Phil Ammann - 2/393 - SaintPetersBlog

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

Madeira Beach city manager, clerk resign after commissioners approve severance package

Shane Crawford

Commissioners voted to accept the resignation of Shane Crawford, who served as city manager since 2012, and his wife Cheryl, who had been city manager.

The city approved a $135,000 settlement in exchange for Shane Crawford’s resignation, effective immediately. The commission voted 3-2 Monday night to settle with the married couple, offering severance, sick and vacation time.

The agreement comes nearly a year of internal bickering at City Hall, with allegations of wrongdoing and bad feeling turning into a full-scale battle between some residents and Madeira Beach officials.

The dispute began over development plans for a vacant parcel near the former Leverock’s Restaurant with a proposal to build a multi-story complex with a hotel, condominiums, restaurant and parking garage.

Discord led to a March vote ousting three incumbent Madeira Beach commissioners and selecting Mayor Maggi Black and Commissioners John Douthirt and Nancy Oakley — opponents of the development — who then voted to suspend Shane and Cheryl Crawford.

Many argued that Shane Crawford was on the side of builders, putting him at odds with commissioners.

His relationship (and subsequent marriage) to the city clerk also drew criticism.

“In the five years he’s been city manager here, I believe he’s created chaos, with the silent majority and a Garden of Eden for the select few,” resident Debbie Weinstein told WFLA.

The approved agreement includes: Crawford receiving about $88,710 in gross pay – as well as 20 weeks’ severance pay – taking $50,643 after taxes. The city would continue paying into health and other insurance, making retirement payments during the next 20 weeks. Shane Crawford would receive $60,577 gross for his 20-week severance; about $20,597 for unpaid vacation; and about $2,537 in unused sick time.

A separate proposal has Shane Crawford staying on as a consultant for four weeks – through July 16 – receiving $6,058 bi-weekly. After taxes, that would be $8,254.

As for Cheryl Crawford, she also resigned, effective May 4, giving up any legal claim with the city of Madeira Beach and its officials. Based on her annual salary of $65,042, would also get six weeks’ severance – about $7,505 gross.

In the agreement, Cheryl Crawford will also be retained as a consultant for 18 weeks, backdated to May 5, and continue through Sept. 7. She will receive $2,502 bi-weekly – for $22,515 gross – about $14,114.60.

On the city’s website, Crawford posted a message saying it was “an honor and privilege” to work for Madeira Beach since January of 2012.

Two Largo court petitions raise question of fairness in Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act

A pair of City of Largo court petitions raise questions on the fairness of the state’s Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Ronisha Ke’irra Scott, 24, is a St. Petersburg resident. An African-American woman, Scott lives in a 675-square-foot St. Petersburg home appraised by the county at $26,435, with a sales value of $31,900.

On June 1, Largo Police arrested Scott for running a stop sign and having “excessively tinted windows.” During the stop, officers allegedly found two dilaudid pain pills and a lit marijuana cigarette in her 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier.

Scott insisted neither the pills nor the joint were hers.

Before the June 1 incident, Pinellas County records show Scott’s only criminal charge had been in 2016 for misdemeanor retail theft.

Gary Stevens Sunday is a 47-year-old Clearwater resident. Sunday, a white male, owns a 1,336-square-foot home that the county appraises at $139,931, with a sales value of $172,600.

On the same day as Scott’s detention, Largo Police also arrested Sunday after allegedly finding methamphetamine in small baggies, a meth pipe, syringes, a safe, and a digital scale in his 2015 Kia Optima SX.

Sunday, like Scott, denied the items belonged to him. The arrest report does not explain why police stopped him.

Sunday was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. According to his arrest report, he is unemployed.

Online dockets show Stevens pleaded “not guilty” to the criminal charges.

A common interpretation of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act is that law enforcement can seize and permanently keep certain items that were an instrument of, or a product of, a crime. Defendants need not have been convicted of the crime, nor even be charged.

On June 9, the City of Largo filed separate court petitions in Pinellas County Circuit Court to seize the vehicle from each of two wildly different criminal suspects — Scott and Sunday.

The requests raise several issues about the fairness of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act.

If Sunday is accused of dealing in illegal drugs, the Act would seem reasonable — although some legal experts argue it is unfair to seize a defendant’s property unless (or until) he or she is charged and convicted of a crime.

