1. Archive

It was a long, strange year

If you think the goings-on in Washington are bizarre, take a look back at some of zaniness that earned headlines in Citrus County in 1998:


NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED: Alexander Szalky thought he was doing a relative a favor by putting up $655 bail to get her out of jail. What he didn't know was that she was in jail for failing to pay court costs and probation charges. He found out when he went to collect his bail money and was told his $655 had been used to pay her costs.

DO COPS CALL 911? While Marine Patrol Officer Terry Allyn was on patrol off of Crystal River, someone broke into his patrol car and stole his 12-gauge shotgun.

AND FOR DESSERT, SOUR GRAPES: During a banquet hosted by the teachers' union, state Rep. Nancy Argenziano and Hernando School Board member Jim Malcolm get into a shouting match that nearly escalates into a brawl when Argenziano's aide Frank Peterson storms after Malcolm. The dinner broke up after that, to the dismay of many in attendance. "Up to that point, it had been going pretty well," said Pete Kelly, Citrus County school superintendent.

THE MOUTH THAT BORED: Talk radio got a new voice when Dick Locke, an outspoken former state representative, teamed with Roni Thompson at WRZN radio for a short-lived talk show called Locke N' Load.


A REAL STRONG-ARM ROBBERY: Thieves stole a 13-ton flatbed truck from an Inverness recycling company and later used it to try to steal an ATM machine. Deputies found the damaged ATM _ and a broken cable with a frayed end.

IF YOU CAN'T FIND A BIG ENOUGH ROCK, USE THE ONE BETWEEN YOUR EARS: A 27-year-old Homosassa man arrested for throwing a rock that smashed the windshield of an occupied vehicle told deputies: "If I had known I was going to be arrested I would have thrown a bigger rock."

FLASH! COUNTY GOVERNMENT SPRINGS A LEAK: County workers scrambled to remove office equipment and paperwork as the roof of the 90-year-old Masonic Building in Inverness sprang numerous leaks. The offices are temporarily moved to the county building in Lecanto.

A FOOL FOR A CLIENT: Attorney Jim Cummins is handcuffed and sent to jail for contempt of court after arguing with Circuit Judge Michael Blackstone. Several of Cummins' clients were surprised to see their attorney being fingerprinted at the jail. "Hey, man, I'm just like the rest of you," Cummins said. "I didn't do anything."


YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: Jack Gargan, a Reform Party candidate for Congress, says that if elected, he will raffle off $50,000 of his $136,000 salary to help those who helped him win office. He later cancels the plan in the face of criticism from the Republican Party.

THE 8-FOOT-LONG CARRY-ON LUGGAGE RAISED SUSPICIONS: Two Inverness men were indicted in connection with a smuggling ring that brought suitcases full of snakes back and forth between Florida and Germany.

YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE: When Crystal River Police Officer Thomas Peruche saw a car headed north in the southbound lane of U.S. 19 as another vehicle approached, he quickly averted the head-on collision by driving his police cruiser into the path of the wrong-way driver, cutting off the woman, who failed a sobriety test.

SO THAT'S WHERE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES COME FROM: For unknown reasons, endangered sea turtles began flocking to the water intake canals at the Florida Power nuclear plant in Crystal River.


WANT SOME REAL FIREWORKS? PUT HIM BACK ON THE BENCH: Former County Judge Gary Graham throws a wet blanket on Inverness' efforts to rejuvenate downtown by complaining that noise from weekend community events is disturbing his law office and upstairs apartment.

HE'LL BE AT DAYTONA _ MOWING THE INFIELD: Scott Davis of Crystal River wins the modified class in the Great American Lawnmower Race at the Citrus County Speedway.

YOUR SWING REALLY STINKS: Residents of the Laurel Ridge subdivision feud with adjacent Twisted Oaks Golf Course over location of the women's tee on the ninth hole. For revenge, Twisted Oaks moved the trash bin for its clubhouse to a spot by the first green and within smelling distance of Laurel Ridge residents.

