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William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer

William R. Levesque

William R. Levesque is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience who began working at the Tampa Bay Times in 1994. He covers business news with a focus on energy issues and Florida utilities.

Phone: (813) 226-3432

Email: levesque@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Times_Levesque

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  1. Kane's Furniture settles class-action suit

    Corporate

    TAMPA — A preliminary settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit filed against Kane's Furniture that accused the retailer of failing to honor lifetime warranties for defective "bonded leather" furniture that peeled, flaked and deteriorated.

    Notices to about 15,000 customers who purchased the furniture were put in the mail starting Friday providing details and asking them to submit claims by April 11 for full or partial refunds or store credits, according to court records and plaintiff's attorney Dan Clark....

    Cliff Brown, 58, of Carrollwood, talked with reporters last year in the Tampa offices of Bajo Cuva Cohen & Turkel, P.A. where the couch Brown purchased at Kane’s Furniture was being held as evidence. A preliminary settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit filed against Kane’s that accused the retailer of failing to honor lifetime warranties for defective “bonded leather” furniture that peeled, flaked and deteriorated. 
[WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. Bilirakis gets another earful on Obamacare repeal

    Politics

    NEW PORT RICHEY — U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis got another earful Saturday from opponents of the proposed Republican repeal of Obamacare.

    But this time out, opponents of the Affordable Care Act had their own cheering section.

    The mix, while combustible, proved loud and often rude but stopped short of actual fisticuffs.

    More than 300 people came out to the West Pasco County government center for the second of Bilirakis' "listening sessions" on health care reform. And as happened during a session last week in Pinellas, a majority of those who spoke offered strong support of the law and urged Bilirakis to vote against killing it....

    "Liar!," yells Scott Milinder, center, to a speaker from the audience, William Akins, who referenced "death panels" at the West Pasco Government Center Saturday during a tense exchange at U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis' series of public listening sessions on health care reform. During the meetings, Bilirakis will be seeking feedback and ideas from constituents on the direction of our nation's health care system, including the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. [BRENDAN FITTERER  |  Special to the Times]
  3. Q&A: Florida utility watchdog J.R. Kelly talks shop and his one beef with solar

    Energy

    Florida Public Counsel James Ray "J.R." Kelly is the irritating itch that the state's investor-owned utilities can't seem to satisfactorily scratch. In his watchdog role at the chief of the Office of Public Counsel, Kelly's agency represents consumer interests before the Florida Public Service Commission. With critics of the PSC continually arguing its commissioners give utilities nearly anything they want, it is often Kelly's roll to help stop the steamroller....

    James Ray "J.R." Kelly heads the Office of Pubic Counsel, the agency that represents public interests before the Florida Public Service Commission.
[WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE | Times]
  4. Humana will lay off 260 Tampa Bay employees

    Corporate

    Health insurance giant Humana Inc. is laying off 260 Tampa Bay employees and another 68 around Florida less than three weeks after a federal judge blocked the company's $37 billion merger with Aetna.

    The cuts, which the company insisted are unrelated to the thwarted merger, involve employees of Humana At Home, a program designed to keep chronically ill and disabled patients out of the hospital and nursing homes through visits or phone calls by health professionals. The program has more than a million patients nationwide....

    Humana at Home care manager Laura Moore, right, talks with Betty Herz, 62, about prescription drug costs during an in-home visit  last year in New Port Richey.  Humana on Friday confirmed it is laying off 260 Tampa Bay employees tied to the Humana at Home program.
[BRENDAN FITTERER | Times]


  5. Lawsuit filed against Spectrum for $9.99 wifi activation fee

    Business

    A Spectrum customer has filed a lawsuit in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court accusing the broadband company of attempting to charge customers an "illegitimate" $9.99 wifi activation fee.

    The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed Jan. 31 by Sharon Memmer, 58, of St. Petersburg and names Spectrum's parent company, Charter Communications, as a defendant.

    Memmer is one of more than a million former Bright House Networks customers Spectrum acquired when Charter bought the company in a deal finalized in May. The suit said Spectrum "illegitimately asserted" that Memmer "had newly enrolled in WiFi service" when she had, in fact, done no such thing....

    A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Spectrum in Pinellas County circuit court accusing the broadband company of wrongfully charging customers a $9.99 wifi activation fee.
[Associated Press file photo]
  6. Florida snowbirds complain that Spectrum bills them when they're out of state

    Energy

    Ohio residents Ralph and Eleanore Parker said they returned to their seasonal home in Largo to find a rude surprise — a cable bill from Spectrum for service when the couple wasn't even in Florida.

    "They said I owed close to $600," said Ralph Parker, 76. "How can they bill me for service I didn't have?"

    Four seasonal Tampa Bay families told the Tampa Bay Times in recent days that Spectrum, owned by Charter Communications, started billing them for service before their return to Florida and before they ever called the company to reconnect TVs, phones and Internet....

    Four seasonal Tampa Bay families told the Tampa Bay Times in recent days that Spectrum, owned by Charter Communications, started billing them for service before their return to Florida. [Associated Press file photo]
  7. Customers: Spectrum breaks promise it won't raise rates

    Business

    Charter Communications and its Spectrum cable brand have been telling their broadband customers in Tampa Bay for months that rates for TV, Internet and phone service won't change now that Charter owns Bright House Networks.

    "As you know, we've said from the beginning that Bright House legacy customers aren't going to see any change in their service or price package," Charter spokesman Joe Durkin said just last week....

