    The latest local allegations of public corruption — this time, over at the Florida State Fair — could come down to whether a hot tub given to the guy who ran the place had anything to do with him giving the vendor a free 25-foot inflatable duck.

    By now this should go without saying: No, I am not making this up.

    Accusations that public officials might trade on their powerful positions are hardly new in these parts. When I first got here in the 1980s, three Hillsborough County commissioners were taken off in handcuffs in a bribery scandal during which one of them rubbed his nose or, alternately, pulled his ear, to indicate how a rezoning vote would go....

    It’s up to the Hillsborough state attorney to decide if former Florida State Fair Authority executive director Charles Pesano mixed personal interests with his public role.  [DANIEL WALLACE | Times] 
  11. Carlton: Tampa International Airport chief big on birds — and Tampa

    Human Interest

    When native New Yorker Joe Lopano landed here five years ago to run our fine airport, he found himself fascinated by our birds.

    Always a nature guy, he liked a lot of them — the rosy-pink spoonbills and crafty skimmers, the long-legged herons stalking the shoreline. But he was particularly taken with our fierce-looking ospreys, how they dip down into the waters and make off with a wriggling fish even as you stand staring up from Bayshore Boulevard at this National Geographic moment....

  12. Carlton: Woman shot by son, man who killed accidentally: Two cases for gun laws

    Human Interest

    First things first: As with every victim of gun violence, Jamie Gilt deserves no less than heartfelt wishes for a full recovery from a bullet fired into her back as she drove her pickup truck through Putnam County this month. Her 4-year-old son rode with her.

    The gun was hers. He fired it.

    When it comes to our current and epic struggle over balancing gun rights and gun safety, the story-gone-viral of what happened to Gilt is both object lesson and rallying cry....

    Jamie Gilt, 31, was accidentally shot in the back by her 4-year-old son on March 8. [Photo from Facebook]
  13. Florida State Fair executive director resigned after accepting Rays tickets and hot tub

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Florida State Fair executive director Chuck Pesano resigned after a state investigation found that he used his position to funnel business to his family's company, get Tampa Bay Rays tickets and have a hot tub installed in his Valrico home.

    The findings by a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Inspector General's investigation put an end to an 11-year tenure for Pesano, 63, who was paid $146,250 a year. He submitted a one-sentence resignation Feb. 25, the day after the investigation was published. The report concluded that there was evidence to show he did business with his own agency, entered into conflicting relationships and accepted gifts....

    Charles Pesano, who resigned on  Feb. 25, also is accused of using his position in an inappropriate way to receive a Model 650 hot tub valued at $3,846.65.
  14. Carlton: Tampa's ticketing for pot is a practical approach

    Public Safety

    Somewhere out there right now is a person who will get caught with a small amount of pot — personal-use pot, as opposed to a whole lot of pot.

    For that person, a criminal charge could affect things to come, like getting a job or finding a place to live. People who deal daily in courts and crime will tell you a first arrest can be a slippery slope to a second, and such laws can unfairly weigh on minorities in particular....

    Under the new Tampa ordinance, possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana becomes a ticketable offense. Critics say that this is soft on crime. [Associated Press (2010)]
  15. Carlton: Hulk Hogan and Bubba — Legal distaste on both sides of the bay


    While a Pinellas jury ruminated this week over whether a wrestler willing to be filmed riding a wrecking ball in a T-back and sitting sans pants on a toilet could have his privacy invaded by a secret sex tape, a jury across the bay was taking up a slightly loftier but somewhat related matter.

    The common denominator? Embattled, potty-mouthed shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, who, by the way, is accused in a completely separate matter of desperately trying to influence his own radio ratings....

    Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hulk Hogan, was awarded $115 million in damages in his invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times]