WHAT'S A NICE GRANDMA LIKE YOU DOING WITH A JOINT LIKE THIS? Norma Wickwire of Inverness earns the nickname Bionic Grandma and a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records by being the person with the most artificial joints.

ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW: Frank Malinski of Dunnellon returned home from a fishing trip to find a notice from the Department of Veterans Affairs that he was dead.


SEE WHAT KIND OF TROUBLE YOU GET INTO HANGING OUT IN PARKING LOTS?: School Superintendent Pete Kelly fires his top assistant, Tom Maher, during a night-time meeting in the administration building parking lot.

RETURN TO SENDER: Citrus County, looking for a road grader to help the flooded residents in Arrowhead, finds a military surplus machine in Starke. But when it arrives, the county is billed $18,000 _ the cost of having it shipped originally from a base in Germany. The machine sits and rusts in Lecanto for a month before the county returns it to Starke.

REAL FLOWER POWER: A Homosassa man is arrested on charges of hitting his neighbor with a flower pot and a piece of lattice fencing during a squabble.

LASSIE WOULD BE SO JEALOUS: Bingo and Sandi, two wire-hair dachshunds adopted from the Animal Control shelter three years ago, return the favor by saving owner Elmo Lamont when he was burned in a fire behind his home.

MORE PROOF THAT PERFUME ROTS YOUR BRAIN: A jury awards $1-million to a woman who sued the Belks store in Crystal River claiming her female boss in the cosmetics department grabbed her crotch several times and disrobed in a back room at the store and asked the woman if she liked her body.

FLASH! COVERUP AT THE COUNTY OFFICES: Troubles continue for the Masonic Building in downtown Inverness as the structure, which had a leaky roof and alleged rodent problems, has to be tented and fumigated for termites.


ISN'T THIS HOW LINDA TRIPP GOT STARTED?: Junior Leroy Hilliard of Dunnellon is charged with tapping the phone of his ex-girlfriend, who found a recording device and wire running under her house.

SITTING ON THE BOTTOM OF THE BAY: The Bonner Lee, a 110-foot long former World War II submarine chaser, sits on the shallow bottom of Kings Bay while nearby residents implore City Hall to have the owners remove the vessel. "I wish this were a casino boat because I know it wouldn't be there for long," quipped Mayor Curtis Rich, referring to the battles over allowing SunCruz to run a gambling ship in the city.


GATORS? WE THOUGHT THEY WERE SUN-BURNED TOURISTS: Swimmers at Fort Island Gulf Beach are surprised to learn they are sharing the beach with a pair of alligators, including one that's nearly 10-feet long. A local trapper nabs the gator and a second, smaller one.

MUSICAL PARKING SPOTS: Business owners in downtown Inverness complain to the City Council that other merchants are parking in front of their shops, taking customer parking places.


THE BANDITS ESCAPED BY DANCING BACKWARDS ON THEIR TAILS: Dolphin thieves are on the loose. A 30-inch dolphin sculpture was stolen from a business in Inverness, and days later, someone stole a dolphin-shaped concrete mailbox from an Inverness home.

STOP MAKING THE DONUTS _ THAT'S AN ORDER: Dunkin' Donuts asks a judge to stop a franchise owner in Inverness from making the doughnuts using off-brand ingredients instead of authentic Dunkin' Donut goods. The owners end up changing the name of the store to Inverness Donuts.

COMING SOON _ SNOWBOARDING AT ANDRE'S: The Wall Street Journal pokes a bit of fun at developers of Citrus Hills who are running advertisements comparing the hilly subdivision to the Alps.

NOT ALL BIRD-BRAINS ARE IN A CAGE: A Citrus County code inspector tells Pasquale Posa that his 8-year-old son must get rid of his nine pet pigeons after neighbors complained. The inspector says the birds violate an obscure part of the land development code.


COMING SOON _ PARKING METERS ON BOAT RAMPS: Responding to complaints about boaters tying their vessels to county docks and ramps for days at a time, the County Commission sets a 20-minute limit for boaters to use county ramps and docks.

