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Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer

Tony Marrero

Tony Marrero, a native of Baltimore, joined the Times in 2009. He covers breaking news, crime and courts in Hernando County.

Phone: (352) 848-1431

Email: tmarrero@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TMarreroTimes

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  1. Former Tampa cop gets a top job in Pinellas County government

    Local Government

    It was one of the most memorable protest-related moments of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

    John Bennett, then a Tampa assistant police chief, kneeled in front of a group of protesters and, as they blew smoke and tossed insults, he patiently explained that they were blocking a main route to the hospital. Eventually, they moved to the sidewalk.

    When Bennett retired in February at the age of 51 after a 30-year career at the department then-Chief Jane Castor called him "my own personal superhero."...

    In this photo from 2012, then Assistant Chief John Bennett of the Tampa Police Dept. talks with protesters as they decide to disperce at the corner of Kennedy and Tampa Street in downtown Tampa during the March For Your Life rally.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
  2. PSTA hires Washington lobbyist

    Local Government

    Pinellas County's transit agency is looking to bring in money by spending money — on a Washington lobbyist.

    The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board of directors voted last week to hire D.C.-based lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates for a five-year contract not to exceed $420,000. It's the first time PSTA has retained a federal lobbyist and is needed to land its fair share of federal funding, finance committee chairman Joseph Barkley III told fellow board members....

  3. Peer pressure: What will Tampa Bay do now that Miami-Dade made pot possession a civil infraction?

    Local Government

    Starting this month, people caught with small amounts of marijuana in Miami-Dade County could walk away with a civil citation and no criminal charge.

    The Miami-Dade Commission passed an ordinance Tuesday giving police the option to issue a civil citation, which brings a $100 fine but no criminal record, for possession of 20 grams — about three-fourths of an ounce — or less.

    In Tampa Bay, local governments aren't close to taking that step, though several local leaders — including a majority of Pinellas County commissioners — are up for discussing it....

    Miami-Dade police have the option of issuing citations for small amounts of marijuana.
  4. Retired assistant Tampa police chief tapped for assistant Pinellas administrator post

    Blog

    It was one of the most memorable protest-related moments of the 2012 Republican National Convention

    Then-assistant Tampa police Chief John Bennett kneeled in front of a group of protesters and, as they blew smoke and tossed insults, he patiently explained that they were blocking a main route to the hospital. Eventually, they moved to the sidewalk.

    When Bennett retired at the age of 51 after a 30-year career at the department then-Chief Jane Castor called him "my own personal superhero."...

  5. Former assistant Tampa police chief tapped for assistant Pinellas administrator post

    Blog

    It was one of the most memorable protest-related moments of the 2012 Republican National Convention

    Then-assistant Tampa Police Chief John Bennett kneeled in front of a group of protesters and, as they blew smoke and tossed insults, patiently explained that they were blocking a main route to the hospital. Eventually, they moved to the sidewalk.

    When Bennett retired at the age of 51 after a 30-year career at the department then-Chief Jane Castor called him "my own personal superhero."...

  6. PSTA hires first federal lobbyist

    Blog

    Pinellas County's transit agency is looking to bring in money by spending money -- on a Washington, D.C. lobbyist.

    The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board of directors voted last week to hire D.C.-based lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc. for a five year contract not to exceed $420,000. It's the first time PSTA has retained a federal lobbyist and is needed to land its fair share of federal funding, finance committee chairman Joseph Barkley III told fellow board members....

  7. For the record: Jolly on Friday's same sex marriage ruling

    Blog

    We're a few days late, but we wanted to be sure to get U.S. Rep. David Jolly on the record about Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage.

    The Indian Shores Republican announced his support for gay marriage last summer, so one thing is clear: Jolly's Democratic opponent, whomever that turns out to be, won't be able to use marriage equality as a wedge issue against him. Jolly has said he's considering a bid for Marco Rubio's Senate seat and plans to announce next month whether he'll do so or go for a second term in the District 13 seat he won in a special election last year. Democrat Eric Lynn is in the House race and has made a strong fundraising showing, but both St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice and former Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern are seriously looking at jumping in. ...

  8. State's court clerks slash services, personnel, to deal with budget cuts

    Local Government

    Starting next week, Pinellas County residents will have five fewer hours a week to pay traffic tickets, get a marriage license or request domestic violence injunctions.

    Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman says layoffs, furloughs and office-hour reductions are all on the table. In Pasco, Clerk of Courts Paula O'Neil has already laid off two employees.

