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Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer

Tony Marrero

Tony Marrero covers Pinellas County government and politics. A Baltimore native, he joined the Times in 2009.

Phone: (352) 848-1431


Twitter: @TMarreroTimes

  1. Pinellas, Pasco elections supervisors say group's registration mailer confuses voters


    Elections supervisors in Pinellas and Pasco counties are calling out a Washington, D.C. nonprofit group whose past campaigns to register voters have drawn complaints from elections officials who say the mailings are confusing.

    Pinellas Supervisor Deborah Clark and Pasco Supervisor Brian Corley sent out news releases this week to alert voters to a new mailing from the Voter Participation Center that indicates a voter is not registered to vote or has not updated their voter registration information. ...

  2. Pinellas transit chief given seven months to show improvement

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The chief executive of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will get at least seven more months to lead the agency.

    Acknowledging some stumbles in the past year, the PSTA board of directors voted 14 to 1 Wednesday to reevaluate CEO Brad Miller in seven months and withhold a pay increase.

    The board voted on a motion that stated: "With improved communication, and accountability … we support (Miller's) continued leadership to accomplish our adopted strategic plan's goals. We recognize he has made a number of positive recent improvements, but further progress is needed."...

    Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board members want CEO Brad Miller to make more progress on the agency’s strategic plan. [SCOTT KEELER | Times (2014)]
  3. One dead in small plane crash at St. Pete-Clearwater airport


    CLEARWATER — It's supposed to a be routine maneuver to practice landing an aircraft.

    But something went wrong Wednesday when a pilot doing "touch-and-go" exercises at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport veered off the edge of the main runway and crashed into a nearby grassy area about 11:45 a.m.

    The pilot, 24-year-old Marshall Casey Barath of Nampa, Idaho, was the only person aboard the twin-engine Piper Comanche at the time and was dead when emergency crews arrived, said airport director Tom Jewsbury. ...

    Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board assess the scene Wednesday at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport after a twin-engine Piper Comanche crashed, killing the pilot, 24-year-old Marshall Casey Barath of Nampa, Idaho.
  4. Pinellas inmate falls short of 'Shawshank' redemption


    LARGO — A Pinellas County inmate found out you don't have to get far to face escape charges.

    Scott A. Lambert may have fallen far short of a Shawshank Redemption-style break out, but deputies say he chipped away enough concrete in two cells at the Pinellas County Jail to get charged with escape.

    Detectives received a tip last week that Lambert, 26, was digging a hole in his current cell at the jail and had done the same in another cell where he'd been held from June 11 to Sept. 14. Detectives investigated that cell first on Sept. 22 and found a hole about 6 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep on the wall underneath his bunk. The hole had been concealed with a piece of notebook paper stuck to the wall with what appeared to be toothpaste....

  5. Frishe announces "official" launch of campaign for Pinellas Property Appraiser


    Former state Rep. Jim Frishe filed to run for Pinellas County Property Appraiser back in April, but on Tuesday announced the "official" launch of his campaign with a new web site, Facebook page and Twitter account.

    Frishe also has a "busy October full of fundraising and meeting with people" in Pinellas, according to a news release issued Tuesday.

    The St. Petersburg Republican has some catching up to do to match the pace set by his only primary opponent so far, certified real estate appraiser Mike Twitty of Largo. Twitty, a 48-year-old political newcomer who has never run for office, raised $50,000 in his first month after filing and racked up endorsements from sitting Property Appraiser Pam Dubov, Clerk of Court Ken Burke (who encouraged him to run), and state Sen. Jeff Brandes....

  6. In plea to hike minimum wage, Democratic lawmakers to live on $17 a day for a week


    ST. PETERSBURG — State Rep. Dwight Dudley drives an 11-year-old Toyota SUV and shops at Sam's Club and Big Lots.

    But his modest standard of living will take a hit on $17 a day as part of the "minimum wage challenge," a campaign by the Service Employees International Union to draw attention to the effort to raise Florida's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

    The $17 per day is what the average minimum wage worker has left after paying the rent and utilities. To get by this week, Dudley plans to take the bus or ride his bike. He'll forgo his favorite $6.95 chicken curry lunch special....

    Activist Karen Lieberman, 65, center, asked Eric Lynn if his mortgage or electric bill would go unpaid in the challenge. “He told me he would not be able to pay either on $8.05 an hour.”
  7. Pinellas transit advocates look on as Hillsborough ballot draws fire

    Local Government

    When the Greenlight Pinellas referendum suffered a crushing loss last fall, hopes for a transportation plan that could connect Tampa Bay shifted to Hillsborough County.

    Now, as that county's efforts flounder with the Go Hillsborough initiative, transit supporters in Pinellas are watching with chagrin — and an unsettling sense of deja vu.

    Hillsborough commissioners last week questioned whether they will place a referendum on the ballot at all....

