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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 County Commission gives initial nod to wage theft ordinance

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County is on track to give local workers recourse in disputes with employers they accuse of cheating them out of wages.

    A unanimous Pinellas County Commission agreed Thursday to draft a wage theft ordinance modeled after a one in Miami-Dade County, which in 2010 was the first local government in the state to pass such a measure.

    "We do have a wage theft issue in this county and because the state has not fulfilled their role and because the federal jurisdiction is limited, it compels us to act," said Commissioner Ken Welch, who led the charge for the ordinance....

  2. Construction to begin on Pinellas clinic for homeless

    Local Government

    LARGO — Construction is about to begin on a long-awaited health clinic for Pinellas County's homeless residents.

    County commissioners on Tuesday donned hard hats and hefted gold shovels at the official groundbreaking of the Bayside Health Clinic. The address is 14808 49th St. N, next door to the Safe Harbor shelter.

    The 3,000-square-foot, one-story building will provide medical, dental and mental health care services for patients, many of whom will come directly from Safe Harbor, said Lourdes Benedict, the county's health and human services director. That will free up the county's mobile medical unit, which has been serving Safe Harbor at least once a week, to spend more time on the road providing services to the homeless population in other parts of the county, Benedict said....

  3. Long before viral video, neighbors waged battle over barbecue in court

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — By the time the dispute between St. Petersburg neighbors over barbecue smoke went viral last week, a civil lawsuit had been wending its way through Pinellas County court for more than a year.

    A snippet of the video that spread across the Internet has added a wrinkle to the case.

    Sue Godfirnon, a 57-year-old elementary teacher, filed a lawsuit in May 2014 against Dwayne and Chris Matt, who live across the street from her in a neighborhood off 54th Avenue S. Godfirnon claims in the lawsuit that "noxious smoke" from the brothers' smoker grill seeps inside her house and exacerbates her asthma, resulting in her being hospitalized. The suit also claims the brothers have used a large commercial grill on a trailer on the property for a catering business....

    Pinellas County environmental specialist Joe Graham speaks with Chris Matt on Alcola Way about smoke drifting from his barbecue grill onto a neighbor’s property.
  4. Neighbor in viral barbecue dispute says focus on smoker


    Focus on the smoker.

    That's the message in a statement released Tuesday by Sue Godfirnon, the Pinellas County elementary school teacher embroiled in a now viral dispute with her neighbor over barbecue smoke. Godfirnon has lodged more than a dozen complaints with Pinellas County and a video recording of an exchange between a county air quality inspector and one of Godfirnon's neighbors, Chris Matt, has racked up more than 4 million views since it was posted on Facebook last week. (Read a full report here.)...

  5. Barbecue video goes viral, draws scrutiny on Pinellas County code enforcement

    Local Government


    Outrage flared across the Internet last week after a Facebook video of a Pinellas County bureaucrat warning two residents about a backyard barbecue went viral.

    In less than a week, the video racked up nearly 4.2 million views, escalating what would have been a run-of-the-mill code complaint into an Internet meme symbolizing government overreach for millions. As social media lit up, county officials held a Monday news conference to explain their side....

    Dwayne Matt, left, and brother Chris Matt talk in his St. Petersburg home Monday. A video went viral of Chris Matt disagreeing with a Pinellas County official about his grill’s smoke.
  6. Video of Pinellas County barbecue smoke dispute goes viral


    A home in south St. Petersburg has been the target of more than a dozen complaints this year about smoke and odor from an open barbecue grill.

    In the past few days, it blew into a fiery internet controversy after a video was posted online showing a confrontation between the resident and a Pinellas County environmental specialist.

    “I’m only here because of the odor. I’m only here because of the smoke,” the jeans-wearing county employee says on the tape....

  7. Tampa Bay cities didn't get what they sought in oil spill claims

    Local Government

    The city of St. Petersburg demanded nearly $60 million to settle its lawsuit over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and is in line to get $8 million.

    Tampa wanted about $60 million and is set to land $27.4 million.

    And Clearwater, which actually has a beach on the Gulf of Mexico, sought $20 million and will get roughly the same amount as St. Petersburg.

    Disparities among the settlement amounts that Tampa Bay's elected officials have approved in recent days to end their claims against BP and other defendants raise the question: How were they calculated?...

