02/19/15 Local Government
TAMPA — A federal investigation of New Beginnings of Tampa has concluded the charity did not break labor laws when it put its homeless clients to work without pay in exchange for shelter and food.
New Beginnings founder and CEO Tom Atchison was notified this week by the U.S. Department of Labor that the charity was found in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Atchison called the decision vindication and said it removed a cloud of wrongdoing after a series of Tampa Bay Times articles called into question his use of unpaid labor, especially at area sporting events....
TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners moved Wednesday to put the kibosh on gossip that they no longer support high-speed ferry service.
Commissioners voted unanimously to continue for another year their agreement with two companies that want to bring high-speed ferry service to link MacDill Air Force Base with Apollo Beach. Commissioners said they wanted to make clear that their ferry enthusiasm is not wavering....
TAMPA — In the bloom of their nine-month relationship, the woman allowed her boyfriend to take sexually explicit photos and videos of her.
After the breakup and recriminations, federal prosecutors said, those images became something more than a record of a failed romance.
They became weapons.
A New Hampshire man who posted sexually explicit photos of his ex-girlfriend on the Internet and directed her friends and co-workers to the site has agreed to plead guilty in federal court next Tuesday to identity theft. Jason Michael Green, 35, faces up to five years in prison. His attorney said probation is more likely....
TAMPA — The Salvation Army in Hillsborough County, a charity better known for its charitable works and volunteers who ring bells to collect donations, is getting out of the criminal-justice business.
The charity has notified Hillsborough officials that the organization wants to end its work managing misdemeanor probation in the county after nearly 40 years providing the service.
The decision means the county will for the first time in decades solicit competitive bids for the work. County officials have not yet set a date to do so, though a bid solicitation is expected in coming weeks....
02/04/15 Local Government
TAMPA — Prostitutes in Hillsborough County have been taking the street out of streetwalker.
The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office says prostitutes are increasingly thwarting law enforcement by taking advantage of a loophole in the county's prostitution ordinance. They have figured out that they can avoid arrest by keeping the sex solicitation and hookup off the street or away from any public space, the Sheriff's Office says....
Scores of bead-crazed fanatics. Some 1,400 cops. One wedding. About 50 gallons of Bloody Mary mix. Lemonade stands. More than 1,000 portable toilets. And 100 years of saucy tradition.
Add a few intemperate revelers under temperate skies and a faux pirate ship, and the result is a party that little has been able to halt: the Gasparilla parade.
Tens of thousands of people from across the Tampa Bay region turned out for the 100th annual Gasparilla parade of pirates Saturday, an event that began modestly in 1904 and has been interrupted a handful of times, most notably by two world wars. Little, if anything, seemed to mar 2015's anniversary edition....
01/27/15 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....
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....
01/22/15 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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
12/27/14 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....
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....