Jade Isaacs - 6/10 - SaintPetersBlog

Jade Isaacs

Dentists fighting tooth and nail land in Hillsborough court over practice, property

After a dispute destroyed the relationship between two Tampa business partners, one is now in court asking to dissolve their joint dental business.

Mark Goodnight and Dwight Sanjuan are equal partners of Goodnight-Sanjuan, a company founded in 2005. The company owns a property at 3223 S. Dale Mabry Highway that is home to the partners’ dental practice.

Both Goodnight and Sanjuan work out of the office as well as at another location in Tampa.

Goodnight specializes in orthodontics, while Sanjuan works as a pediatric dentist.

Recently, Sanjuan hired an associate dentist who works at the Dale Mabry office. Sanjuan rarely visits the office.

Because their practices center around family, both parties must keep a peaceful, family-friendly environment.

This wasn’t an issue up until recently when the two began disputing over what to do with the shared property. The dispute has led to issues in the office. Goodnight says it has led to “conflict” and “acrimony” which included employees and arguments at times in front of clients.

One instance, the suit says, occurred when one of Sanjuan’s employees took down a sign that was put up by an employee of Goodnight. When asked to return the sign, “an agent or agents of the entity operated by Sanjuan filed what is understood to be a falsified report of criminal assault and battery.” This incident, reportedly, occurred in the presence of patients.

A second issue Goodnight brings up is that the new associate hired by Sanjuan is not certified to work as a pediatric dentist. This poses a threat to the company and the partners as it is in violation of Florida law.

Goodnight seeks the company dissolved, asking for property to be split between himself and Sanjuan.


Developer shut out from low-income housing tax credit sues city of Tampa

A low-income housing developer is suing the City of Tampa for choosing to fund a city project rather than its 102-unit senior housing project.

In December 2015, Madison Highlands purchased a vacant lot at 5315 N. 37th St. in Tampa where it planned to develop the property.

Madison Highlands — owned and managed by Patrick E. Law — proposed a low-income housing option for seniors. However, the project needed financial backing from the city.

The organization applied to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), to obtain necessary tax credits to begin development.

In total, the project would require $20 million in loans.

There are two requirements of the FHFC Request for Application (RFA). Developers submitting an FHFC RFA must select either a Local Government Preference (LGP) or Local Government Contribution (LGC).

Applicants who select and qualify for LGP receive 10 points in the process, with only one project receiving the LGP. Multiple applicants can receive an LGC.

Both LGC and LGP work as ways for the local government to select which affordable housing developer will receive tax credits through FHFC.

On Sept. 30, 2016, the City of Tampa eliminated all competing projects when it made its final written decision to support an “area of opportunity” funding to one of its own projects, and not any alternative.

The suit claims the city chose to fund its own project over the others without notice or any form of a public hearing. In its complaint, Madison says city officials failed to solicit or accept applications, did not provide selection criteria, nor did they document the selection process.

Madison Highlands is requesting the court review whether due process has been afforded, whether all laws have been followed and whether the judgment and findings of the city are supported by evidence.

Per the properties application for housing financing, Law is both the manager of Madison Highlands and owner of 99.9 percent of the company,

Law also owns American Residential Development, the developer behind Madison Highlands. The company has completed two other properties: Madison Heights in Tampa, and Madison Reserve in Spring Hill.

Madison Heights, which provides housing for low-to-moderate income seniors, is at 1250 N. Marion St.


Tampa attorney sues former partner killed in 2015 plane crash

gene-odomWhen lawyer Ralph Odom II died in a 2015 plane crash, he left his estate with a $2.9 million debt.

Now, a year after his death, Odom’s partner is suing that estate for money owed on behalf of their law group.

Odom and his business partner, Nick Martinez, 56, shared the ownership of Martinez-Odom Law Group. From 2013 to 2015, Odom borrowed money from the business for personal use.

Odum was to pay the loans back, however, he died shortly before Thanksgiving 2015.

On Nov. 9, 2015, Odom, then 40, was flying to Georgia in a Cessna 441 plane when it crashed, killing him and Lester Hathcox, a longtime pilot for WFLA-TV and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. It is unclear from court documents which of the men were flying the plane. A docket available online shows former partner Martinez declined to be the personal representative of Odom’s probate case.

Nearly $600,000 of the $2.9 million borrowed was used to pay off Odom’s mortgage on a property at 2706 Little Rd. in Valrico. Martinez claims he never agreed to this.

In February, Martinez-Odom Law Group filed a claim against the estate for the money owed. Two months later, a personal representative of the estate responded by objecting the claim.

