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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. Republican enters 2016 race for Pinellas County property appraiser


    Times staff

    There's another Republican in the wide-open 2016 Pinellas County property appraiser race.

    Michael Twitty, senior managing director of Valbridge Property Advisors, filed papers Tuesday to run for the post that Pam Dubov is leaving to become a Methodist deacon. The 48-year-old Largo resident's entry into the race sets up a primary with at least one other Republican, former state Rep. Jim Frishe, who filed in April....

  2. Real estate appraiser enters race for Pinellas Property Appraiser


    There’s another Republican in the race for the wide open Pinellas Property Appraiser seat. 

    Michael Twitty, senior managing director of Valbridge Property Advisors, filed papers Tuesday to run for the seat that Pam Dubov is leaving open next year to become a Methodist deacon. The 48-year-old Largo resident’s entry into the race sets up a primary with at least one other Republican, former state Rep. Jim Frishe, who filed in April. No other candidates have entered the race. ...

  3. Commission votes to increase Pinellas' tourist tax

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County Commission on Tuesday settled the easy part of what has been a contentious debate, agreeing to raise the tourist tax to 6 percent effective Jan. 1.

    The 5-2 vote ensures a larger revenue stream to market the county as a destination and pay for stadiums, museums and other projects. It increases the 5 percent surcharge on hotel stays and other short-term rentals that has been in effect since 2005. ...

  4. Pinellas Clerk Burke files to run for fourth term


    Pinellas Clerk of Court Ken Burke made it official Monday, filing to run for a fourth term.

    We reported last month that Burke, a Republican, was among the constitutional officer who said they plan to run for reelection next year.

    "I'm only 55 and I think I'm doing a good job," Burke said then....

  5. PSTA chief Brad Miller catches flak from board months after defeat of rail plan

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The chief executive of Pinellas County's transit agency is being put on notice by some of his bosses, including one of his staunchest supporters.

    Several members of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's 15-member board of directors have penned highly critical annual evaluations of CEO Brad Miller. Among them is County Commissioner Ken Welch, one of the longest-serving board members who spoke up for Miller last year when critics were demanding his ouster....

    Brad Miller was hired in 2011 as CEO of PSTA. Board members say there are red flags in his management.
  6. After detour through St. Petersburg thrift store, cremated remains bound for family

    Bizarre News

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sorting through piles of incoming donations a few weeks ago, workers at the PARC Thrift Store came upon a box they knew would never be slapped with a price tag.

    About the size of a lunchbox and sealed with a strip of clear tape, the white cardboard container bore a sticker with two palm trees and a brief description: Cremated Remains of Walter H. Hardin.

    The effort to unravel the mystery, and find Mr. Hardin a proper final resting place, began....

  7. Conservation group sues to stop black bear hunt


    A Seminole County conservation group has filed suit against Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission claiming the black bear hunt approved in June is unconstitutional.

    Speak Up Wekiva, a Florida non-profit, filed the complaint Friday in Circuit Court in Tallahassee claiming the new rules allowing the hunt violate Amendment 5, a 1998 ballot amendment creating the commission so that it would "conduct management, preservation and conservation decision-making based upon sound science," according to the suit....

  8. Emails show how tempers flared over viral barbecue video


    They came from as near as Clearwater and as far as Canada. Some had creative subject lines like," Black Mark on Your County" and "Better Homes and Gardens Gestapo," but most just referenced barbecue smoke.

    After a video of a Pinellas County inspector warning a homeowner about offensive barbecue smoke went viral last week, emails began to pile up in county commissioner inboxes. Armchair activists fired off searing missives to lampoon what they saw as a county campaign to douse a cherished pastime with a big bucket of bureaucratic buzzkill....

  9. 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 pay.

    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....

  10. 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....

  11. 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....

    Dwayne Matt and his brother, Chris Matt, talk Monday in his St. Petersburg home. Chris Matt was in a video that went viral as he disagreed with a Pinellas County environmental specialist. The government official responded to a complaint by a neighbor regarding excessive smoke and odor from a barbecue grill at the Matts’ house.
  12. 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.)...

  13. 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....

    Pinellas County responded to a citizen complaint about excessive smoke and odor from a barbecue grill.
  14. 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....

  15. 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.