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William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer

William R. Levesque

William R. Levesque began working at the Tampa Bay Times in 1994 and has more than 28 years of experience as a reporter. He's written about Florida agriculture, the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, county government, police news, criminal and civil courts and business affairs. In the 1990s, his investigative reports about a DuPont pesticide that damaged crops around the world and caused billions of dollars in damages garnered numerous Florida and national journalism awards.

His 2013 investigative report, The Atomic Sailors, about a Navy ship that dumped tons of radioactive waste into the Atlantic Ocean during the Cold War and sickened some of its men, won first place in the non-deadline category of the Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Awards. (See tampabay.com/topics/specials/uss-calhoun-county-report.page)

Levesque also was the lead reporter in the Times coverage of the Terri Schiavo case and the criminal trial of the Rev. Henry Lyons.

Phone: (813) 226-3432

Email: levesque@tampabay.com

Twitter: @WilliamRLevesqu

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  1. Hillsborough officials quietly hired law firm with ties to baseball

    Local Government

    TAMPA — One of the most notable steps Hillsborough County has taken toward its desire to woo the Tampa Bay Rays to the county was also one of the quietest: County commissioners in October agreed to hire Foley & Lardner, a law firm with extensive ties to Major League Baseball and a partner who is a former MLB president.

    Under terms of the one-year contract, the firm will be paid a flat monthly fee of $4,500 and attorneys can bill an hourly rate of up to $395....

    The Tampa Bay Rays’ contract with St. Petersburg binds the team to city-owned Tropicana Field until 2027. The team has insisted it needs a new stadium and has pushed to look outside the city.
  2. Top MacDill enlisted leader, veteran of Mogadishu's 'Black Hawk Down' battle, to retire

    Macdill

    TAMPA — Chris Faris was wounded in Mogadishu in 1993 as a member of the elite Delta Force during the battle made famous in the book and film Black Hawk Down. And he has spent nearly six years deployed overseas since 2002, often while on secret missions in the world's most-dangerous places.

    But the work one of the grand marshals of the 2015 Gasparilla celebration wants to be remembered for is his effort to encourage soldiers to seek the help they might need after returning from war. Faris was until Dec. 18 command sergeant major — the top enlisted leader — of U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, and has earned seven Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart in his 31 years in the Army. He will retire at the end of February....

    Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris, right, the top enlisted leaders at U.S. Special Command shows Army veteran Charles "Clay" Claybaker and his wife, Kandice, the home renovated for them through Building Homes for Heroes in 2013. Sgt. Claybaker was severely wounded while in Afghanistan. Faris, a co-grand marshal of the Gasparilla parade, wants his legacy to be that of helping others.
  3. Ousted Hillsborough schools chief gets commendation from county commission

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Commission presented schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia with a commendation Thursday, just two days after the School Board voted to oust her.

    The commendation was already in the works before the vote to remove Elia and recognizes her for being named by her peers as Florida superintendent of the year and being among four finalists for national superintendent of the year....

  4. Suit alleges VA sided with stalker, firing the victim

    Veterans

    The shooting death of a Department of Veterans Affairs psychologist in a Texas hospital earlier this month by a former VA clerk has focused renewed emphasis by the agency on the safety of its employees.

    "The VA has a ZERO tolerance for violence by anyone to anyone," a VA official in the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center system wrote last week in an email to employees, urging them to quickly report problems....

  5. Haley VA director taking new job in Kansas City

    Veterans

    TAMPA — The director of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center is leaving the post and will head a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Kansas City, Mo., the VA announced Tuesday.

    Kathleen Fogarty is on temporary assignment overseeing VA operations in the southwestern U.S., including the agency's troubled Phoenix hospital where patient deaths and delayed care have made national headlines....

    Kathleen Fogarty led the Haley VA Medical Center during a time of controversy for the facility.
  6. Hackers claiming Islamic State link target U.S. Central Command

    Macdill

    TAMPA

    The Twitter and YouTube accounts for U.S. Central Command were briefly taken over Monday by computer hackers claiming ties with Islamic State militants.

    The military portrayed the incident as more prank than substantive security breach.

    Hackers began posting threatening messages and videos to U.S. troops and the military about 12:30 p.m. and included military documents that officials at CentCom, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, said were not classified and did not compromise U.S. security interests....

  7. Officials acknowledge $50 million deficit at Young VA, but insist it is not a concern

    Veterans

    Supervisors at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center were told recently to keep quiet about performance bonuses owed to employees retiring after Sept. 30, and to not pay them unless retirees specifically asked for their money.

    And doctors were told a few days earlier that a routine review of salaries to ensure their pay is competitive with the private sector was being suspended because the hospital had a major budget shortfall....