The suit argues the estate was unjustly enriched and requests a payment to be made for the money owed and court fees.

Odom left behind three children: Taylor Leanne Odom of Plant City; and twins Ethan Gene and Madelyn Rhae Odom. Odom’s father, Ralph Odom, is the representative of his estate.

Odom devised his property to his two youngest children. However, his father petitioned to have the property split equally amongst the three children. The petition was filed May 2016.

USF sues bookstore for ‘dumping’ flyers on Tampa campus

usf-bullsIncessant littering at the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus has forced the school to sue a nearby textbook store.

BookHolders is a chain that sells and rents textbooks to college students, with locations near seven campuses in five states, including USF Tampa. To advertise its business, employees walk through campus distributing flyers and other written materials. This is done without the permission of USF.

The company, owned by Joe Verde, is being sued on five counts: Violation of the Florida litter law, violation of university policy, nuisance, permanent injunction and negligent supervision.

According to the complaint filed Nov. 8, BookHolders is allegedly refusing demands by USF to stop “dumping” flyers in a “negligent manner.”

The school has a policy in place which prohibits unauthorized solicitation: The University of South Florida authorizes the solicitation and/or sale of goods and services by external organizations on its Tampa Campus only through formal written contractual relationships or through authorizing vendors to participate in Bull Market. Commercial solicitation or the sale of goods and services by an external organization on the Tampa Campus is otherwise committed.

USF Tampa also operates its own campus bookstore in partnership with Barnes & Noble.

Flyers are thrown around campus including in classrooms, hallways and other outdoor areas. Oftentimes the distribution interrupts professor’s lectures.

The litter has caused a nuisance for the university as it must pay custodial staff to clean up the mess. In the complaint, USF claims that it has spent over $5,000 cleaning up the flyers left behind by BookHolders employees.

USF demands damages be repaid for the cost of cleanup and is requesting an injunction be placed on the company to further prevent the distribution of flyers.

USF Tampa is on Fowler Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The USF Barnes & Noble is at 4202 E. Fowler Ave. BookHolders is located at 11802 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., adjacent to the campus.


Victim of DUI crash blames Kahuna’s for negligence in over-serving alcoholic

Sean Campbell
Sean Campbell

Kahuna’s Bar & Grill in St. Petersburg is being taken to court after a drunken customer caused a car accident that broke a woman’s leg.

In the early morning of Oct. 14, 2015, Sean Campbell, 25, got behind the wheel of his car after a night of drinking at the popular bar and grill on Gandy Boulevard in north St. Petersburg.

Campbell, an unemployed resident of St. Petersburg. failed to stop for a red light at the intersection of 4th Street North and 5th Avenue North.

Emily Badillo, 22, was driving westbound on 5th Avenue North. Campbell’s car collided with the front end of Badillo’s vehicle.

Police could smell alcohol on Campbell; his breath tested well over the 0.08 percent limit.

Badillo sustained a broken leg in the crash.

Because Kahuna’s continued serving Campbell after he was blatantly drunk, Badillo is suing the bar for negligence.

The suit claims that Campbell was a longtime patron of Kahuna’s. On several occasions, when it was clear he had too much to drink, bartenders and staff nevertheless continued serving Campbell, even taking shots of liquor with him.

Due to his drunken state, Campbell had previously passed out, fallen face first to the ground, spilled beer on tables, and even vomited on the patio.

A month before the accident, Campbell was arrested for disorderly intoxication after being seen stumbling down Gandy Boulevard. Campbell had left Kahuna’s before being swept up by the Florida Highway Patrol.

Badillo suffered physical and mental pain, medical bills, and loss of income due to the accident.

Campbell’s bond was set at $5,000 at the time of his October 2015 arrest. After pleading guilty in the DUI case, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. After his two arrests in 2015, Campbell applied for indigence status, claiming he had no job, assets or income. He argued his only source of sustenance was food stamps.

Campbell had received a previous DUI in Washington State.

Kahuna’s, owned by defendant JCPK, whose directors are James C. and Jody Kenrick, is located at 10515 Gandy Blvd. N in St. Petersburg.

Award-winning Tarpon Springs librarian sues for injuries from exploding school toilet

A Tarpon Springs librarian is suing the city after a school toilet exploded and shards of porcelain penetrated her leg.

On Nov. 29, 2012, city employees were working on water lines at Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary School during operational hours to address what they called “pressure issues.” The city never informed the school or school board that work was going to be done, and no notice was given to students and employees.

