Phil Ammann - 4/381 - 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 HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, 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 phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

Former Tampa councilmember Helen Chavez died from misdiagnosis, daughter claims

A medical misdiagnosis and drug interaction caused the death of a former Tampa City Council member, her daughter claims in a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County.

Republican Helen Pappas Chavez, a fine-dining restaurateur, served on the Tampa City Council from 1979 to 1987. She stepped down from the Council in 1987 to run for mayor, later losing to Sandy Freedman.

Her restaurants included Chavez at the Royal, Chavez Windows on the Park and the Tea Room in Old Hyde Park.

Chavez died Aug. 2, 2014, at age 89, leaving behind three daughters, one of which told the Tampa Bay Times that she died of organ failure.

Denise Elaine Chavez, 69, is one of Helen Chavez’s daughters; she also became a restaurateur and ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2007. Chavez currently operates Chavez at Home, a catering company.

About a week before she died, Helen Chavez went the office of Dr. Christine Hyatt Torres of GMS Bayside Physicians, complaining of a swollen lip. Chavez had been on Ramipril, a drug blood-pressure and congestive-heart-failure drug; swelling is listed on drugs.com as one side effects of the drug.

According to a suit filed Jan. 31 by Denise Chavez, on behalf of the estate of Helen Chavez, Torres allegedly misdiagnosed the problem as a food allergy and prescribed Benadryl.

That day, Chavez was admitted to the emergency room, dying days later from congestive heart failure.

Denise Chavez claims the defendants – Torres, Physician Assistant Kimberly Gore and GMS Florida West Coast Inc., doing business as GMS Bayside Physicians — should have known the swelling was a side effect of Ramipril, and should have told Helen Chavez to discontinue taking the drug.

The suit also blames the defendants for discharging Chavez without referring her to a specialist first.

Denise Chavez is demanding a jury trial, and is seeking costs for hospitalization, medical care and treatment, as well as death expenses, costs, and loss of income or business interests for both Helen and Denise.

Although Torres appears on the GMS Florida website, state records show her medical license was delinquent as of Feb. 6.

GMS operates three locations in Tampa: 3043 W. Cleveland Street, 508 S. Habana Avenue, and 4278 W. Linebaugh Avenue.

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Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber ready to fight for VISIT FLORIDA

For beaches in the Tampa Bay region, tourism matters.

That’s why the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to fight, calling its members Tuesday to push back against proposed legislation to shut down VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism arm.

Last week, House leadership introduced committee bill (PCB CCS 17-01) to kill both VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida, the state’s job incentive program.

As part of the $83.5 billion “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget for 2017-18, Gov. Rick Scott is proposing $76 million for Visit Florida, the agency tasked with marketing Florida to domestic and international visitors. Nevertheless, House leaders have threatened to pull funding after some questionable deals with racing car teams, British soccer teams and Miami-based pop star Pitbull.

But the Chamber sees VISIT FLORIDA as a vital tool to bring tourists to region’s beaches.

“VISIT FLORIDA is essential in bringing visitors to our state who generate 23 percent of our sales tax revenue, create over 1.4 million jobs, support small business and boost our local economy with $108.8 billion in economic impact,” the Chamber statement says. “It is critical to renew the focus on the value of marketing the Sunshine State.”

The Chamber wants all industry members to contact legislators and “remind them of the benefits tourism generates and how VISIT FLORIDA helps small businesses and communities reach new markets that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to capitalize on.”

The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee is set to take up the bill Wednesday at 1 p.m. in the State Capitol, Knott Building, Room 212.

For further steps to help save VISIT FLORIDA – with letter templates, talking points and contact information — is at tampabaybeaches.com.

 

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Barclay Harless nabs first union endorsement in St. Pete City Council bid

Barclay Harless nabbed the first union endorsement in his bid for St. Petersburg City Council.

The 31-year-old St. Petersburg banking executive, received support Monday of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 123.

