A Jacksonville-based insurance company went to court last week to force WFLA-TV, Ch. 8, to turn over videotapes of recent tornado coverage. The television footage, involving interviews with Pinellas homeowners, "may be defamatory and libelous" against Independent Fire Insurance Co., the lawsuit alleges. The suit does not specify what the company found objectionable, but Independent spokeswoman Cathleen Dunkle said the 6 and 11 p.m. broadcasts Thursday implied that insurance adjusters weren't processing claims quickly enough in the Danville neighborhood near Largo. The company had 17 clients with damaged homes in the area and had settled all but one claim by Thursday evening, Dunkle said. The suit asks for an injunction to prevent WFLA from destroying any interview footage taken that day, including material that was not aired. Station manager Paul Catoe said he could not comment because he had not seen the suit. He said he didn't remember the story in question. "We had so much tornado coverage," he said.
School superintendent explores privatization to cut costs
TAMPA _ The budget picture for the schools hasn't improved, so Hillsborough School Superintendent Walter Sickles is exploring another option for cutting costs: privatization. The mere possibility has employees and union officials buzzing and prepared to oppose any plan that includes hiring a private company to do work now handled by school employees. Speaking at a gathering of business leaders Tuesday, Sickles raised the possibility of privatizing some operations. They include mail service, part of maintenance, security, part of risk management, part of data processing, some components of transportation, and part of the custodial operations. "I know that's not going to be popular with some," Sickles said Tuesday. "But, we've got to find a way to cut our costs without hurting our people." Sickles pointed out that nothing had been decided yet.
Police officer suspended
for inappropriate conduct
ST. PETERSBURG _ A St. Petersburg police officer was suspended for 10 days Tuesday for using offensive language and inappropriate conduct, according to an internal affairs report. Officer Anthony R. Harrell was suspended based on his behavior July 26 when he dispersed a group of young people playing cards on the front steps of a house with a "No Trespassing" sign. The youths protested and exchanged words with Harrell and his partner, but moved across the street from the house, the report said. One of the youths later filed a complaint accusing Harrell of threatening to "bust" him in the mouth and causing minor damages to his car with a "pipe." Neither Harrell nor police officials could be reached for comment.
DYLAN IN CONCERT. Legendary singer, songwriter Bob Dylan will play Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater at 8 p.m. Nov. 11. Tickets, which go on sale Saturday through the Eckerd Hall box office and Ticketmaster, are $27 and $31.
BOLIN'S PUNISHMENT. Final arguments are scheduled this morning in the penalty phase for convicted murderer Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. Jurors in New Port Richey must decide his punishment _ life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 25 years or death in the electric chair _ for the fatal stabbing of Teri Lynn Matthews.
Thousands expected at first Mailou Art Fest this weekend
TAMPA _ Lois Mailou Jones is an artist with a following _ and that following will be 10,000 strong this weekend with the inaugural Mailou Art Fest. The Museum of African-American Art is sponsoring the festival Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It is the first art show for the museum at 1308 N Marion St. Not only will Mailou Jones, 86, be on hand with some of her art work, but also two other renowned African-American artists, Sam Brown, 85, and Hughie Lee-Smith, 78, said Reggie Lewis, museum spokesman. Eighteen works by the artists will be on display. The festival kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Friday with the World on Tap beer-tasting event at the museum. Tickets are $10. The rest of the festival will take place beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and admission is free.
Cessna pilot avoids building, ditches into harbor after takeoff
ST. PETERSBURG _ The pilot of the red-and-white single-engine Cessna had a choice: Crash into a building or into Bayboro Harbor. He chose the harbor. Bill Bolin and his passenger, Jeff Hayden, were released after being treated at the U.S. Coast Guard Station on Eighth Avenue SE, near where their plane crashed Tuesday. According to the Coast Guard, Bolin and Hayden rented the plane from Cecily's Flight Center and took off from Albert Whitted Municipal Airport a little after 1 p.m. "The pilot said that as soon as he took off he lost oil pressure and realized he was not going to make it all the way back to the airfield," said Petty Officer Bob Jacobberger, one of the crew who rescued the two men. As soon as the plane crashed into the water, Bolin, 36, of Largo and Hayden, 45, scrambled out. Eyewitnesses said Bolin stood on top of the plane, but it sank quickly.
Gov. Chiles seeks disaster relief for small corner of Hillsborough
Gov. Lawton Chiles asked Tuesday that a presidential disaster declaration for tornado-damaged parts of the Tampa Bay area be expanded to include a corner of Hillsborough County. Tornadoes that swept through Pinellas County on Oct. 3 also inflicted damage at the Silver Dollar Ranch Mobile Home Park and at the Tyler Road and Tarpon Springs Road intersection in Hillsborough County, within one-quarter mile of the Pinellas County line, Chiles said. Hillsborough County officials say three homes were destroyed, three sustained major damage and nine had minor damage. They estimate five families could qualify for federal individual assistance programs, Chiles said. Chiles made the expanded request in a letter to Major P. May, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Atlanta office. The twisters killed four people and destroyed or severely damaged 197 single-family homes and 452 mobile homes in Pinellas County.