On the other hand, Scott’s alleged crime was not dealing drugs, and her record shows no such offense in the past. In this case, seizing her vehicle might seem unnecessarily harsh, especially if Scott needs the vehicle to drive to work.

Taking Scott’s car could drive her further into poverty.

While an attorney is representing Sunday in his “not guilty” plea, online dockets show Scott has not yet filed a plea, nor does she have an attorney.

All this leads to one question: Is Largo’s attempted seizure of Scott’s car an appropriate, reasonable and legal application of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture law?

Madeira Beach to consider tentative deal with embattled city manager, clerk

Shane Crawford

Madeira Beach City Commissioners have reached a tentative agreement with the embattled city manager and city clerk allowing them to resign without firing.

The deal, which could cost the city more than $130,000, is up for consideration at a special meeting Monday evening.

Part of the agreements would have city manager Shane Crawford and his wife, Cheryl, who serves as city clerk, to stay on as consultants until the city finds their replacements.

According to the Tampa Bay Reporter, the package will cost Madeira Beach around $135,845, including $10,000 in attorney costs, ending a yearlong legal battle. The meeting, at 6 p.m. is open to the public.

The quarrel began over a proposal to build a multistory complex with a hotel, condominiums, restaurant and parking garage has blown into a full-scale battle between some residents and Madeira Beach officials.

As a result, Madeira Beach voted in March to choose Mayor Maggi Black and Commissioners John Douthirt and Nancy Oakley — who then voted to suspend Shane and Cheryl Crawford.

At the contentious meeting, City Clerk Cindy Crawford questioned the election, and called out the newly elected council members by saying they were “not worthy of her support.” The city manager had earlier questioned the validity of the election.

Former city attorney Tom Trask, the Reporter notes, had been negotiating the settlement between the Crawfords in the city.

Commissioners will consider terms of the proposed agreement, which include Shane Crawford waiving all legal claims against the city and the commission; he will also resign, effective at once.

If approved, Crawford will receive about $88,710 in gross pay — as well as 20 weeks’ severance pay — taking $50,643 after taxes. The city would continue paying into health and other insurance, making retirement payments during the next 20 weeks. Shane Crawford would receive $60,577 gross for his 20-week severance; about $20,597 for unpaid vacation; and about $2,537 in unused sick time.

A separate proposal would have Shane Crawford stay on as a consultant for four weeks — through July 16 — receiving $6,058 bi-weekly. After taxes, that would be $8,254.

As for Cheryl Crawford, the proposed agreement would allow her to resign, effective May 4, and give up any legal claim with the city of Madeira Beach and its officials.

Cheryl Crawford, at an annual salary of $65,042, would get six weeks’ severance — about $7,505 gross.

The commission is also scheduled to consider hiring Cheryl Crawford as a consultant to provide advice and support during the transition.

In the agreement, Cheryl Crawford would be retained as a consultant for 18 weeks, backdated to May 5, and continue through Sept. 7. She would receive $2,502 bi-weekly — for $22,515 gross — getting about $14,114.60.

The full proposal is available at

Lawyers to face off in hearing over ‘pre-reveal’ games

Lawyers for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and companies behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games—a name they apparently disdain—will appear Monday afternoon in a Tallahassee courtroom.

Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed to hear argument on why he should reconsider his previous ruling that the stand-alone consoles aren’t illegal slot machines. The devices in question use a specific software known as “Version 67.”

Source: Twitter

The machines—offered mostly at bars and taverns—look and play like a slot machine, Cooper had reasoned, but don’t fit the legal definition of gambling because the player always knows whether he or she is a winner or loser.

The Tribe has countered that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue.

The Tribe believes the machines are slots, which violates its exclusivity. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars” by entitling the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

Barry Richard, the Tribe’s outside attorney, has argued Cooper misunderstood the gameplay: “The player is not wagering for the already revealed outcome, but rather on the next outcome, which is unknown.”

Gator Coin II and Blue Sky Games, the concerns behind pre-reveal, disagree. They have complained in court filings that the state continues to go after the games through its Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT).

“Customers fear legal repercussions (and) most have decided not to offer the game, fearing (the department’s) wrath,” their filing said, referring to ABT’s “confusing and heavy-handed tactics.” They include threats of criminal prosecution and loss of liquor licenses, according to the motion.