    Clerks of courts throughout Florida say fewer office hours and layoffs are just two consequences from a budget dispute between their offices and state lawmakers....

    Jason Mells, 36, of St. Petersburg is helped by Maryann Londo at the Pinellas County clerk’s branch office in St. Petersburg on Monday. Clerks of courts throughout Florida say fewer office hours and layoffs are just two consequences from a budget dispute between their offices and state lawmakers.
  9. Pinellas County commissioners react to Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling

    Blog

    Pinellas County commissioners are at a level of government far removed from the halls of the Supreme Court, but they also happen to be in office at a time of landmark Supreme Court rulings. So what do they think? Bay Buzz reached out to all seven commissioners (four Democrats and three Republicans). Here's who we've heard from so far and what they said on today's gay marriage ruling:

    Ken Welch, Democrat: "The Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality provides for equal treatment for all citizens, without impacting the personal religious convictions of any individual or denomination. It also highlights the absolute necessity for a strong and independent judiciary."...

  10. Disbelief, elation follow Supreme Court decision at St. Petersburg LGBT Welcome Center

    Local

    ST. PETERSBURG — The weekly coffee talk group gathered a little early Friday at the Metro LGBT Welcome Center in St. Petersburg's Grand Central District. Men sat on sofas and hard-backed chairs as CNN played on the television. They waited for the Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage, an issue that has hemmed their lives for decades.

    The men are all in their 60s and keen to tell you how much they've seen. But they never thought they would watch their country's highest court declare gay people have the right to marry, same as everyone else. A wave of stunned elation filled the room moments after the announcement....

  11. Jolly vows to keep fighting for repeal of health care law's mandate

    Blog

    U.S. Rep. David Jolly used Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act to remind folks he introduced a bill last year to repeal the law individual insurance mandate -- and to proclaim that he will continue to push that legislation that died in committee last year.

    "I believe the American people should be in control of their own health care coverage decisions, not government," Jolly said in a post on his Facebook page. "Which is why, despite today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, I am continuing to push legislation (H.R. 143) restoring the freedom of all Americans to decide what health care coverage is right for them and their family."...

  12. Funding veto threatens research vessel's future

    Legislature

    ST. PETERSBURG — The 71-foot research vessel Bellows has been a marine sciences workhorse for four decades, helping researchers monitor red tide, analyze coral in the Keys and study oily water after the Deepwater Horizon spill.

    Thousands of students have used the ship as a floating lab, as well.

    But the 45-year-old Bellows, operated by Florida Institute of Oceanography in St. Petersburg, is near the end of its life. The steel hull is corroding, the massive diesel engines leak oil and replacement parts are hard to find. An assessment done nearly five years ago said the boat should be retired within five years, so the institute has the hull tested every six months to make sure it's sound, said institute director Bill Hogarth....

    The Florida Institute of Oceanography is working to replace its 46-year-old research vessel, the 'RV Bellows.' Gov. Rick Scott recently vetoed $6 million that would have allowed for the vessel's replacement.
  13. USF wins big in state budget, but Scott axes other Tampa Bay projects

    Legislature

    Lawmakers and supporters of projects throughout the Tampa Bay area celebrated, mourned, or did a little of both moments after Gov. Rick Scott signed the state budget Tuesday in Tallahassee.

    Jubilation erupted on both sides of the bay after Scott left intact the $17 million state lawmakers had set aside to move the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine to downtown Tampa and $12.3 million to finish USF St. Petersburg's College of Business by next year....

  14. What Tampa Bay area projects got vetoed

    Legislature

    With a bevy of powerful lawmakers in its corner, the Tampa Bay region was set up to be a big winner in this year's budget.

    But that meant Gov. Rick Scott had plenty of Tampa Bay targets for his veto pen, and more than two dozen projects fell off the chopping block.

    Here's a rundown by county:

    Hillborough

    • $3 million, Hillsborough Community College's South Shore campus...

  15. Lightning strike claims life of former U.S. diplomat living in Largo, authorities say

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Jay Freres traveled the world as a U.S. diplomat, serving in some dangerous corners of the globe before retiring to Florida with his wife.

    On Friday morning, the 81-year-old U.S. Army veteran died steps from his home when a bolt of lightning struck him as he strolled alone on Egret Drive, Largo police said.

    Friends and family were left to grapple with the shock of the sudden — and statistically rare — way that the friendly, deeply religious man died. Mr. Freres was the eighth person to be killed in the United States by a lightning strike this year, according to the National Weather Service. ...

    Jay Freres, 81, is the second lightning fatality in the state in 2015.