HE USED TO BE THE LOOKOUT ON THE TITANIC: As Hurricane Georges swept north into the Gulf of Mexico, Citrus County residents barricaded their homes and moved to higher ground. Many wound up at Planet Bubba's, a Crystal River nightspot, where one patron said he's "completely numb to the fact" that a hurricane was approaching.

BLOWHARDS AT CITY HALL? WHAT ELSE IS NEW? Meanwhile, across the county in Inverness, City Manager Frank DiGiovanni was taking a dim view of the threat. "I have a helmet on. I'm in a bunker. What else do you need to know?" he responded when a reporter asked about the city's hurricane preparedness plans.

WHEN THE BEER RUNS OUT, HE'LL EVACUATE TO PLANET BUBBA'S: And 79-year-old William Craine told a reporter his hurricane plans involve cashing his pension check, buying a case of beer and sacking out on the couch until the storm passes.


A REAL HOSE JOB: While thanking them for their help, Citrus County fire officials were not thrilled that several residents grabbed firehoses and joined firefighters in battling a house fire in remote Ozello.

AFTER SEEING ST. PETE RESIDENTS, HE YELLED "PUT IT ON!': Galen Ballard of Homosassa offers to buy the St. Petersburg landmark Sunken Gardens and turn it into a clothing-optional spa he'll call "Gardens of Eden."

THE CAP GUN WAS A DEAD-GIVEAWAY: At 6-foot-7 and 248 pounds, Randall Fowler cuts an imposing figure even without the six-point brass star he flashed to a woman outside a convenience store in Hernando, demanding to see her identification. The woman called the police, who charged Fowler with impersonating an officer.

SECOND CHOICE WAS "BITE ME': Stephanie McLeod, a University of Florida student, begins her campaign for Mosquito Control Board with the slogan: Elect New Blood.

IS THAT A PYTHON, OR ARE YOU JUST GLAD TO SEE ME? Beverly Hills residents are shaken by the news that Powder, a 7-foot-long albino Burmese python, has escaped from his owner, Tony Holden. "Powder's got a mind of his own," Holden said. "They usually don't travel far. But if he crosses County Road 491 and makes it without getting run over, then he's gone forever."


NO MORE MR. NICE-GUY: Jim Kellner's reappointment to the county's Planning and Development Review Board is held up by concerns that he is too rude to applicants and fellow board members. "He's not just rude, he's downright hostile," one resident complained to commissioners.

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Owners of Melody Mobile Home Park in Inverness want to clean up the property by having a 110-year-old Cracker-style house removed. They offered to give the historic structure away, but have had no takers.

CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU: Haydee and Leonard de Cisneros of Beverly Hills hit it rich in the Florida Lottery, winning part of a $23-million jackpot. The couple are thought to be the first people in Florida to take their lottery winnings in a lump sum instead of a 20-year payout. "What are we going to do, wait?" asked Mrs. de Cisneros, age 85.


IF YOU DON'T LIKE MY MOWING, STAY OFF THE STREET: Claude Odom ignored police orders not to drive his riding lawn mower on the street and was struck by a vehicle driven by a couple who were returning home after being involved in an accident involving runaway horses.

ANSEL "THE BODY" BRIGGS?: Ansel Briggs, a community activist known as much for his appearance as for his views, unveils a new look: Gone are the signature long locks and bushy beard. Instead, Briggs now sports a shaved head with a pony tail and a trimmer beard. "I'm the governor of Minnesota's double," he said, referring to Jesse "The Body" Ventura, the shaven former pro wrestler now leading Minnesota.

WE'RE INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY. REALLY, WE ARE: The Citrus County School Board, saying it wants to improve public comment at its meetings, installs a timer that limits speakers to five minutes.

CALLING ALL THIEVES: Ketan Patel left his cellular telephone at a restaurant, and when he returns, the phone is gone. He dials his number from another phone and suddenly a waitress's handbag starts ringing. Police arrest the waitress.

DOWN AND DIRTY: And, finally, sheriff's deputies arrest "Dave" in Homosassa when they find him rolling around on a neighbor's front lawn wearing only brown socks and a tattoo of a Viking girl.