Christopher O'Donnell - Vulnerable Communities Reporter

Vulnerable Communities Reporter

I’m a political junkie and I love literature so this job fits like a glove. But journalism wasn’t my first career. I was born and grew up in England and programmed computers for a living. I switched to reporting when I moved to Florida in 2001. I got my first break at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune after earning a journalism degree from the University of South Florida. I joined the Tampa Bay Times in 2016 after a three-year stint at the Tampa Tribune, where I covered city halls on both sides of Tampa Bay. When I’m not shouting at cable news, I love watching real football from England (alright, soccer) and riding my road bike on trails.

  1. Former St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Tony Love hired Elle Resources as the agency's media and communications firm in 2018. The firm, owned by Michelle Ligon, was paid $5,000 every month, twice the limit on the fixed-price contract, a review by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development found. The review found eight violations of federal regulations and the federal agency has given the Housing Authority until Oct. 29 to explain the violations and come up with a corrective action plan.
    A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development review finds eight violations of federal rules at the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, including “serious lapses” in the award and payment of...
  2. Less than a month after being fired, former St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Tony Love wants the agency to give him a job running its development nonprofit at the same $157,000 salary. That offer, part of ongoing negotiations over his severance, was rejected by the agency's board.
    Tony Love’s attorney tells the agency that fired him he wants full salary and benefits through 2020. The board rejects his offer.
  3. April Lott, president and CEO of Directions for Living, left, and Dr. Chris Card, chief of community-based care for Eckerd Connects, at a 2018 press conference. Directions is walking away from a $6.6 million contract to provide foster care services in Hillsborough County just two weeks after Eckerd Connects fired the nonprofit from a similar contract in Pinellas County.
    Directions for Living says case managers were overburdened and child welfare system ‘remains in crisis.’
  4. A plan by a Hillsborough  County Juvenile Justice Advisory board would allow problem foster children to be housed in this secure facility on East Columbus Drive.
    A report by a Hillsborough juvenile justice advisory board calls for a new law so judges can order treatment for foster teens who refuse placements.
  5. Sweetwater Villas, one of the newest affordable housing complexes in Hillsborough County, was built through a county partnership with Blue Sky Communities. This week, Hillsborough County committed to make $10 million available annually for  an affordable housing trust fund.
    Commissioners vote to create housing trust fund to build and preserve affordable housing with half earmarked for low-income poorest families.
  6. The shoes of inmates outside confinement rooms at the Department of Juvenile Justice Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center and two other non-profit groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court to try and stop the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice from putting children in solitary confinement.
    The Southern Poverty Law Center joins with two other groups to condemn the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice for a practice they say causes psychological harm and increases the risk of suicide.
  7. St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Tony Love (front) and St. Petersburg Housing Authority Vice-Chair Harry Harvey (left) during a Committee of the Whole All Council meeting in St. Petersburg on Jan. 31.
    The 6-1 vote comes after Love placed himself on medical leave without consulting board members.
  8. Hundreds of food stamp recipients are calling on the Florida Department of Children and Families to release September food stamps early so they can prepare for Hurricane Dorian.
    Many had pleaded on the state’s Facebook page for help before store shelves empty. Says one, “Where’s Rick Scott when you need him.”
  9. Chris Card, chief of community-based care for Eckerd Connects.
    Directions for Living struggled with high turnover of case managers. Lead care agency Eckerd Connects plans to take the work in-house.
  10. St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Tony Love used at least $5,600 in agency funds to pay his personal attorney for negotiating on his behalf during talks over a new employment contract. That was an inappropriate use of agency funds, according to Housing Authority legal counsel Charley Harris.
    Under-fire chief executive authorized payment of at least $5,600 in agency funds to his attorney for negotiating his new employment contract.