    Bob Darrow, 67, of Tarpon Springs, is one of numerous customers of  Spectrum who say their rates are being raised after the company took over service from Bright House Networks.  
[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  8. Allegiant Air passenger traffic and revenue soar while profits lag

    Airlines

    Allegiant Air on Tuesday reported continued robust growth in passenger traffic and operating revenue in the fourth quarter, closing a tumultuous year for the ultra low-cost airline.

    Passenger traffic climbed 15 percent in the quarter compared to a year ago to 2.7 million and was up 17 percent for the year to 11.1 million, according to the company's fourth quarter earnings statement. Revenue was up 8 percent in the quarter and the year, to $335.9 million and $1.2 billion respectively....

    Allegiant Airlines CEO Maury Gallagher, shown talking last April at a St. Petersburg event.
[Times file photo]
  9. Gasparilla pirate parade snakes through mayhem and merriment

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The pirate ship Jose Gasparilla wasn't exactly dodging icebergs. And for that matter, neither was the Unsinkable Krewe of Molly Brown.

    But the beast that is the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates, that rollicking, ridiculous, rambunctious bastion of intemperance and studied imbecility, opened Saturday with temperatures chilly enough to make any pirate reach for a parka. Oh, sure, it was only in the 50s....

    Michael Potter and Ashley Clark catch beads with Micahel Clark, 3, along Bay Shore Blvd. for Gasparilla in Tampa, Fla. on Saturday, January 28, 2017.
  10. Spectrum to automatically refund controversial $9.99 'wifi activation' fee

    Business

    Charter Communications and its Spectrum brand will automatically refund the $9.99 "wifi activation" fee it had been charging former Bright House Networks customers who hadn't actually signed up for any new service.

    A Spectrum spokesman made the announcement late Friday after a series of Tampa Bay Times stories last week noted more than 20 customers had complained that they were improperly charged....

    More customers of Charter Communications' Spectrum business have reported issues with a mistaken one-time fee of $9.99 to former Bright House customers. Charter bought Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks last year.
[Associated Press file photo]
  11. Tampa 'genius' with luxury tastes charged in investment scheme

    Business

    TAMPA — Former hedge fund manager Anthony J. Klatch II's mother once told a reporter that her son, a Tampa resident, had a genius IQ and referred to himself in a letter as a "brain surgeon of the market."

    Here's what the "brain surgeon" did, federal prosecutors say, after his 2012 conviction in a $2.3 million investment scam:

    Klatch, barred by a judge from giving investment advice, held informal "classes" in prison teaching inmates about investing and stocks. After his release, Klatch lost $367,000 entrusted to him by a man he met on Stocktwits.com in just three days of trading. Klatch bought two BMWs that caught his probation officer's attention....

    Anthony J. Klatch II was charged on Jan. 27, 2015 with wire fraud for operating an investment scheme. Federal prosecutors said the Tampa man failed to tell investors that he was barred from such activity by a 2012 conviction for operating a similar scheme that defrauded hedge fund investors.
  12. Customers say Spectrum is refunding wifi fee after they object

    Business

    Spectrum broadband customers might well remember the adage about the squeaky wheel getting the grease.

    Want a refund of that questionable $9.99 "wifi activation" fee?

    Then get ready to do some squeaking.

    Several Spectrum customers said in emails and interviews with the Tampa Bay Times Friday that the company is waiving or refunding the fee that began showing up on their bills in December in those cases where they had not actually signed up for any new service....

  13. Allegiant Air changes course after Times investigation, admits too many planes failed

    Airlines

    LAS VEGAS — Allegiant Air leaders who once battled any suggestion the carrier's rate of emergency landings and other aircraft mishaps were unusually high are now taking a sharply different tack.

    They're offering something of a mea culpa.

    The airline offered no pushback late last month when presented with a Tampa Bay Times' analysis showing the carrier, in 2015, was four times as likely to suffer unscheduled landings due to mechanical problems as other major U.S. carriers....

    Allegiant Air Chief Operating Officer Jude Bricker, left, listens to Chairman and CEO Maury Gallagher, right, answer questions posed by Times reporters at the airline's Las Vegas headquarters on Oct. 26. Both admit Allegiant has had too many mechanical failures, but say the airline is improving. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times


  14. Allegiant Air flight attendants soundly reject new contract

    Airlines

    Allegiant Air's flight attendants have overwhelmingly rejected a new tentative agreement with the budget airline and authorized a strike, though no work stoppage is yet planned by their union.

    About 76 percent of flight attendants who voted rejected a pact that would have given them pay raises, improved sick leave and vacation, and a grievance process in results reported to membership on Sept. 28. ...

    Flight attendants at Allegiant Air, a Las Vegas-based airline that has 95 percent of the passenger traffic at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, voted to reject a pact that would have given them pay raises and improved sick leave. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  15. Toddler's death in hot car sets up potentially divisive court case

    Crime

    PALM HARBOR — A loving father inadvertently leaves his toddler son in a pickup truck during a typically scorching Florida summer's day. The child dies.

    His father will undoubtedly face a lifetime of questions about what some may call an incomprehensible act of inattention and carelessness. He may be judged by his family and ultimately by his own conscience.

    But should he be judged in a court of law?...

    Troy Whitaker, 41 and a Hillsborough County firefighter, posted bail after he was arrested on charges of aggravated manslaughter. Deputies say he left his son to die in a hot truck in Palm Harbor.