Jade Isaacs - 3/11 - SaintPetersBlog

Jade Isaacs

Dunedin public works employee accuses city of favoring younger women in agency

Dunedin is coming under fire after an ex-employee says she faced discrimination when applying for a field position because she is an older woman.

Lisa Massarelli

On Dec. 6, Palm Harbor resident Lisa Massarelli, 53, filed a suit against the City of Dunedin for violating the Florida Civil Rights Act.

Massarelli worked for the city from 1993 to 2010 before budget cuts forced her to be laid off. For over 12 years, Massarelli worked as a Field Service Representative for the Public Works Water Department. She had no disciplinary issues while working for the city.

She was notified that her old position recently opened back up when the employee working the position retired. Massarelli had previously made it clear to human resources and management that she would be interested in the position, had it ever opened.

Paul Stanek, the director of Assistant Public Works and Utilities, knew of Massarelli’s interest.

Stanek made his way to his current position in 2007 and has since given the impression that he would like to hire young females for office positions and males for field positions.

The suit claims that Stanek planned to promote one of his male “buddies” to the position because he did not want a 53-year-old woman in a field position.

Massarelli found out about the job through connections she made when she worked for the city. Stanek asked HR to keep the opening private so that only current city employees could see it was available. He also requested the listing to be posted for only three days. His plan was questioned by an HR representative. However, he pushed for it to only be posted internally.

Massarelli delivered a complete application to the HR department via UPS to receive a delivery confirmation. She believed that the Stanek’s purpose of posting the opening internally was “to limit the applicant pool to his own buddies.”

Legal representatives of Massarelli inquired about the legitimacy of Stanek’s demands. They were informed there were no requirements for the position to be available to the public. The suit begs to differ. It states that HR is required to monitor selective requests for misconduct. It further states that Stanek’s demand was improper because it was made to discriminate based on age and gender.

Stanek eventually backed away from hiring his friend and went with a 35-year-old female current city worker. He made this decision after the inquiries were made by Massarelli’s representatives.

Massarelli claims she is far more qualified than any of the other applicants.

The woman eventually hired for the position had, allegedly, never gained experience relevant to her new job. Her only government experience was in billing. This newly promoted woman had previously been reprimanded for constantly being late for work. A background check by Massarelli’s lawyers discovered a DUI on her record. This is problematic since the field position requires employees to drive city trucks.

Records suggest other older women may have also been discriminated against by the City of Dunedin.

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Pinellas woman claims family therapist had sex with her, forced her to leave troubled son

A potentially career-ending lawsuit accuses an award-winning therapist of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient.

The patient, referred to as P.A. in the suit to protect her identity, was struggling to deal with her teenage son, C.A. The mother-son duo was recommended by DCFS to seek counseling to strengthen their relationship and work out the son’s behavioral issues.

DCFS scheduled P.A. an appointment with Michael Putzulu, a therapist working at Suncoast Center.

The overall goal of counseling was to improve how P.A. approached issues with C.A., work on her anxiety, and develop a low-stress home environment.

In early 2014, the family had their first meeting with Putzulu. From there, they would meet every Wednesday at 4 p.m. at their home.

A few sessions in, Putzulu recommended C.A. live with his maternal grandmother.

After two sessions, Putzulu would stop by P.A.’s home without an appointment. Many visits were on short notice or completely unannounced. He would drop by during all hours of the day and night, even as late as 11:30 p.m.

Putzulu, allegedly, began rubbing P.A.’s legs while in the home. He would ask her to meet him at restaurants. Eventually, they started meeting in his home during the time he was her therapist.

Throughout their meetings, P.A. was urged to leave her boyfriend. She was living with her long-term boyfriend when the sessions first started.

At some point, their relationship became intimate, and P.A. left her boyfriend and their home to live with Putzulu.

According to the suit, Putzulu became extremely controlling. P.A. wasn’t allowed to text or use voicemail, she couldn’t go out without him; he limited her access to clothes, therapy, medicine and money.

Putzulu forced her to cease seeing her psychiatrist. He sent her to a former co-worker, Thomas Kiernan, to receive medications he selected for her. He paid for the visits and medication.

Thomas Kiernan is an advanced registered nurse practitioner who worked for Hector Corzo, a psychiatrist.

Kiernan never questioned why P.A. needed the medication or counseling, he merely provided the medication to P.A.

While living with Putzulu, it became harder for P.A. to see her son.

Putzulu only met with the son three times. However, he claimed the sessions were successful.

The boundaries set by the American Mental Health Counselors Association were breached by Putzulu when he pursued a relationship with his patient.

P.A. is suing Putzulu, Suncoast Center, Kiernan, and Corzo for the emotional distress they caused, either directly or indirectly.

