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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. Even the homeless should be paid for work


    As a Tampa Bay Times investigation detailing controversial "work therapy" at one of Tampa's largest homeless programs plays out, a question keeps coming up:

    What's wrong with putting a man to work to cover the roof over his head and the meals he eats?

    A series of stories by the Times' Will Hobson has laid bare some of the inner workings of New Beginnings, which runs a 36-bed emergency shelter and 144-bed complex of converted houses....

  2. With a hiccup, Tampa Pride is back

    Local Government

    Talk about change.

    We are today a nation largely okay with letting people marry whom they want. A ban on county government participation in gay pride events voted in by Hillsborough commissioners has since been unanimously undone. Today, St. Petersburg boasts one of the biggest gay pride celebrations around and recently got highest marks as a city that pays attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, with Tampa not far behind....

  3. Carlton: On the other side of the bridge, cautious Rays optimism

    Economic Development

    So the Rays and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman have finally come up with a potential deal: The Rays would pay if the team leaves before its contract is up, and the city would let the Rays explore new digs in the town across the bridge.

    You know — the one where politicians have long quipped about whether to be the boyfriend in this divorce and made it plain they're plenty interested once the ink dries on any separation papers....

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Rays have agreed on a deal to let the Rays look in Hillsborough County for a new stadium site.
  4. For a better courthouse, get a dog



    A big city courthouse has plenty of contenders for what would be its saddest place: the room where women fill out forms to keep violent men away, the hallways where couples sit silently waiting to be divorced, the criminal courtrooms where spectators weep for victims and defendants both.

    But the worst has to be the places for children.

    They come here because of grownups who could not take care of them or did worse to them, or because they're charged with crimes themselves....

    Raygene Jefferson, 2, with his guardian ad litem Johanna Williams, pets Tibet before his adoption last month at the Hillsborough County courthouse. Tibet, the first courthouse dog, has been eliciting smiles in her 10 months on the job.
  5. Carlton: Is Hillsborough's school superintendent outta here?


    Among those who run Hillsborough County schools, rumors about the future of superintendent MaryEllen Elia are flying like it's Saturday afternoon in a small-town beauty parlor:

    Now I'm not one to gossip, but you notice she's been back and forth to Boston a lot lately. And I just happen to know they're looking for a new superintendent up there.

    Listen, I heard that a few on that school board, not to name names, plan on giving her a no-confidence vote....

    MaryEllen Elia has been the Hillsborough County school superintendent for almost 10 years.
  6. Carlton: An investigation into working the homeless? Bring it on


    When you are trying to make the county around you into a place where people want to live, the good part has to be building new buildings, talking big about bringing in baseball, debating the future of transportation, even.

    But getting a handle on a homeless population that stubbornly resists all efforts to make it go away? Dealing head-on with the destitute, addicted and mentally ill and finding real solutions for getting people off the streets?...

  7. Douglas Cone, road magnate at center of scandal, dies at 86


    TAMPA — Douglas Cone Sr., the bare-knuckles, chain-smoking road construction magnate who made headlines with news of a scandalous double life, died over the weekend. He was 86.

    Mr. Cone, nicknamed Diesel for his penchant for puffing endless unfiltered Kools, helped build a dynasty that paved highways across the bay area, including expansions of Interstate 4 and the Suncoast Parkway....

    Douglas Cone Sr. made his name in business by paving notable highways in the bay area.
  8. Soccer town Tampa Bay: It was a kick in the grass

    Human Interest

    Once upon a time, this was a soccer town. Before Tampa Bay had its Buccaneers, long before the Lightning hit the ice or the first Devil Ray hefted a bat at the Trop, this town loved its Rowdies.

    Fans streamed into Tampa Stadium in team green and yellow, learned that the field was now a "pitch" and sang a merry fight song that called the team a kick in the grass. Crowds averaged more than 12,000 that first season in 1975, and a 1980 match drew a record 56,000 spectators....

    Farrukh Quraishi played on the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ first team in 1975.
  9. Carlton: Hillsborough commission eyes new member, 'collegial' attitude

    Local Government

    This week, the Hillsborough County Commission welcomed back three members post-election, remembered one they lost to term limits and cast a speculative eye on the new guy.

    What will the board look like with the exit of Republican-for-rail Mark Sharpe, and former School Board member and social conservative Stacy White front and center?