Harless is running for the District 2 seat, which covers most of Northeast St. Petersburg and is now held by term-limited Jim Kennedy.

“The Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 123 are committed to quality and excellence in their craftsmanship, and believe in Barclay Harless’ vision and unique, fresh perspective to get things done in city hall,” says a union statement.

Since his first week after filing for the race, Harless announced more than 100 individual donors in a campaign that is beginning to build momentum, with a broad coalition of support.

Harless, a graduate of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, is an assistant bank officer at Bank of the Ozarks. Before that, he was a legislative aide to then-state Rep. Darryl Rouson. Harless also worked on Alex Sink’s 2014 campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Possessing a record of community activism, Harless also served as state policy chair for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and held a role on the Pinellas Charter Review, which helped craft an amendment that requires citizen input in future county commission redistricting.

So far, Harless will face Brandi Gabbard, a former president of the Pinellas Realtor Organization.

Information on Harless and his candidacy are at voteharless.com.

Primaries for the City of St. Petersburg mayoral race are Aug. 29; general election at-large voting is Nov. 7.

 

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World of Beer files suit over closed, rebranded Bradenton franchise

A Tampa-based chain of taverns is disputing its Bradenton franchise, which closed and rebranded without due notice or an opportunity for the parent company to buy back the business.

World of Beer is a group of brewpubs founded in part by Paul Avery and Ben Novello, two veterans of the Outback Steakhouse chain.

In 2009, the first World of Beer opened at the address in question, 8217 Tourist Center Dr. in Bradenton. Three years later, SRQBeer secured World of Beer franchise rights. SRQBeer is co-owned by Dean Lambert and Dr. Mark Broderick. World of Beer is currently headquartered at 10910 Sheldon Rd. in Tampa.

On Jan 19, 2017, SRQBeer notified World of Beer Franchising — the plaintiff in the suit — it would be closing that Bradenton location.

A day later, World of Beer representatives learned through articles in both the Bradenton Herald and Sarasota Herald-Tribune that SRQBeer agreed to let Jeremy “JDub” Joerger reopen the site almost immediately as a JDub’s Dub Shack.

JDub’s Brewing is a Sarasota-based brewery, named after Joerger, which, according to a Facebook post, opened Jan. 27 in the former World of Beer location. JDub’s is at 1215 Mango Ave. in Sarasota.

World of Beer filed an action in Hillsborough County Circuit Court asking the court to block the move. In the suit first filed Jan 27, it says SRQBeer breached its franchise contract by closing the tavern, failing to give World of Beer the right of first refusal to either buy or assign it.

In a January 31 court order, Judge Steven Scott Stephens scheduled a hearing on World of Beer’s “Emergency Amended Ex Parte Motion for Temporary Injunction” request for 9:30 a.m. February 10.

The Herald-Tribune also reported on a separate Bradenton World of Beer location at 497 Cortez Road W, which opened in 2015 and recently closed.

 

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Mentally-incompetent inmate sues Tampa caseworker, facility for $6M claiming forced sexual relationship, extortion

Bobby Lewis Curry Jr.

A Tampa man with a long criminal history, who had been found incompetent due to mental illness, is suing staff at an inpatient facility for extortion by way of a forced sexual relationship.

Bobby Lewis Curry Jr., 47, is currently serving a 5-year sentence at Calhoun Correctional Institution in Blountstown for burglary, grand theft, extortion and other incidents from 2012.

Curry has an extensive criminal arrest record in Hillsborough County, among which are aggravated battery on a pregnant female, burglary, domestic violence, dealing in stolen property, and grand theft. Police reports also show Curry burglarized several businesses, as well as extorting nearly $90,000 from a burglary victim by revealing illegally obtained “private client information.” He had previously been in prison sentences for similar crimes.

A 2000 St. Petersburg Times article reports Curry was charged with threatening to have a Hillsborough judge killed: “Curry used a pay phone … to call 911 and told the operator he was going to withdraw $50,000 from his bank account to place a hit on the judge.”

