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5 posts from December 2, 2013

December 02, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Tampa Bay Times reporter becomes Board of Governors spokeswoman

Tampa Bay Times reporter Brittany Davis has been hired as the new director of communications for the Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system. She starts her new job Dec. 11th just as there's a change of leadership in the university system, with Marshall Criser III becoming chancellor Jan. 6.

Davis was a municipal government reporter in the Clearwater bureau the past year, covering Tarpon Springs and Safety Harbor. She was previously a reporter in the Tallahassee Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald capital bureau.

Davis was also a reporter for Health News Florida and WLRN, South Florida's NPR affiliate. She has her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Florida.

She replaces Kim Wilmath, who has taken a job as associate director, higher education policy analysis at the University of South Florida. Wilmath was previously a Tampa Bay Times reporter.

Labor lawyer joins Tallahassee firm of Adams and Reese

Florida labor and employment attorney Scott Callen has joined Adams and Reese as a partner in the firm’s Tallahassee and Tampa offices. 

Callen, with 15 years experience as a labor and employment attorney,  was most recently an equity partner at Foley & Lardner LLP. He also has experience in civil litigation, corporate counseling, administrative and commercial litigation.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

Matt Gaetz's dog bites man, Gaetz gets sued

From the Associated Press: 

A Florida legislator has been sued over his pet dog biting someone in the face at a restaurant located near the state Capitol.

Christopher Kent filed a lawsuit last week in Leon County against Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. Gaetz is the son of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and recently held a lengthy legislative hearing over a proposal to repeal the state's contentious "stand your ground" law.

Kent's lawsuit alleges that Gaetz's dog bit him last May. The lawsuit contends the dog bite left Kent in pain, disfigured and with injuries that ultimately forced him to withdraw from law school. He said part of the reason he quit the University of Michigan is that the treatment has forced him to take antibiotics that cause stomach problems.

The lawsuit asks for payment of medical bills and damages connected to the bite, but it does not list an amount.

Gaetz on Monday acknowledged that his dog, Scarlet, did bite someone. Gaetz said he does not know the dog's breed because he rescued the 55-to-60-pound dog from a shelter about six years ago.

But he said he was unaware of the lawsuit until reached by a reporter. He said that he thought Kent's attorney was trying to discuss the issue with his insurance company.

Gaetz would not discuss any details about what happened.

"We have a system that allows the courts to make those decisions," said Gaetz, who is chairman of the House Criminal Justice subcommittee.

David Frank, the attorney representing Kent, declined to answer questions about the lawsuit.

Governor increases heat on school districts to pay up on teacher raises

Gov. Rick Scott, who pressed lawmakers to fund raises for all teachers this year, is again urging school districts to come through with the contract deals to make the raises reality.

Scott, facing a potentially tough reelection bid, sent a letter to superintendents Monday offering assistance to any district that is struggling to complete negotiations on the added pay, with the end of the first semester near. School teachers across the state continue to await the promise of teacher raises as local school boards and state officials struggle to improve a system that judges as many as two-thirds of the state’s teachers on the test scores of students they’ve never met or on subjects they don’t teach. More here. 

"We understand the local negotiation process that every district must go through in order to finalize teacher pay raise amounts, but we urge any district that has not yet reached a final agreement to contact Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart so we can offer any assistance possible to expedite this district-level process," Scott wrote on Monday. He continued:

Continue reading "Governor increases heat on school districts to pay up on teacher raises" »

TMZ features creepshot of Rep. Joe Garcia beaching it with thong lady


ThongMiami Congressman Joe Garcia is officially a celebrity, it appears.

The freshman Democrat got a little attention from celebrity gossip website TMZ after it obtained a creepshot pic of the Democrat hanging at the beach with what appears to be a thong-wearing girlfriend.

For a website that sometimes exposes the shocking, it's tough to see the surprise here. Garcia is single. Thongs are pretty common on Miami Beach, etc.

"Congressman Joe Garcia from Florida, out on the beach, with his chick who is wearing a thong bikini as they're walking down," says one TMZer in the video linked here. "He is shirtless, got his floppy hat on, walkin' down the beach."

Scandal! A shirtless guy with a hat on a beach with his thong-wearing girlfriend!

Oh well. It was a slow news week. TMZ blogs, we blog about it. And then we move on....

As Citizens dictates repairs on damaged homes, families try to push back

Emilie and Fred MoutranTo Fred and Emilie Moutran, there’s no dispute that the cracks in the walls of their Spring Hill home were caused by the shifting ground of a sinkhole deep below the surface.

The floor under the chimney has dropped three inches. A gash runs across their mantel. A crack extends the length of a hallway, and the ceiling over the garage has shifted so much that the Moutrans fear it will collapse.

“We hear cracking and popping at night, sometimes all night long, and we’re starting to get very concerned,” said Fred Moutran, 31, who lives in the home with his 64-year-old mother, Emilie.

After two engineering firms concluded the damage was caused by sinkhole activity, the job of repairing their home and the stabilizing the ground fell to Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run company. For three years, the family has been trying to get Citizens to make the repairs.

But the insurance company sent them a check for $21,000 to cover cosmetic repairs, not the fixes to the foundation that will shore up their home.

“They want to force us to make the repairs their way,” Moutran said. “We paid for a service with the understanding it would be there when needed, not three years later.”

The Moutrans are not the only family accusing Citizens of denying repairs and delaying their case. An estimated 1,800 homeowners have filed lawsuits against the company challenging their sinkhole claims. Citizens acknowledges that most of the disputes involve disagreements over the method of repair. More here.

Photo: Emilie and Fred Moutran at their Spring Hill home by Octavio Jones, Tampa Bay Times