Anne Burson, a 68-year-old Palm Harbor resident, was in the library when she heard a “a loud explosion” from the women’s restroom. After she went to investigate the noise, Burson discovered pieces of porcelain scattered around a stall next to the remains of a toilet. Burson alerted one of the city workers.

After cleaning the area, the worker told her that the restroom was safe to use.

Later that day, Burson went to use the restroom. She entered the larger bathroom stall. Burson was washing her hands when another toilet exploded, sending large shards of porcelain across the stall and into her leg.

Burson is suing the City of Tarpon Springs on one count of negligence. She seeks compensation for damages that include: bodily injury, scarring and medical expenses.

The city was notified of the incident by Burson’s attorneys, they have not yet received a response.

Burson has received many awards for her achievements as a teacher and librarian.

According to a Saint Petersburg Times article in 2006 about her nomination for the Pinellas Education Foundation’s Outstanding Educator recognition program, Burson began teaching in 1974, and earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of South Florida. She is a board-certified teacher, librarian and technology specialist at Tarpon Springs Fundamental. Also in 2006, Burson went to Washington, D.C. to accept an award as Pinellas County’s only No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School. Burson also became the first recipient of the Florida Power Library Award in 2009; her Facebook page says she worked for a time at Dunedin High School.

Accused pot smoker looks to get gun returned from St. Pete Police

Rebecca Marsh
Rebecca Marsh

After an arrest for possession of marijuana, a Pinellas County resident had a firearm confiscated by the officer who caught her smoking in downtown St. Petersburg.

Now, 57-year-old Rebecca Marsh of Tierra Verde is filing a petition to have police return her .380 Ruger LCP.

The police report said the gun and concealed carry weapons permit (CCW) would not be permitted to be brought into the jail, so a St. Petersburg Police officer put into an SPPD locker.

On Sept. 13, 2015, an officer — unnamed in court documents — was patrolling the area just after midnight. The officer first smelled “a strong odor of marijuana.”

According to the incident report, the officer identified a red Dodge pickup truck where the smell was emanating.

Upon seeing a female passenger light a pipe and blow smoke out the truck window, the officer approached the car on the driver’s side.

After the officer asked to hand over the pipe, Marsh, who was in the vehicle along with 66-year-old Pinellas Park resident John Joseph Steimel, attempted to hide it by her side. After a short struggle, the pipe was turned over to the officer.

While Marsh exited the truck, a baggie containing roughly a half-gram of marijuana fell to the ground.

As backup rolled in, the officer searched Marsh’s purse, finding a gun and CCW permit. The officer had the items transported to a locker at the police station.

Along with the pot and gun, police also found prescription pills in the driver’s possession.

In March 2016, Marsh, a licensed facial expert, pleaded “no contest” to the charges, paying $450 in fines. On Oct. 31, she filed a petition without the help of an attorney to have her gun returned.


Firefighter sues St. Pete Police for records in First Friday bathroom fight, tasering

St. Petersburg Police officer Ruben DeJesus resigned amid an internal investigation of his conduct during a 2016 arrest at Del Mar Gastro Lounge
St. Petersburg Police officer Ruben DeJesus resigned amid an internal investigation of his conduct during a 2016 arrest at Del Mar Gastro Lounge

Two retired Marines are suing the St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD) to obtain public records regarding their arrest from earlier this year.

Clinton Walker and Robert Ramirez filed the complaint after they were denied access to records related to an arrest after a fight during First Friday in downtown St. Petersburg.

On May 7, 2016, Walker and Ramirez headed out to celebrate First Friday. The two were at Del Mar Gastro Lounge when a fight broke out near the restrooms. Several SPPD officers investigated the incident.

Walker and Ramirez were questioned, but neither was identified as the perpetrator.

Police tasered Walker four times for allegedly battering Ruben DeJesus, an ex-SPPD officer, and for not following orders from the police. After being tasered, Walker was then ordered to lay on his stomach; he complied.

DeJesus kicked Walker in the groin, he claims.

At that point, DeJesus instructed officers arrest Ramirez. While handcuffed, DeJesus grabbed Ramirez “by his face and shook him vigorously” the suit says.

In June 2016, charges were dropped against both Walker and Ramirez. Just four days after, their attorneys requested SPPD provide a complete copy of the report and any other accounts in connection to the detention. They also asked for a copy of the use-of-force form filed upon Walker’s arrest.

Although SPPD responded to the request, the agency claimed the report could not be released because it was a part of an ongoing case.

The official charge against Walker was Battery of a Law Enforcement Officer, while Ramirez was arrested for Obstructing or Resisting an Officer Without Violence.

Video footage from the night tells a different story.