In April 2013, Judge Kimberly K. Fernandez declared Curry incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness. She ordered Curry to receive competency-related treatment at Gracepoint, a nonprofit Tampa inpatient facility at 3107 N. 50th St.

Gracepoint, headquartered at 5707 N. 22nd St. In Tampa, provides inpatient and outpatient care to people with mental illness and suffering from substance abuse, among others.

At Gracepoint, Curry was allegedly forced into a sexual relationship by case manager Ruth Rodriguez, exploiting his mental illness and threatening to send him back to prison. Curry claims he had been a victim of sexual abuse all his life.

After Curry was released from Gracepoint, he accuses Rodriguez of forcing him to continue the sexual relationship or risk his probation status. When he filed a complaint — including an accusation that Rodriguez concealed an HIV-positive status — investigators purportedly substantiated some of the claims. Gracepoint then fired Rodriguez.

A lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court Jan. 23, handwritten and without the help of an attorney, Curry says the sexual relationship caused “severe emotional damage,” and blames Gracepoint of covering up his sexual relationship with Rodriguez, which he says began while he was a resident, not afterward.

Curry’s lawsuit accuses Lauren Mayhugh Cohn — who had at one time served as director of continuous quality improvement at Gracepoint — of falsely claiming that the relationship with Rodriguez began only after he left the inpatient care facility. Curry is suggesting Cohen knew the sexual relationship began earlier and is lying to protect Gracepoint from liability. He also accuses Tonya Wilson, Rodriguez’s longtime friend and colleague, of threatening to expel Curry from Gracepoint if he reported the abuse.

Among other claims, Curry says Rodriguez frequently required him to perform oral sex in her office, and at least once saying he was: “Crazy in the head, good in the bed.”

Curry is asking more than $6-million in regular and punitive damages. His scheduled release date from prison his April 5, 2018.

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South Pasadena holding commission candidate forum Wednesday

Contenders for two South Pasadena City Commission seats will appear at a meet-the-candidates forum Wednesday.

Moderated by the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area, the event will be held 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. at the commission chambers in South Pasadena City Hall, 7047 Sunset Drive S.

The forum will also be simulcast on the city’s cable channel 643.

Dan Calabria, Gigi Esposito and David Magenheimer are running for a pair of open seats on the commission, the two top vote-getters will win the spot. Commissioners Bruce Howry and Arthur Penny have decided not to run for re-election.

Calabria is a former mayor, first elected in 2013, who once faced a removal vote in 2015 for alleged “belligerence” and his behavior with the city clerk another female staff members. Commissioners tabled the recall vote that March.

Magenheimer is an insurance audit consultant in St. Petersburg.

South Pasadena, which has a commission form of government, elects five at-large commission members for three-year terms, one selected as mayor.

The last day for registration is Feb. 13; municipal elections are March 14.

More information on South Pasadena and its government are at mysouthpasadena.com.

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St. Pete Chamber releases legislative wish list for 2017 Session

As Tallahassee gears up for the annual 60-day Legislative Session, now a month away, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce outlines its agenda for 2017.

Among the leading matters for the Chamber are transportation, the unification of PSTA-HART, tourism, and state regulation of vehicles for hire — including a bill (SB 340) from state Sen. Jeff Brandes setting rules to promote the growth of transportation network companies (TNC) such as Uber and Lyft.

However, at the top of the wish list is a call for greater diversity, with the Chamber supporting the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (HB 623 and SB 666) two measures would seek to create statewide anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Business leaders say the Act will help ensure St. Petersburg and Florida attract the best, brightest and most creative workers.

Among economic development issues, St. Petersburg business leaders are asking lawmakers to approve $3 million for the Pinellas Center for Innovation for a series of improvements in addition to the creation of a state-of-the-art 40,000-square-foot enterprise incubator facility. For the growing Warehouse Arts District, the Chamber asks $500,000 in state funds go to renovate six storage buildings, which would seek to revitalize nearly 3 acres of blighted property.

