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Mark Puente - Local Accountability and Pinellas County Reporter

Local Accountability and Pinellas County Reporter

I am an award-winning investigative journalist and a local accountability reporter. I will knock on any door to chase facts and stories. I exposed widespread abuses at Pinellas and Hillsborough agencies in 2017 and 2018. This is my third stint at the Times. I left in 2019 to cover the LAPD for the Los Angeles Times and helped lead coverage of the Conception boat fire that killed 34 divers in Santa Barbara. The work was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2020. I previously worked at the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer and The Baltimore Sun. Prior to becoming a journalist, I spent 15 years driving a tractor trailer. My passions are tacos, smoking meat and honing my BBQ skills over flames in smokers called Precious and Pedro. I earned a political science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have a wife, three adult sons and a Pug called Bosch.

  1. Rene Flowers, (left) and Wengay Newton (center) and Frank Peterman Jr. (right)  are vying for the Pinellas County Commission District 7 seat.
  2. Pinellas County commissioners kept their distance Tuesday during their first in-person meeting in months. They voted 7-0 to extend the county's emergency order.
  3. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Republican lawyer from Howey-in-the-Hills, said on Friday that his lawsuit against Pinellas County’s face mask ordinance seeks to eliminate the ordinance or reduce the mandate to a recommendation.
  4. The Pinellas County Commission during a Zoom meeting on July 7. The commission met Thursday to hear an update on the rising coronavirus cases in the county.
  5. The Penny for Pinellas 1-cent sales tax is a decades-long tax used to fund infrastructure improvements in the county. [Pinellas County]
  6. The Pinellas County Commission during a Zoom meeting on June 30.
  7. Lisa Bell, 53, heads back to her vehicle after she receives a free mask at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic on June 25 in St. Petersburg. "I'm an insulin-dependent diabetic, so I need these masks," Bell said.
  8. Preston Legard, owner of Bridges Medical Supplies in Seminole, stocks protective masks at his store on June 23, 2020. Pinellas County commissioners voted Thursday to require that masks be worn in businesses. The county plans to distribute free masks on Thursday at several locations.
  9. Preston Legard, owner of Bridges Medical Supplies in Seminole, shows customers the KN-95 protective masks on sale at his store on Tuesday. PInellas County is the latest government in the Tampa Bay area to require face coverings when people conduct business indoors in public spaces.
  10. The Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center on Ulmerton Road is home to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the Emergency Operations Center, Emergency Medical Services and the 911 dispatch center.
  11. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman tries on a protective mask made of material representing his alma mater, the University of Florida during a ceremony at St. Petersburg City Hall in April. Kriseman issued an order last requiring businesses to make sure employees wear masks when interacting with the public. The Pinellas County Commission will consider a proposed mask ordinance on Tuesday.
  12. This image provided by Pinellas County officials shows crowds of people and allegedly was captured on Saturday, June 13, 2020, at Ringside Cafe in St. Petersburg.
  13. Pinellas County Courthouse
  14. As the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County wrapped up COVID-19 testing on Friday in long-term care centers, an outbreak hit Grand Villa in St. Petersburg.
  15. Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office staffer Sheryl Jackson counts ballots during a manual recount in November 2018.
  16. This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Health authorities are preparing for a possible pandemic as they work to contain a respiratory illness in China that's caused by a new virus. Governments are working to contain the virus by limiting travel, isolating sick people and keeping travelers returning from the affected region under quarantine to watch for symptoms.
  17. The Pinellas Board of County Commissioners conducted an online meeting on Zoom on Wednesday.
  18. Protest organizer Terron Gland, 31, of St. Petersburg, encourages a moment of dancing from the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.
  19. Florida Highway Patrol block the intersection of Tyler Street and Ashley Drive as protestors march past Saturday, June 6, 2020 in Tampa.
  20. The Pinellas County Commission in March discussed a stay at home order to curb the spread of coronavirus. The group on Thursday denounced the killing of George Floyd and called on the county's police agencies to review their use-of-force policies.
  21. The Pinellas County Personnel Board voted Thursday to increase the pay for interim personnel Maureen Freaney to $96 an hour. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  22. Protestors lay on the ground in the intersection of Beach Drive at Third Avenue NE Wednesday, June 3, 2020 in St. Petersburg.