But the state’s filing notes that the machines “operate upon the insertion of money and award prizes through the element of chance.”

A Twitter account called @RealBlueSkyGame has photos of banners advertising the devices as the “only Florida court approved no chance game,” adding that they offer a “cash payout.”

“We don’t violate anything and they know it,” says one tweet. “We are winning!!! They are wrong, so sad.”

Another tweet from that account responded to a post last week, saying, “They are not pre-reveal anything. They are no chance games. Get the terminology correct.”

Matt Gaetz to honor local hero who saved toddler in automobile crash

Pellicano with Kaysin’s family (Photo via

North Florida Republican Matt Gaetz will honor a local sailor who saved the life of a child involved in an automobile accident.

Gaetz, who represents Florida’s 1st Congressional District, will give special recognition in a ceremony Monday for Petty Officer First Class Joseph Pellicano of Pace, a city in Santa Rosa County.

On Jan. 16, Pellicano was on his way to work at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field near Milton, when he passed a car accident and noticed a woman, Rebekah Willis, bloodied from the crash.

Before first responders could arrive, Pellicano stopped and rendered aid to the woman, discovering her child, 17-month-old Kaysin Willis, was also bloodied and showed no vital signs. Pellicano immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation and successfully revived the child.

According to, the child was transported to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital and admitted to the infant/toddler intensive care; he was diagnosed with a fractured leg, internal bleeding and severe brain swelling from a traumatic brain injury.

The youth was placed into an induced coma to produce necessary healing.

Since then, the child has made a full recovery.

Gaetz plans to recognize Pellicano for “courageous and noble actions” during a ceremony at 3 p.m. in the board chambers of Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building at 221 Palafox Place in Pensacola.

Immediately before the ceremony, Gaetz and Escambia County commissioners will hold a special board meeting on the OLFX land exchange.

In 2015, Escambia County entered into a land exchange agreement with the United States Navy Department, with the county agreeing to construct a new outlying land field in Santa Rosa County, in exchange for an existing OLF in the county, which would then be developed into a commerce park to create new jobs.


Email insights: Gwen Graham shares her dad’s lessons of inspiration, political courage

Father’s Day is a time where kids (of all ages) honor the leading man in their lives; devoted dads who provide inspiration and love.

Gwen Graham knows a thing or two about inspirational fathers; her dad is former Governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham – a North Florida political legend beloved by many.

For Gwen, Bob Graham – pulling double duty as a father and Florida’s Governor – was a constant lesson in courage and encouragement.

“The example he set for me, as his daughter, about problem-solving and cooperation in politics are lessons I carry with me to this day,” Gwen writes. “Perhaps the most important thing I learned from him was to have courage in the face of politics.”

Graham – who is seeking her father’s old job as Florida Governor – says the state could use more “Bob Graham-style governing” as he was a progressive champion “before it was popular.”

“He stood up for our progressive values: like advancing women’s rights, protecting our environment, and he had the courage to oppose the war in Iraq,” she writes. “Dad always did what was right for Florida, regardless of the politics.”

Gwen also knows the value of sticking to your political guns: “I was attacked by lobbyists and special interests when I supported President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to shut down and clean up coal-fired power plants.”

Facing a potentially grueling statewide campaign, having the courage of conviction – and a supportive father who knows the ropes – is undoubtedly valuable.

And as she seeks her own legacy as a prospective governor, having a daughter such as Gwen, Bob Graham is indeed blessed this Father’s Day.

Email insights: For Andrew Gillum, Father’s Day (and being Governor) is about children ‘doing well’

For Father’s Day, Andrew Gillum believes a Florida Governor’s primary focus should be children.

In an email to supporters, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee and father of three (including a one-month-old newborn) talks of the Maasai Tribe of East Africa, who “greet each other a little differently” than we do in America.

Traditional greeting for the Maasai is not about the self, but: “How are the children?”

Their ideal answer? The children are “doing well.”

“And I think that’s what we should be striving for here in Florida,” Gillum writes. “All of us want to give our kids better opportunities to grow and thrive in our communities.

As a father to “three incredible children,” Gillum is grateful that he and his wife R. Jai are “able to provide them with opportunities that I never dreamed” while growing up.