 

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Tampa resident makes vocal argument against red light cameras, ‘kangaroo’ court

Edwin Martin in an unrelated booking photo from 2011

While red-light cameras are unconstitutional in many areas, they are still in full effect in several others, including Hillsborough County.

Edwin Martin, a 63-year-old Tampa resident, is one of the drivers have been challenging the citations.

Martin claims such citations are “ridiculous” because they encourage drivers to make “panic stops” at yellow lights, and not continue through an intersection. These stops would lead to “possible rear-end collisions.” And after sitting in roughly 30 cases in the Red-Light Camera Court while going to protest his citation, Martin feels it is a “kangaroo court set up to collect taxes.”

Martin believes red-light cameras influence motorists to make panicked stops at yellow lights, which can create collisions and premature brake wear.

Although he wrote the suit Dec. 2, however, it wasn’t filed until Dec. 5.

Martin is challenging the county without the help of a lawyer.

The senior citizen claims to have an income of merely $417 a month courtesy of his Social Security check.

Martin was a cab driver before his cab license was revoked in 2003, as reported by Hillsborough County transcripts.

Martin is well-aware of how the courts operate. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s database, he has three arrests. The first dates back to June 2008. He was arrested for grand theft and was in custody for nearly two months. After his release, Martin was arrested again on five charges and was in custody for 47 days. The charges included grand theft, burglary and resisting arrest.

Martin’s final arrest was in 2011 for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia as well as fleeing the scene of an accident with property damage. On that incident, he was held in custody for 19 days.

Arrest records show Martin goes by the alias “Alafia Zomekka.”

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Shoot Straight under the gun by woman allegedly denied promotion due to gender

Shoot Straight, a chain of gun stores and ranges with a location in Clearwater, is under fire after an employee had claimed the company refused to promote her to management because she is a woman.

Crystal Mims is accusing Shoot Straight of violating the Florida Civil Rights Act based on sex discrimination and retaliation.

For nearly three years, Mims worked at Shoot Straight Clearwater. Throughout that time, she expressed a desire to grow with the company, asking to be considered for a management-level position. She applied for these posts, believing she was well-qualified for the job.

Despite this, she was repeatedly refused a promotion.

After less qualified men had been regularly put into the same management positions that Mims applied for, she believed the denial was due to gender.

Comments from co-workers and customers to Mims reinforced that belief. On one occasion, Mims said someone told her that she wouldn’t be considered because she didn’t “have a d**k.”

When she wasn’t selected for the position, Mims complained to her superiors. She asserts that those complaints resulted in her termination March 24.

Now Shoot Straight is being sued on two counts in the Nov. 30 lawsuit. If the court enters a judgment in Mims favor, she will receive compensation for back pay and benefits, front pay and benefits, damages for humiliation and mental pain and suffering, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs, and both pre and post-judgment interest.

Although Mims was never promoted to manager, she did work her way into a different position than when she started August 2013.

Shoot Straight Clearwater is located at 4594 Ulmerton Rd.

Shoot Straight operates several locations throughout the state. Founder and owner Khaled Akkawi is a pro-gun rights advocate. According to a February Herald-Tribune article, Akkawi is Florida’s “largest gun show promoter.”

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Seminole couple sues developer who failed to deliver ‘Food Found EZ’ grocery app

David and Mary Sullivan had a million-dollar idea, to make the dreaded task of grocery shopping a bit easier.

Unfortunately, before the Seminole couple could realize their “Food Found EZ” mobile app – which helps users find the exact location of items at the grocery store — David, 68, and his 64-year-old wife Mary, hit a major stumbling block, one that eventually cost them thousands of dollars.

Food Found EZ would “find products with exact precision,” giving users the correct aisle number for a specified item. They would save time by organizing grocery lists by aisle number.

However, the Sullivan’s dream quickly ground to a halt when the app developer, Zapporoo, fell through on the deal.

Now, the couple are suing Zapporoo, its CEO, Brainy Apps and its founder in a suit filed Nov. 29.

Zapporoo and the Sullivan’s entered a contract May 24. The agreement stated Zapporoo would design and develop the Food Found EZ app.

A project fee of $14,400 was charged, along with other costs for design and development, as reported by the suit.

Zapporoo never got around to designing the app, despite the Sullivan’s following through on their end of the deal.

The couple had no choice but to find a new developer, who quoted them $50,000 to $90,000 to create the app of their dreams.

To avoid corporate debts, John Lakatis, the managing member of Zapporoo, transferred funds to his company, Brainy Apps. The suit claims that Brainy Apps was created to evade creditors, like the Sullivans.

“Lakatis accepted plaintiff’s’ payment under the contract with the premeditated intent to transfer the funds to Brainy Apps LLC in a bad faith attempt to avoid liability to plaintiffs as creditors of Zapporoo LLC,” the suit read.

Brainy Apps is also a developer, like Zapporoo.

