Susan Taylor Martin, Times Staff Writer

Susan Taylor Martin

For someone who doesn't particularly care to fly, Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin has logged a lot of hours in the air — in the past decade she has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and China. She covered the invasion of Iraq, the war in Kosovo and the war against terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On 9/11, she and two other Times staffers got in Martin's aging car and drove 24 hours nonstop from Tampa Bay to New York City, her hometown. Among the other breaking stories Susan has covered were the death and funeral of Princess Diana, the funeral of Jordan's King Hussein and the handover of Hong Kong to China. There have been lighter moments, too. Martin has written about a restaurant in Jerusalem dedicated to Elvis Presley's memory; a Scottish hamlet that finally got TV and hated it; and the gay and transvestite scene in Turkey, a conservative Muslim country. Her hobbies include figure skating, antiquing, flea-marketing, and rooting for the Blue Devils basketball team of Duke University (her alma mater).

Martin has won numerous state and national journalism awards, including the 2007 Paul Hansell Award presented by the Florida Society of News Editors for distinguished writing and reporting.

Phone: (727) 893-8642

Email: susan@tampabay.com

Blog: Hot Spots

  1. Meet the Palm Harbor man who is 12 years behind on his mortgage payments

    Real Estate

    There are people who are late on their mortgages, and then there's Paul Stenstrom.

    The Palm Harbor man hasn't paid a cent on his home since 2002, back when gas cost $1.61 a gallon, Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq and Kelly Clarkson was the first American Idol. Now, 12 years later, the world has moved on. Stenstrom has not.

    As of this week, he and his family were still in the house even as a bank pressed ahead with efforts to evict them. ...

  2. David Jolly's Pinellas condo is mostly for part-time residents

    Blog

    Republican congressional candidate David Jolly could be excused for not knowing many of the neighbors in his Indian Shores condo complex.

    Jolly is one of just three owners in the 162-unit Barefoot Beach Resort who claim homestead exemptions. All of the others are part-time residents, many of whom lease out their units to vacationers.

    Unlike opponent Alex Sink, who is renting a Feather Sound condo, Jolly cites his 2005 purchase of the 950-square-foot unit as evidence he’s a full-time Pinellas resident. But the rider to a mortgage he and then-wife Carrie took out that year shows that initially at least they were part-timers, too....

    A look at the "second home rider" page from David Jolly's mortgage on his Indian Shores condo.
  3. Condo complexes reap huge savings by challenging federal flood maps

    Banking

    Sunset Vistas condo owners knew they had to do something when their flood insurance premiums hit $400,000 a year.

    The reason for the big tab? Federal flood maps showed that the waterfront Treasure Island complex had a high risk of wave-related damage.

    The solution: Get the flood maps changed.

    The result: An insurance bill that plunged to less than $20,000 a year.

    "It was just an insane difference,'' said Kelly Dees, an officer of Sunset Vistas condo association....

    Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites, 12000 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island
  4. Amscot says it will refund fee to incapacitated lottery winner

    Bizarre News

    Amscot Financial will refund the $14,000-plus in fees it charged to cash a check for a mentally incompetent St. Petersburg lottery winner.

    "It's the right thing to do," Joe Kilsheimer, a public relations consultant for the Tampa-based company, said Monday.

    Kilsheimer said Amscot employees were unaware of Malcolm Ramsey's mental condition in early November when they cashed a check for $302,446, his after-tax winnings from a "$500 a week for life" scratch-off ticket....

    Malcolm Ramsey cashed a check for $302,446.
  5. Lottery winner's lifetime of money gone in weeks

    Human Interest

    St. Petersburg

    A few weeks before Thanksgiving, staff at the Loving Care assisted living facility in St. Petersburg realized something had changed in Malcolm Ramsey's life.

    Relatives who had never paid much attention to Ramsey, 55 and mentally incompetent, suddenly started showing up in droves. Bulging bags from T.J. Maxx and Bealls filled his half of a tiny, shared bedroom. Boxes of new athletic shoes — Nike, New Balance, K-Swiss — towered against the wall. ...

    Judge Lauren Laughlin has appointed a new guardian for Ramsey in the wake of his spending spree.
  6. Name glitch adds to flood insurance woes

    Banking

    Laury Pflaum and her boyfriend know their St. Petersburg home is in a flood zone. But since buying the house two years ago, they have been reassured by information from the National Flood Insurance Program that there has never been a claim.

    So Pflaum was stunned when she recently looked at a Tampa Bay Times map pinpointing houses that have flooded repeatedly. There was her home — with three claims since 1978. ...

    Laury Pflaum and boyfriend Jeffrey Oligschlaeger, both 28, stand in front of the Shore Acres home they bought in 2011, thinking the St. Petersburg house had never flooded.
  7. Even with Shore Acres, St. Petersburg paid 8 times more into flood insurance than claimed

    Real Estate

    If there's an argument that Florida residents already pay too much for flood insurance, Shore Acres is it.

    The low-lying neighborhood of 2,300 homes in northeast St. Petersburg is one of the most flood-prone areas in Tampa Bay.

    Since 1978, so many Shore Acres houses have flooded two, three, even five times that they have helped make St. Petersburg one of the top 30 places in the country for claims filed with the beleaguered National Flood Insurance Program....

