1. Archive

Official's husband questioned about calls

The husband of a lame-duck city commissioner is being investigated for making harassing phone calls, but he said Wednesday that he is innocent.

George Adkins, husband of Commissioner Linda Adkins, said Pinellas County Sheriff's Office detectives questioned him Tuesday night about harassing phone calls made to Larry Horne, a former Safety Harbor Museum board of trustees president. Horne said Wednesday that he is is pushing for criminal charges against Adkins.

"I never did this. This was a complete surprise to me," Adkins said Wednesday. "Anything I do, I'll be upfront. I make everything I say public."

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Marianne Pasha declined to discuss specifics because the case is still open, but she confirmed that Horne accused Adkins of making the call. Detective Timothy Grundmann, who is handling the case, said a harassing phone call had been made to Horne's answering machine Feb. 10. Grundmann said he listened to the tape and that the voice "sounds like somebody that I've talked to" in the course of his investigation.

Grundmann has interviewed several people in connection with the call. Horne filed the complaint Feb. 21, Pasha said. Adkins said a detective told him that the tape sounded like his voice.

"I'm willing to submit to taking a voice print and a polygraph test to prove my innocence," Adkins said. "But I think the people who have accused me should do the same thing."

Pasha and Grundmann said evidence probably would be turned over to the state attorney's office this week.

"I don't know why anyone would want to pull me out and threaten me," said Horne, who also is known in the city for holding psychic seminars at the Safety Harbor Spa. "I haven't done anything to anybody to deserve this."

Grundmann said the person who made the call threatened to "expose Horne's past."

Horne said the call was a blackmail attempt relating to felony charges for writing bad checks 10 years ago. He received probation for the charges. The check-writing stemmed from a "bad investment," Horne said, adding that he is not ashamed of his past.

"I've uncovered the whole attempt to blackmail me," Horne said. "But the real story is yet to come. This case will be prosecuted."

Grundmann said the case was a "big circle" and that it seemed to be "political." Adkins said he was being targeted by people who dislike his wife. He said former Mayor Art Levine, former Commissioner Mike Baty and fired city building official John Paasch, who is suing the city over his firing, all listened to the tape and identified the voice as Adkins'.

Commissioner Adkins and Levine often verbally sparred while they served on the commission together. Many residents said Levine, a two-term mayor, was bitter after his surprise loss to newcomer Kent Runnells last March. Days before the election, George Adkins distributed a flier that was critical of Levine's record.

Levine did not deny that he identified Adkins' voice on the tape, but declined to make further comment Wednesday. Baty also declined to comment. Paasch could not be reached Wednesday.

George Adkins said Horne always had been a "small player" in local politics and that the common thread among Horne, Levine, Baty and Paasch is their membership in the Safety Harbor Kiwanis Club. Horne also was Baty's campaign manager in 1990. Baty lost a heated election to Linda Adkins that year.

"I'm surprised Larry is even involved in this," George Adkins said. "People like Levine, Mike Baty, Andy Dean _ they're the primary ones. They've been involved in everything that has happened to Linda for the past four years."

Linda Adkins, who chose not to run for re-election, is being sued by developer Andy Dean, who said she made defamatory comments about him at a commission meeting in late 1992.

George Adkins also said that the last time he spoke to Horne was at the Christmas Parade, where Horne approached Commissioners Adkins and Bambery and suggested they fire City Manager Pamela Brangaccio.

Horne denied this, saying that he identified Adkins because of the voice on the tape and because, "the circumstances link it all back to him." Bambery said she never saw Horne at the Christmas parade.

Linda Adkins said the allegations against her husband are "ludicrous."

"It's the same old malcontents and it's the same old game."