“I’m thankful that when I’m asked how my children are doing,” he says, “I can honestly say they’re doing well.”

But in Florida, Gillum says it is not always the case.

“If we were to look ourselves in the mirror today,” he writes, “we would have to admit that, as a whole, the children of Florida are not well.”

From persistent poverty, debt, unaffordable health care and a state that has “shifted resources from our public schools to private corporations,” children – and families – are far from “doing well,” Gillum says.

As Governor, Gillum vows to reinvest in public schools, affordable health care, and work to have Florida businesses offer workers a living wage.

“My goal is to be able to honestly answer that question – ‘How are the children?’ – with ‘They are doing well.’ – in every county and every corner of this state,” he says.

But running for Governor takes a little more than just being a good dad (while it doesn’t hurt).

With that, what Gillum really wants for Father’s Day is your support (and donations) to help him get there.

Rick Baker’s June 28 fundraiser much closer to home, St. Pete Yacht Club

After hosting a recent high-profile Republican reception in Clearwater Beach, Rick Baker’s next event in his bid to return to City Hall will be much closer to home.

The former two-term St. Petersburg Mayor will be holding a fundraiser Wednesday, June 28, at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club in the city’s downtown waterfront. The event, with a suggested contribution of $250, begins at 6 p.m.

Baker, a Republican who served from 2001-2010, is seeking a third term. He faces incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Among the host committee are St. Pete City Councilmember Ed Montanari, St. Petersburg College trustee Deveron Gibbons, Republican political strategist Matt Lettellier, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Chair Greg Holden and developer Blake Thompson.

The St. Pete Yacht Club is at 11 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. For more information or RSVP, contact Gretchen Picotte at (407) 849-1112 or


City to award CRA grants for South St. Pete redevelopment

St. Petersburg will be awarding $534,000 in grants to help support private investment in the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA).

Through 5 p.m. today, the City is taking requests for the 2017 community redevelopment funds approved by the City Council, budgeted at nearly $412,000 for commercial grants and about $122,000 for housing and neighborhood revitalization with a focus on multifamily residential properties.

Applications must be delivered to the ninth floor of the Municipal Services Building, located at One Fourth Street North in downtown St. Petersburg.

Created in 2015, CRA Grant Program is part of the city’s 30-year revitalization plan for South St. Pete – roughly the area bordered by Fourth Street and 49th Street, from Second Avenue N. to 30th Avenue.

Information on the City’s grant programs and applications for the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area are available at

People who cannot apply for a CRA Grant include individuals with a felony conviction for financial mismanagement within the past five years. All applicants must provide information for the city to perform a criminal background check. That information must be delivered to the Planning and Economic Development Department (same location as the application) by 5 p.m. Friday, June 23. Failure to do so will result in an administrative denial.

In May, the City Council also approved CRA bonus awards for applicants meeting one of three criteria: Those using certified contractors with the city’s Small Business Enterprise program; providing commercial space for a user in the following targeted industries: Marine and Life Sciences, Financial Services, Data Analytics, Specialized Manufacturing and Creative Arts and Design or creating and/or retaining jobs and hiring CRA residents.

Rick Kriseman heads to Tampa next week for re-election fundraiser

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman hits the other side of Tampa Bay next week for a fundraiser in his re-election effort, joined by some of Tampa’s leading Democrats, including fellow Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Hosted by attorneys Ron Christaldi and Patrick Baskette, the event is Tuesday, June 20, beginning 5:30 p.m. at the offices of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, 101 E Kennedy Blvd., Suite 2800 in Tampa.

In addition to Buckhorn, event chairs include Tampa City Council members Luis Viera, Harry Cohen, Yolie Capin and Mike Suarez, as well as Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and former state Senator and President of the University of South Florida Betty Castor and her husband, former state Rep. Sam Bell, founder of the USF College of Public Health.

Also heading the reception include Justin Day, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, Lee and Tracy Gunn, Jim Shimberg, and Gary and David Moskovitz.

According to the invite, the fundraiser will “celebrate the achievements of the last three years and the opportunity for continued progress in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay.”

Kriseman, who officially qualified Thursday to run for re-election, faces former two-term St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who also has traveled outside city limits to raise funds, most recently with an event in Clearwater Beach.

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