    The main hospital building of the CW Bill Young VA Medical Center of the Bay Pines VA Medical Healthcare System in August 2014.  [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  8. Slain Tarpon Springs Officer Charles Kondek remembered for humor, dedication, love (w/video)

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Charles Kondek held his wife's hand everywhere they went. He made funny faces to cheer his kids up, blasted AC/DC, cheered for the New York Jets and did a SpongeBob SquarePants dance for his daughter's second-grade class.

    "Charlie K," as his fellow police officers called him, worked the midnight shift, ribbed his co-workers, told the same jokes over and over, and liked teaching rookies how to do the job right....

    People gather on Pinellas Avenue in downtown Tarpon Springs on Saturday to watch the procession as the casket of Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek is transported from Idlewild Baptist Church to Grace Memorial Cemetery in Hudson.
  9. Retired Marine sergeant major seeks answers for illness

    Military

    LITHIA — The illness hit Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. William A. Hines in 2010 like no enemy he had ever experienced.

    Assigned to the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion headquarters in Tampa, Hines went on a 4-mile run, something he had done hundreds of times in more than two decades as a Marine. But afterward, he couldn't catch his breath. He felt pressure on his head and couldn't focus.

    Another Marine rushed Hines to Tampa General Hospital, where doctors would ultimately find blood clots in his lungs....

    Bill Hines, a Marine veteran stands near the many ranks that he held and medals he received over 27 years of service. Hines believes the anthrax vaccine he received for an overseas deployment has ruined his health. He says he was forced to retire because of health problems and is frustrated that the government will not acknowledge the vaccine made many troops ill. Taken 12/24/14
  10. VA policy to disclose errors in medical care not always followed

    Veterans

    BY WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

    Department of Veterans Affairs leaders often talk proudly about how the agency polices itself when medical mistakes occur, saying they inform veterans who are seriously harmed, apologize and even tell them how to file a financial claim for damages.

    But a VA report to Congress in April showing the agency made 76 "institutional disclosures" involving veterans who were hurt by delays in treatment of gastrointestinal cancers might reveal that this confession policy is often not followed, according to interviews and congressional records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times....

    The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center Campus, part of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  11. Pinellas girl's death prompts lawsuit

    Civil

    TAMPA — The family of a 5-year-old girl who died in 2013 after she was taken into foster care filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri saying his office's failure to provide a medical screening for the child ended with her death from untreated tonsillitis.

    The suit filed by the parents of Elizabeth Holder disputes a finding by the Pinellas Medical Examiner's Office that the girl died Jan. 19, 2013, of a heart ailment that was aggravated by her tonsillitis....

  12. Exhibit examines World War II German sub threat in Gulf of Mexico (w/video)

    War

    TAMPA — Tom Kugler hunted German submarines as the bombardier on a B-24 Liberator during World War II. Some people are surprised when they hear where he did it.

    In the Caribbean, often quite close to Florida.

    "I don't think the few young people I talk to have an understanding of what went on with the Germans in World War II except in Europe," said Kugler, 94, a Kansas resident who was based at what was then called MacDill Field in Tampa at the start of the war....

    Kathy Salvant with Odyssey Marine Exploration cleans display cases that will house artifacts in “Operation Drumbeat: Nazi Threat in the Gulf.”
  13. After Black Friday, Cyber Monday, a day for giving

    News

    Folks feeling overwhelmed by the flood of advertising pleas to part with their dollars on Black Friday or Cyber Monday get a change of pace today.

    It's "Giving Tuesday," a day of charity wedged in a season of buying.

    It's a day organizers bill as a reminder that the season of giving need not be limited to cash registers of favorite retail outlets. Instead, more than 18,000 participating charities, nonprofits and corporate partners are urging people to consider a gift in money or time to groups working to improve their communities....

    On "Giving Tuesday,'' more than 18,000 participating charities, nonprofits and corporate partners are urging people to consider a gift in money or time to groups working to improve their communities. [iStockphoto.com]
  14. Man shot and killed by Hillsborough deputies during standoff

    Crime

    WESTCHASE — A 45-year-old man was shot and killed by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office SWAT team Thursday after a five-hour standoff during which he fired several shots at deputies, the Sheriff's Office said.

    Sheriff's officials said Matthew P. Cormier, of 9641 Magnolia Blossom Drive was pointing a gun out a window of a condominium where he lived when he was shot and killed by the SWAT team about 6 p.m....

  15. Veterans Affairs union rep seeks whistle-blower status after dismissal

    Veterans

    Kerrie Witty says the Department of Veterans Affairs does not tolerate retaliation or intimidation against employees who speak out about problems at the agency.

    Witty, director of the VA's regional benefits office near Seminole, said Friday that her office "encourages employees to bring to the attention of their managers and supervisors shortcomings in the delivery of services to veterans or any perceived violations of law or official wrongdoing."...

    Javier Soto, a former VA claims employee, last week filed a whistle-blower complaint against the VA with the Merit System Protections Board to win back the job he lost June 30 when Kerrie Witty, right, director of the VA's regional benefits office near Seminole, dismissed him. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]