The Chamber also wants to keep Enterprise Florida – as is or with some modifications — the state’s quasi-governmental business recruitment agency, as well as VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism arm. For every dollar spent through VISIT FLORIDA, the Chamber says, returns $3.20 in tax revenue for Pinellas County – tourism being one of the area’s most critical sectors.

Nevertheless, Enterprise Florida is in the crosshairs of state legislators, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has recently referred to such state-run incentive programs as “de facto socialism.” Gov. Rick Scott, a staunch proponent of Enterprise Florida, sees it as a valuable tool in attracting business growth and jobs to the state.

As for education, the Chamber gives thumbs-up to several local proposals, including $10 million For the St. Petersburg College Student Success Center, and $2.5 million for “STEM academic programming” to prepare the region’s workforce for increasing demands in health care, science, and technology. Also on the list is early learning performance and voluntary prekindergarten (VPK), which the Chamber asks to be boosted by at least $50 per student.

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg gets a pair of requests, with $1.5 million for the USF College of Marine Science Coastal Ocean Initiative to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and provide three years of operations and maintenance costs. There’s also $2 million for the USF College of Marine Science Biogeochemical Laboratory Renovation, to “enhance long-term studies of the Gulf of Mexico oil spills.” Investments in these “shovel ready” projects would have an impact beyond the school campus, the Chamber says, by improving the region’s ability to compete for federal research funds to the benefit of the St. Petersburg “marine science cluster,” which provides a regional economic impact estimated at $100 million.

Trauma centers once again on the legislative radar in 2017. The Chamber is calling for legislators to reject a proposal for the Florida Department of Health to change the language to permit a “minimum” number of trauma centers a given district.

Decrying the “fragmented and underfunded” behavioral health system, chamber leaders asks Tallahassee to continue reforms passed in 2016, and uses much money is available in the state budget to expand treatment for mental health and substance abuse. They also support protecting the $450 million lawmakers have used to offset the reduction in the federal Low Income Pool, which is “vital that the existing general revenue be maintained in the Medicaid budget.”

St. Petersburg’s infrastructure woes – highlighted by last year’s city wastewater leaks into Tampa Bay – should get some attention in the 2017-18 budget.

The Chamber asks lawmakers to pass the funding request from South Pasadena Republican Kathleen Peters (HB 2005) for $3 million to smoke test the city’s sewer pipes for leaks, remodel lateral clean-outs with removable plugs, and install and seal manholes.

Flood management, another significant issue facing both St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, is the subject of two bills (SB 112 and HB 613) that will have the Division of Emergency Management set up a matching grant program to provide up to $50 million for flood risk reduction policies and projects.

Tax cuts, another big topic for Scott in 2017, is also on the chamber agenda, with support for the governor’s call to reduce taxes on commercial rent. The group is requesting additional reform of the state’s workers’ compensation system to address rising cost of attorney’s fees and rate increases without jeopardizing employee access to workers’ comp.

The chamber also opposes any efforts to prohibit a professional sports franchise from leasing public land to build stadiums or renovate stadiums already on public lands. The legislature is also looking at two bills (HB 77SB 122) which require any public land use to build a stadium be to be sold at fair market value.

 

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Making your Super Bowl party a touchdown with ‘Fresh From Florida’ recipes

On Super Bowl Sunday, fans can beat the spread – of waistlines – with healthy and flavorful recipes and a touch(down) of Florida freshness.

For a fun and healthy Super Bowl Sunday, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is offering four quick and easy meals and snacks to prepare just before kickoff.

Each dish features delicious seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables produced here in the Sunshine State. Many of the products come with the “Fresh From Florida” label available at local grocery stores, helping everyone be ready for the big game.