The video shows DeJesus committing unlawful acts towards both men. Security footage from the incident can be found in a Tampa Bay Times article describing the event.

In September 2016, DeJesus resigned just before the disciplinary board regarding May’s incident.

In 2011, DeJesus fatally shot an 18-year-old boy. While he was cleared of all wrongdoing, the boy’s mother is continuing a suit for wrongful death.

Court documents suggest Walker and Ramierez, both former Marines, work for Hillsborough County Fire Department. The two men have yet to file a negligence suit.

Del Mar Gastro Lounge is at 234 Central Ave in St. Petersburg.


Benihana scuffles with St. Pete seafood distributor over ‘skimpy’ shrimp

After its extra-large shrimp supply was cut off, Benihana is suing its seafood provider for breach of contract of a deal worth millions of dollars.

On Oct. 7, 2015, Benihana entered a contract with Bama Sea Products. The terms of the agreement –$5.2 million – was to last Jan. 1, 2016, through Dec. 31, 2016.

Bama was to provide Benihana with extra-large shell-on Vannamei white shrimp (26/30) fished from waters off Ecuador and/or Peru. However, in early 2016 Benihana was told that there was a shortage in Bama’s extra-large shrimp supply.

On Feb. 29, 2016, Bama and Benihana entered a contract for temporary modification. This deal would require Bama to supply large shrimp (31/35) and not extra-large shrimp until the supply was back to normal. The terms of this agreement were from April 1 to July 31.

By Aug. 1, 2016, the original agreement was in effect, although the two companies agreed to adjust the modification on a case-by-case basis. After the two companies could no longer agree on temporary accommodations, the original agreement was back in full swing.

The agreement was set to continue until the end of the year.

Bama failed to provide Benihana with the extra-large shrimp at the price originally agreed upon.

Because Bama could not fulfill the contract Benihana was required to retain legal counsel to reach a resolution. Benihana issuing Bama on one count of breach of contract. The suit was filed Nov. 4, 2016.

Bama was to ship the shrimp to freezers in Massachusetts and California for another company to pick up and distribute. At $3.95 per pound, Benihana was to receive 1,320,000 pounds this year. The company projected its shrimp usage was about 110,000 pounds per month.

Bama Sea Products headquarters are 756 28th St. S in St. Petersburg.

Brandon woman files class action against Wells Fargo for ‘phony’ accounts

A Florida woman launched a class-action lawsuit against Wells Fargo Bank after employees created millions of fraudulent accounts nationwide.

Brandon resident Nadine Stanton is suing on behalf of herself and others affected by the fraudulent accounts created by employees of the California-based banking giant. Stanton is a practice manager at United Vein Centers.

Stanton is claiming to be one of thousands of victims of the bank’s “colossal scheme” where they broke the law in numerous ways including using private information and data without consent.

Without permission of customers, employees performed several unauthorized tasks — opened accounts, transferred funds, applied for credit cards, received debit cards, and enrolled in online banking services.

Funds from authorized accounts would be transferred into the accounts that were opened without the client’s knowledge.

Additionally, at least 565,000 customers had applied for and opened credit cards in their names. These credit cards then negatively impacted credit scores and amassed additional fees.

According to an analysis by Wells Fargo, more than 2 million unauthorized accounts were opened.

Upon opening their accounts, every customer is required to provide private information to the bank, such as Social Security numbers and addresses.

All employees have access to client information on the banks centralized database.

“Cross-selling” is a strategy used by the bank “to leverage its current customers into purchasing more Wells Fargo products or using more Wells Fargo services,” per the suit.

There was an enormous pressure put onto employees to cross-sell. Financial incentives were provided to employees for getting more customers to sign up. Similarly, those who failed to cross-sell could face termination.

To avoid this, a widespread practice began among employees where they would open unauthorized accounts under client’s names.

By putting unachievable quotas on its employees, the suit says the bank was inducing unlawful actions.

Wells Fargo has fired nearly 5,300 employees that were accused of misusing the client information.

Stanton claims that there hasn’t been an effort on the banks end to contact those affected by this con.

In the suit, Stanton is seeking damages on behalf of all affected customers in Florida for “negligence, identity theft, invasion of privacy, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and negligent supervision of employees.”

Like other Wells Fargo customers, Stanton acknowledged she agreed to an arbitration clause when she opened her account. However, the suit argues that court action is appropriate in this case, since the bank’s actions fall “outside the boundary and scope of the foregoing arbitration agreement.”

Wells Fargo is the fourth largest bank in the country, with over 9,000 locations nationwide and nearly 265,000 full-time employees.

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