    Jackie Kovila?ritch said St. Petersburg sought to pre?serve claims.
  8. As tourist tax revenue grows, so does divide on how to spend it

    Local Government

    As record numbers of tourists flock to Pinellas County, a simmering debate over how to divvy up the tax revenue they produce is heating up.

    Stoking the passion is a recent recommendation from the county's Tourist Development Council to increase the county's tourist tax to 6 percent. Pinellas already tacks on 5 percent to hotel stays and short-term rentals, and the additional levy would raise another $7 million a year....

  9. Rays president tells Tiger Bay of team's desire to stay in Tampa Bay

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Standing in front of a packed house at the Tiger Bay Club's Friday luncheon, Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld compared the team's current stalemate with St. Petersburg to Evan Longoria's decision to sign a long-term contract.

    "He agreed to do that because he wanted to stay committed to Tampa Bay and we wanted to show our commitment to him," Auld said. "We are sort of asking to sign a contract extension with the region to keep the Rays here well past 2028. In the event that we get to something called organizational free agency … we'll have to entertain offers. We have a fiduciary responsibility to our partners in baseball and to ourselves to entertain offers throughout North America. It's something we have no interest in doing, and so that's why we're looking to get this solved."...

    Rays president Brian Auld, right, is working toward an agreement with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
  10. Kathleen Peters responds to Dems' dig on her ALEC trip


    The Pinellas Democratic Party have seized on Rep. Kathleen Peters' plans to travel to San Diego this week for the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, more commonly called ALEC. (Read more here on the Buzz about the other House members who planned to attend.)...

  11. County commissioner Janet Long earns certification

    Local Government

    Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long has earned a certification for county commissioners from the Florida Association of Counties.

    Long, a Democrat elected to the board in 2012, recently completed 45 hours of coursework "designed to provide information and enhance skills relevant to a commissioner's duties and responsibilities as an elected official," according to a news release from Long....

  12. Pinellas County accepting proposals from would-be buyers of the Young-Rainey STAR Center

    Local Government

    LARGO — Pinellas County has put a "for sale" sign on a unique asset.

    The county is accepting proposals from potential buyers of the Young-Rainey STAR Center, a 96-acre manufacturing and technology campus on Bryan Dairy Road. The campus has served its purpose for the county's Economic Development Authority by providing space for about 30 tenants, including electronics titan Raytheon, so now is a good time to find a buyer willing to invest in the property to attract new tenants, create jobs and expand the tax base, Assistant County Administrator Paul Sacco said....

    The Young-Rainey STAR Center, an industrial campus in Largo, features eight buildings totaling nearly 662,000 square feet and about 7 acres of land that could be developed.
  13. Rice nixes idea to spend BP money on smaller recycling trucks


    Remember St. Petersburg Council member Darden Rice's idea to spend part of the city's BP settlement money on a smaller recycling truck?


    Rice recently submitted a new business item for the Aug. 6 council meeting asking her colleagues to consider a few ideas for the $6.5 million the city is expected to net to settle its claim against BP and other defendants for the Deepwater Horizon spill. In addition to filling in funding gaps for the proposed bike sharing program and helping pay for improved bike lanes, Rice also suggested the city consider "buying smaller hybrid-electric recycling trucks for the sanitation fleet that can fit in alleyways."...

  14. Pinellas transit board headed toward tax hike


    The tax rate for transit in Pinellas County is almost certainly going up in 2016, but not by much.  

    The Pinellas Suncoast Suncoast Transit Authority board of directors voted 7-4 Wednesday to advertise a tax rate of .75 mils, the maximum allowed by law and an increase of .15 mills from the current rate.

    For a $150,000 property with a $50,000 homestead exemption, the PSTA portion of the tax bill would increase $1.50, from $73.50 to $75. ...

  15. BP settlement money for new recycling trucks in St. Pete? Rice wants to talk about it


    Could some of St. Petersburg's Deepwater Horizon settlement money be spent on smaller recycling trucks? City Council member Darden Rice wants to talk about it.

    St. Pete was among several local governments that recently approved settlements with BP and other defendants to end lawsuits stemming from the 2010 oil spill. The money could arrive within a few months, and there are few restrictions for how to spend it. In a new business item submitted for the Aug. 6 council meeting, Rice is asking the City Council to consider using a "significant portion" of the $6.5 million that the city will net (after paying attorney fees) for "purposes and projects that lessen our dependency on oil." ...