    Seen from the Shore Acres side of Placido Bayou, the waters of Placido Bayou top docks in June 2012.
  8. Flood insurance increases would hit St. Petersburg's Shore Acres hard

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG

    In the nearly four decades he has lived on Arrowhead Drive in Shore Acres, Donald Coffey has seen his home flood five times. • That's enough to give his 66-year-old house a dubious distinction — one of the most flood-prone homes on one of the most flood-prone streets in one of the most flood-prone communities of Tampa Bay.

    "But in all those years, you've never seen a flood here like you see on TV,'' says Coffey, a retired insurance agent. "We don't see a big tidal wave coming in here to get you. It just slowly rises.'' ...

    Bonnie Atkins keeps a kayak handy at her Shore Acres home. Street flooding continues to be a problem here, but saltwater flooding has been greatly reduced since the city raised several streets by 6 inches and built vaults to keep drainage pipes from backing up.
  9. Modest homes in Hillsborough County will feel brunt of new flood insurance law

    News

    Just as in Pinellas, it is owners of modest inland homes in Hillsborough County who will feel the brunt of the new flood insurance law.

    The median size of the roughly 20,000 Hillsborough homes that will lose their lower, subsidized rates is 1,500 square feet, according to property appraiser data released Wednesday.

    The median assessed value is $102,867. And the vast majority of houses — more than 80 percent — are not on the water....

  10. Darryl Rouson owes IRS more than $155k in back taxes

    Blog

    State Rep. Darryl Rouson and his wife failed to pay more than $155,000 in federal income taxes from 2008 through 2010, according to a lien filed by the Internal Revenue Service.

    In one of those years, Rouson, a St. Petersburg attorney, made $565,000 working for the powerhouse law firm of Morgan & Morgan.

    The IRS lien is the latest trouble for Rouson, who recently came under fire from fellow House Democrats for creating a party-related fundraising committee only he could control. His colleagues ousted him as incoming Democratic leader on Sept. 23, the day before the IRS filed its lien in Pinellas County circuit court....

  11. IRS: Darryl Rouson, wife owe more than $157K in income taxes

    State Roundup

    State Rep. Darryl Rouson and his wife failed to pay more than $157,000 in federal income taxes from 2008 through 2010, according to a lien filed by the Internal Revenue Service.

    In one of those years, Rouson, a St. Petersburg attorney, made $565,000 working for the powerhouse law firm of Morgan & Morgan.

    The IRS lien is the latest trouble for Rouson, who recently came under fire from fellow House Democrats for creating a party-related fundraising committee only he could control. His colleagues ousted him as incoming Democratic leader on Sept. 23, the day before the IRS filed its lien in Pinellas County circuit court....

    Rep. Darryl Rouson was recently ousted as incoming top Democrat.
  12. 10 surprising — and irritating — facts about flood insurance

    Banking

    Florida didn't create the crisis that will force thousands of Floridians to pay astronomical amounts for flood insurance starting today. Instead, blame a few devastating storms — Katrina, Rita and Sandy — that largely spared Florida but slammed into Louisiana and the Northeast.

    There is plenty of confusion and misinformation over how the flood program got into this mess and why Florida is being hit harder by rate hikes than any other state. Here are 10 facts to help sort through the clutter:...

    Volunteers search for survivors in the flooded streets of Gentilly after Katrina left New Orleans in ruins. Claims from that one storm put the federal flood insurance program in the red.
  13. New data: Modest homes hit hardest by flood insurance rate hikes effective Tuesday

    Banking

    The proof is in: Dramatic flood insurance rate increases taking effect today will have the biggest impact on owners of modest single-family homes not on the water.

    The median value of the 33,000 affected homes in Pinellas County: $132,245. The typical size: 1,430 square feet.

    And roughly two thirds of the homes don't have water frontage or a water view, according to newly released county property appraiser figures....

    Bruce Sinclair, 72, pays $1,784 per year for flood insurance on this 1950s home in the Snell Isle neighborhood in St. Petersburg. Sinclair said the home, blocks from the water, has never flooded. His rates will go up after Oct. 1, and he may move to Tennessee.
  14. Flood insurance rates could jump for more than 21,000 Hillsborough homes

    Banking

    Hillsborough County doesn't have a single house on the Gulf of Mexico and only about 2,000 that directly front a bay.

    Nonetheless, there are thousands of other single-family homes — modest bungalows as well as million-dollar mansions — that could be hit with soaring flood insurance rates under a new federal law that takes effect Tuesday.

    Following the lead of its Pinellas counterpart, the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office on Wednesday released a map showing approximately 21,800 older homes that until now have qualified for lower, subsidized flood insurance premiums....

  15. Federal grand jury scrutinizing three former Universal Health Care executives

    Corporate

    New court filings reveal that a federal grand jury is investigating three former top executives of Universal Health Care, the St. Petersburg Medicare insurer that collapsed last winter amid accusations of fraud and kickbacks.

    In a motion filed in U.S. bankruptcy court in Tampa this week, former general counsel Sandip Patel, former marketing director Jeff Ludy and chief strategy officer Deepak Desai say they are "the subjects of an ongoing criminal investigation" by the U.S. Attorney's Office and "various," though unspecified, federal agencies. The motion also reveals that a federal judge on March 27 issued a search warrant for "documents and things" related to the three men....