    At the formal investiture ceremony this week, I pretty much lost count of how many times sitting commissioners said things like "deeply respectful," and "like family" to describe themselves as a board. "Our collegial body," newly named commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman called them. "As you can tell, we are all very collegial with each other." I think they might have mimed it a few times and also used hand puppets....

    Stacy White gets a kiss from his mother Marilyn McMurry, left, as his wife Barbie, far left, and son Austin, right, celebrate after he declared victory in the Hillsborough County Commission District 4 race Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 at the Beef 'O' Bradys in Valrico.
  10. Carlton: Tampa's old downtown library needs new buzz

    Local Government

    It's old, but the big gray library at the edge of downtown still has this quiet energy, the low-key bustle and hum of the city around it.

    Kids hefting skateboards drop their voices as they head into the hush. Homeless men commandeer computers or unfurl newspapers for long reads. Bookish types bury their noses in work, little kids beeline for picture books, and locals wander the shelves.

    For nearly half a century, Tampa's John F. Germany Public Library has been part of a downtown that boomed and busted and now is beginning a boom again. Around it, residential towers rise and restaurants open and a new Riverwalk meanders past....

    Exterior of the John F. Germany Library in downtown Tampa October 25, 2014.
  11. Carlton: Just say no to Gray Thursday (and pass the cranberries)


    On Thanksgiving Day, when I am madly making the most important meal of the year, I will need something.

    Without fail, I will lack for enough butter or brown sugar, or pepper for the turkey-shaped pepper shaker. Once, I completely forgot cranberry sauce, which, truth be told, tends to sit largely untouched on our table every year. But we must have it, or risk the kids ever after telling the dark family tale of The Time We Went Without Cranberry. It's tradition, after all....

    Retailers are trying to get holiday shoppers to buy early — such as Thanksgiving Day — so they can avoid Black Friday scenes like this one last year at a Target in Tampa.
  12. Carlton: People who swim with sharks (and those of us who don't)

    Human Interest

    Funny how what's scary depends on who you are.

    Some of us get on a plane with no more worry than taking a walk, but far fewer parachute out of one for fun. Some will pay for the theme-park thrill of being menaced by creepy zombies at Halloween, while others find the actual world frightening enough. Me, I spend time around politicians, reporters and lawyers. But I would Not. Swim. With Sharks....

    Nikki and Zeke Szekely learned about sharks at the Florida Aquarium before the couple took an interactive shark swim. It costs $100 per person, including admission, to swim with the sharks; $90 for Florida Aquarium members.
  13. Natalie Khawam, Jill Kelley's twin sister, opens up about effects of Petraeus scandal

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The scandal swept through Tampa society like a late-season hurricane, taking down no less than the retired four-star general running the CIA.

    But the news two years ago this month of David Petraeus' career-ending extramarital affair had nothing on the local sideshow: doe-eyed, raven-haired, twin sister socialites who partied with top military officers — Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam....

    “I’m not a housewife, I’m an attorney,” Natailie Khawam says.
  14. Coming Friday: Jill Kelley sister Natalie Khawam breaks silence about Gen. David Petraeus scandal

    Human Interest

    The scandal swept through Tampa society like a late-season hurricane, taking down no less than the retired four-star general running the CIA.

    But the news two years ago of David Petraeus' career-ending extramarital affair had nothing on the local sideshow: Two raven-haired, twin sister socialites who partied with top military officers — Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam. ...

    Natalie Khawam, left, Gen. David Petraeus, Scott and Jill Kelley and Holly Petraeus watched a Gasparilla parade from the comfort of a tent on the Kelleys front in 2010. [Times (2010)]

  15. Carlton: Police body cameras may help keep everyone in line

    Public Safety

    A police officer is accused of beating up a suspect during an arrest. The officer denies it. One man's word against another. Whom do you believe?

    Someone is shot and killed by a cop who says he had no choice. Turns out the dead man didn't have a weapon. How do you sort out the truth?

    Tampa will soon join a growing list of cities arming officers with a valuable tool that could cut both ways in critical situations — and do a lot for transparency and trust, too....

    In January, Tampa police will don 60 individual body-mounted cameras that could look this one to record routine traffic stops, police calls and serious situations. The cameras will take in valuable evidence of what did and didn’t happen.