  8. Ordinance would require Pinellas strip clubs, massage parlors to post signs for human trafficking victims


    They are grim signs of the times, posted throughout Florida with hopes of reaching human trafficking victims so they know where to turn for help.

    Now they could be coming to Pinellas County strip clubs and massage parlors.

    In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Pinellas County Commission directed county attorney Jim Bennett to draft a local ordinance requiring informational signs to be posted at adult entertainment businesses and massage parlors. The signs would include directions on how to contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center tip line. ...

  9. Tampa Bay agencies form task force to crimp car thefts

    Local Government

    LARGO — A St. Petersburg police officer in a marked patrol car recently spotted a white Jeep in the downtown area, ran the license tag and saw that it was stolen.

    Instead of trying to stop the Jeep, officers in unmarked cars kept the Jeep in sight while a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office helicopter flew to the area. When the Jeep stopped at a shopping plaza in Clearwater at East Bay Drive and Belcher Road and two people got out and ran, the helicopter kept them in view, officers set up a perimeter and used police dogs to catch both men....

    St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway says the task force has improved safety. 
  10. Pinellas administrator gets rave reviews, 3 percent raise


    Pinellas County commissioners love their chief executive.

    The seven-member board have given county administrator Mark Woodard glowing written evaluations and on Thursday voted unanimously to give him a 3 percent raise.

    "What a breath of fresh air you have been," Chairman John Morroni told Woodard. "In my opinion, you've proven yourself."

    Woodard was scored by each commissioner in 10 categories and earned 185.5 points out of a possible 210. He scored perfectly in the budget management category, which is no surprise since He joined the county in 1988 as senior financial analyst and served as director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1994 until 2001, when he was tapped to serve as assistant county administrator. He kept that role under Bob LaSala, who was fired in April 2014 amid commissioners' growing discontent with his job performance. Woodard was first named acting administrator and given the permanent position four months later....

  11. Video of fight at Temple Terrace Publix goes viral


    TEMPLE TERRACE — Fists flew in the deli line of a Publix here last week and a video of the fight has gone viral.

    The fight started after a customer ordering chicken wings at the deli counter of the Publix at 5450 E Busch Blvd. on Sept. 16 became angry with a deli worker and made rude comments, said Temple Terrace Police Capt. Greg Pauley.

    Another shopper, 25-year-old Leon Lightbody of Tampa, confronted the customer, 59-year-old Raleigh Harris, and struck him multiple times, Pauley said. ...

  12. Status quo just fine: PSTA keeps tax rate the same


    The property tax that funds Pinellas County’s transit agency won’t be going up after all.

    The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board of directors on Wednesday approved a $65.2 million operating budget with no change to the millage rate of .7305. That equates to $73.05 for a homeowner whose property is valued at $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption.

    Some board members had favored raising the rate to the highest allowed by law — which would have cost that homeowner another $1.95 per year and raised about $1 million in revenue — to help the agency stave off service cuts and replenish its aging fleet of buses....

  13. Fishing buddies recall harrowing night spent in Tampa Bay after boat sinks

    Human Interest

    The three men clung to their nearly submerged boat, the lights of the Sunshine Skyway bridge and fishing pier shimmering in the distance.

    Three hours earlier, Scott Hirst's 17-foot tri-hull started taking on water. By 1:30 a.m., Hirst and his fishing buddies, brothers Josh and Jake Peterson, were holding onto the small portion of the boat that remained above the inky waves of Tampa Bay.

    With the tide pulling them toward the Gulf of Mexico, they decided to swim for the pier. But the current was strong and Jake's leg seized with a cramp. The brothers swam back to the boat....

    Jake Peterson, 24, spent six hours in the waters near the Sunshine Skyway after his boat sank on a fishing trip.
  14. Pinellas and Hillsborough go their different ways on tourism tax

    Local Government

    When it comes to tourism, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have much in common.

    Both counties tack a five percent tax onto hotel rooms and other short term rentals. Both have collected hundreds of millions of dollars from this "bed tax" and are currently enjoying record-sized windfalls.

    But the similarities end in one crucial area: how they spend the money.

    Between 2004 and 2014, Hillsborough County sank about 42 percent of the nearly $208 million it collected from the bed tax into brick-and-mortar projects such as Raymond James Stadium and Amalie Arena, according to an analysis of county records....

  15. Union opposes suspension of city worker accused of referring to mayor as clown

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — A city of St. Petersburg employee accused of referring to Mayor Rick Kriseman as a "clown" on Facebook has been suspended without pay for five days.

    Robin Wynn, a crew leader in the stormwater department, posted the phrase "What a clown" on Sept. 6 on the Facebook page of a local Internet radio program, the Homemade Broadcast, according to a disciplinary notice issued Friday. The comment was under an item announcing an upcoming interview with Kriseman, the document said....

    Robin Wynn has worked for the city of St. Petersburg for 20 years.