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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
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."...