The Sullivan’s are seeking payment for actual, performance, incidental, consequential and special damages, prejudgment and post-judgment interest, and court costs.

 

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Gate across disputed public road puts Palm Harbor neighbors in turf war

A gate erected across a disputed local road, which allegedly blocks street access to other properties, has sparked a turf war between two Palm Harbor neighbors.

Noell Family, LLC, is suing Anthony and Patricia Lollis – President and Secretary-Treasurer, respectively, of Mickey’s Roof Service – as well as Pinellas County, in a complaint filed Nov. 29.

Noell Family owns property neighboring the Lollis’ home. The couple recently put up a gate across Roberts Road, a local road servicing the two-acre lot in Palm Harbor containing their home and two other structures.

Attempting to civilly solve the issue, the Noell Family attorney contacted the Lollis’ via mail in a letter sent April 20.

In the letter, the attorney advised the couple that the road is not private property and stated that the couple is “well-aware of that fact.” The letter demanded the gate be removed within 10 days or Noell Family would be given no other choice but to take the matter to court.

The Lollis’ retained an attorney to responded to the letter.

On May 13, a letter was constructed informing Noell Family and its attorney that the gate was installed in order to deter “undesirable persons” and gave a gate code for access beyond the gate. The letter stated that the gate will remain up until a decision has been made as to whether the road is public.

While the suit insists the road in question belongs to Pinellas County, county records say otherwise.

Roberts Road was established in the 1940s by Pinellas County, but the county does not currently maintain it.

In correspondence to Noell Family with the determination on whether the road is public, the county claims it “has no present need which would justify the staff resources and expense to make this determination.”

Now two parties are facing court action, accused of five counts.

This is not the first dispute over Roberts Road making its way through Pinellas courts.

In an earlier case, the Lollis’ sued Velda Deddo in 1990. Deddo, the previous owner of Noell Family’s property, had constructed a pedestrian gate across the street.

In that case, the final judgment determined “Roberts Road is a public roadway and that neither party shall interfere with its use by the other party …”

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Facial recognition helps Clearwater cop nab 26-year-old posing as teen

Judy Crockwell

Using facial-recognition software, a Clearwater Police officer identified an adult woman claiming to be a minor at runaway shelter.

Judy Crockwell, a 26-year-old transient, had been arrested multiple times this year.

When she was arrested Nov. 2, she staying at Clearwater’s Safe Place posing as 16-year-old Antonia Clarke.

The arrest report from that night breaks down the events leading to her arrest.

After arriving at the shelter, Child Protective Services was called over to question “Antonia.” However, she refused to cooperate.

Clearwater police officer Francisco Micheo snapped a photo, running it through the agency’s facial-recognition software. That’s when the officer discovered the woman before him was not 16 years old as she claimed, but was, in fact, Crockwell.

Micheo then asked the woman if her name was Judy.

The officer’s question prompted Crockwell to begin yelling profanities, creating a disturbance and breaching the peace of the shelter.

Several attempts to calm her down failed. rockwell was placed into custody where she began resisting arrest by tensing and pulling away. The officer found an insurance card in Crockwell’s purse that read the name “Judy Lynn.”

Crockwell was arrested for resisting an officer without violence. After being read her Miranda rights, she returned to yelling profanities. Crockwell told the officer she wanted to grab a gun and shoot him.

A public defender was appointed to Crockwell’s case, although charges were dropped at the end of the month. Assistant State Attorney, Jennifer Menendez-Kotch, signed a notice stating the State Attorney concluded, “that the facts and circumstances revealed do not warrant prosecution at this time.”

A search for Crockwell through Florida arrest records shows four arrests in the state this year. The latest arrest was in Hillsborough County Dec. 14 for battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, and resisting an officer without violence.

She was listed as “homeless” at the time of the latest arrest.

Safe Place is located at 1615 Union St. in Clearwater.

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Tampa divorce case turns ugly after husband accuses wife of illegally accessing medical records

A Tampa General nurse is being accused of illegally disclosing patient records to gain an advantage in her contentious divorce settlement.

Angela Marie Downing, 38, formerly known as Angela Hassey, is being sued by her ex-husband, Michael Todd “Mike” Hassey, a 42-year-old Apollo Beach resident who claims Angela accessed his medical records.

The records were allegedly used maliciously to portray Hassey in a negative light during their negotiations.

In October 2012, the couple filed for divorce. A final judgment was made nearly two years later.

The suit, filed Nov. 30, 2016, claims that Downing accessed Hassey’s medical records on three occasions: once in 2012 and twice in 2014.

On Jan. 16, 2014, Downing filed an Emergency for Temporary Relief in the divorce case. In it, she claimed Hassey was using steroids.

