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Hillsborough rethinks naming courthouse auditorium for Andrew Warren

County Commissioner Mariella Smith has dropped her proposal to honor the ousted state attorney.
Andrew Warren, center, speaks during a news conference in September. Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith is dropping her bid to rename an auditorium in the Pat Frank Courthouse after the ousted Hillsborough County prosecutor.
Andrew Warren, center, speaks during a news conference in September. Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith is dropping her bid to rename an auditorium in the Pat Frank Courthouse after the ousted Hillsborough County prosecutor. [ LAWRENCE MOWER | Times ]
Published Nov. 15, 2022|Updated Nov. 15, 2022

TAMPA — A portion of a downtown courthouse won’t be named for ousted Hillsborough County prosecutor Andrew Warren.

Hillsborough Commissioner Mariella Smith, who proposed naming an auditorium after Warren two weeks ago, has withdrawn the plan. It had been scheduled to be considered and voted upon by the County Commission Wednesday during what will be the final meeting with the board under Democratic control.

Smith and fellow Democratic Commissioner Kimberly Overman lost their reelection bids last week. The new board, after the Nov. 22 swearing-in ceremony, will be a 4-3 Republican majority for at least the next two years.

“It’s just not the right time to proceed,” Smith said Tuesday. “Our community’s going through enormous issues just as we’re going through a major transition to a whole new board (majority) with a dramatically different vision for the county. I don’t want to be burdening the new board and the staff with things like this when they’re going to be grappling with much larger issues.”

During a Nov. 9 commission meeting, Smith said she wanted to rename the auditorium in the Pat Frank Courthouse on Pierce Street after Warren, who she said was “fighting a courageous battle for democracy in this county. He’s fighting to ensure that our votes count in this county.”

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Warren, a Democrat, from his job as 13th Judicial Circuit state attorney in August, saying the prosecutor disregarded his duty to enforce state laws regarding abortion and transgender health care cases. Warren filed suit in federal court denying the allegations and said the governor defied the will of the voters and violated his right to free speech. The trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 29.

“I’m honored that the commission would consider this recognition, but right now my sole focus is preserving our freedom and democracy by winning the fight to be restored to the office the voters elected me to hold,” Warren said Tuesday in a statement.

Smith said Tuesday she also didn’t want to distract from “the larger fight that Andrew’s in with any partisan politics at this level.”

Even if the board had approved her motion, a new Republican-controlled board could ask to reconsider it in the following weeks, she said.

Smith announced her proposal at the same time she denounced a request from Warren’s replacement, Hillsborough County State Attorney Susan Lopez, who wanted to rename a conference room in the same courthouse after former Chief Assistant State Attorney Michael Sinacore.

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The auditorium is room 305 in the courthouse and can hold up to 220 people for meetings and training sessions for public agencies and non-profit groups. It includes a mock courtroom.

The space, formerly used by jury pools, had fallen into disrepair and sat mostly unused for roughly a decade. Warren petitioned the county in 2017 to spend approximately $1 million to renovate the 3,526-square-foot room into the training facility.