“If you’re looking for a few quick and simple recipes for Sunday’s big game, these ‘Fresh From Florida’ recipes are real winners, and they feature produce grown by Florida’s farmers and seafood caught in Florida’s waters,” Putnam says.

Here is this year’s “Fresh From Florida” lineup:

Florida Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salsa

Sweet Corn and Black Bean Enchiladas

 

Florida Pink Shrimp Boil

Taco-Stuffed Florida Bell Peppers

To learn which Florida crops are in season, browse recipes and learn more about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.

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Pilot blames Gatorade heiress for ‘vicious’ dog bite

A young pilot is suing the wife of a Gatorade founder, whose dog bit him while at an airport in Tampa. The bites, he claims, sent him to the hospital.

On Nov. 21, 2015, pilot Timothy Fonseca was at the Tampa Executive Airport when he claims a German Boxer named Porsha — owned by Graciela Margarita de Quesada of Odessa — “viciously attacked” him without provocation. The bite caused puncture wounds severe enough that Fonseca was forced to go to the hospital.

Quesada, 72, is married to Dr. Alejandro de Quesada, a Cuban immigrant who was one of the four doctors credited with inventing — and becoming very wealthy from — Gatorade sports drink.

The couple lives in a 7,895-square-foot home on the edge of Lake Keystone, appraised by the county at $2.4-million.

Fonseca, 22, is president and founder of Millenial Wings, advertised as America’s only aviation club “run by young adults, for young adults.” He founded the group while attending Florida Atlantic University.

According to his Facebook page, Fonseca lives in Portugal and currently works at Eastern Air Express.

After the incident, Hillsborough County animal control officers issued Graciela de Quesada a “vicious dog” citation and fined $520. The citation said the dog was being fed when Fonseca walked by.

Although the dog bit Fonseca’s left hand, the report raises the possibility that he was reaching out to pet the animal. Charges against Quesada were later dismissed.

Tampa Executive Airport, at 6530 Tampa Executive Airport Road, offers private air-travel services. The airport is managed by Skyport Aviation, located at 6582 Eureka Springs Road in Tampa. Records also show another address for Skyport at 1519 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N in St. Petersburg.

Tampa Executive Airport is part of a network of facilities under the umbrella of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

In a complaint filed Jan. 25, 2017, in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Fonseca is seeking damages against Quesada (as the dog’s owner), and against airport manager Skyport.

 

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Paramedic says Tarpon Springs hospital retaliated after reporting ‘rampant’ drug problem

A Pasco County paramedic is claiming a Tarpon hospital illegally fired him after he reported one of the nurses had a narcotic problem.

Holiday resident Manuel Michael Oliveira Jr., 45, says he was a paramedic – with an “excellent” record –  at Florida Hospital North Pinellas in Tarpon Springs. While there, he observed a “popular” nurse steal non-prescription narcotics. Oliveira claims he saw the nurse injecting herself with the drugs in a restroom.

Narcotics use is rampant in the hospital’s emergency department, Oliveira says, so much so that the department’s director, identified as Jennifer Segur, told him instituting a random drug test could cost half of its staff.

However, only four hours after Oliveira reported the nurse’s drug use to the nursing supervisor January 8, 2016, he was fired for “pretextual reasons.”

Afterward, Oliveira says the hospital staff retaliated when he applied for jobs with East Lake Fire Rescue and the Tarpon Springs Police Department by falsely claiming he was involved in the narcotics theft. Neither agency would hire him.

In a lawsuit filed January 24, 2017, in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Oliveira is seeking damages for defamation and protection under Florida’s whistleblower law.

Oliveira says the false statements negatively impacted his character, cost his employment and caused him to be “subjected to ridicule or disdain, and injured his reputation.”

After his firing, Pasco court records show that Oliveira had several brushes with the law. He was charged with domestic battery by strangulation in April 2016, and in December 2016, he was charged with battery on a law-enforcement officer.

Records also show that Oliveira’s license expired Dec. 1, 2016, and he is currently listed as “involuntary/inactive.”

 

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