Mike Hassey seeks damages for medical expenses, past and future loss of earnings, pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, injury to his reputation, and attorney’s fees and costs. Downing and Tampa General are being sued on four counts total.

From 2012 to 2014, BayLawsuits reports the ex-couple filed nearly 10 lawsuits against one another for various accusations of stalking and domestic abuse.

In a 2014 petition for stalking, Downing accused Hassey of sending hundreds of texts with profanity. She while sitting outside her boyfriend’s lounge, Hassey would pull in across the street to spy on them.

In another incident, Angela said Hassey went to her boyfriend’s house, sitting in the driveway.

On Oct. 22, 2014, Hassey allegedly stared at Downing with a gun in his hand, which led to her filing the petition.

Hassey was arrested  March 13, 2013, for violating a domestic violation injunction. Less than a month later, April 5, 2013, he was arrested again, this time for contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child.

The couple has a daughter together. A post-judgment family law litigation followed the divorce to address custody of their child.

Hassey is the man behind the Mustang Mikes auto shop at 10044 Gibsonton Dr. in Tampa.

As an employee of Tampa General, Downing is responsible for following the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. HIPAA is the U.S. law protecting the privacy of patients’ medical records and health information provided by all health care providers.

Tampa General is at 1 Tampa General Circle.

 

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After infamous ‘dildo attack,’ St. Pete couple settle dispute over jewelry, heirlooms

Annette Kielhurn

After leaving her girlfriend who assaulted her with a dildo last year, Gamze Capaner-Ridley, 48, left behind $221,000 in jewelry and heirlooms.

On Nov. 28, 2016, Capaner filed a suit in Pinellas County Civil Court against her ex, 58-year-old Annette Kielhurn.

Kielhurn claimed to have misplaced the items, leaving Capaner with no choice but to sue for the value of the items.

A few days after the suit was filed, Kielhurn agreed to pay back the money owed to her ex. A confession of judgment was filed until Kielhurn can fulfill her side of the agreement.

Confession of judgment is a written agreement between a plaintiff and defendant, which states the defendant accepts liability and damages that were agreed upon in a settlement.

Throughout their relationship, Capaner temporarily loaned Kielhurn $221,000 worth of jewelry and heirlooms. Of those items was Capaner’s 6-carat diamond ring that had been her mother’s.

BayLawsuits reported that, before their split, the couple lived together in St. Petersburg. In July 2015, the two were having troubles. Kielhurn was becoming abusive, she would punch, slap and pull Capaner, as well as emotionally abuse her. Capaner decided to petition for a restraining order. Days later, she was escorted by police to retrieve her belongings. That’s when a fight broke out over a dress that led to Kielhurn being arrested for domestic battery.

Kielhurn reportedly grabbed Capaner’s arm and shoved a dildo in her face.

The incident was reported in the Smoking Gun, and the story was later picked up by Britain’s Daily Mail and others.

Capaner eventually asked the court to drop charges, saying: “She is kind, compassionate human being.” Battery charges were dropped in November 2015.

This wasn’t Capaner’s first time dealing with domestic abuse. In 2013, Capaner sought protection from Georgia courts against family violence in a separate relationship.

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Ex-employee blames McKesson Corp. of failing to protect him from union threats

A whistleblower at America’s 5th largest firm is suing his ex-employer, accusing the company of failing to protect him from “death threats.”

Teamsters Local 79 is an authorized union at McKesson Corporation, a San Francisco-based pharmaceutical distributor.

The union does not respond well to opposition, as Hillsborough County resident Lawrence Eaken found out the hard way.

For his part, Eaken did not mask his dislike for the union, voicing his “general opposition” to both company management and union members. This did not endear him to union members or management.

On Dec 29, 2015, Eaken found a death threat in his mailbox. The note called Eaken a “dog” and threatened that he would become “road kill” if he continued talking.

Although it did not state so directly, Eaken believed the note came from the union.

Eaken reported the threat to McKesson, his employer. The company violated his wish for confidentiality Jan. 11, 2016, when it confronted the employee believed was behind the threat. The following day, eight union members confronted Eaken on his way to the breakroom. The men physically blocked Eaken’s path, calling him names like “lap dog.”

One union business agent even told Eaken that, because we live in a free country, he could  “go back to his house whenever he want[ed].”

Eaken was fired February 9.

In the suit, filed Dec. 1, McKesson is accused of four counts of negligently failing to protect him from co-workers who “put Eaken and his family in fear for his safety.” Eaken is requesting compensation for past, present and future anguish, lost wages, and attorney’s fees and costs.

Eaken was employed by McKesson for about 10 years, 2006 to 2016.

McKesson is the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributor. Fortune 500 ranked it fifth in the list of largest publicly-traded companies based on revenue. In fiscal year 2016, McKesson, which calls itself “the central nervous system of health care,” posted revenue of nearly $191 billion.

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