Phil Ammann - 5/380 - 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.

‘Top 1%’ attorney busted for DUI in Pasco, challenges license suspension on procedural errors

Matthew Mayne Donaldson, 50, is a lawyer with Carlson, Meissner Hart & Hayslett, serving as lead attorney in the firm’s Spring Hill office.

On Oct. 29, 2016, Donaldson was returning from his son’s football game when a Pasco County deputy purportedly saw the attorney’s 2007 Toyota Tundra cross lanes and nearly collide with four or five oncoming vehicles — including a U.S. Postal Service vehicle — before swerving off the road.

After failing sobriety exercises and declining a breath-alcohol test, Donaldson was arrested near 5399 Starkey Blvd. in New Port Richey. The arrest triggered an automatic 18-month driver’s license suspension.

A suit was filed In Pinellas County Dec. 30 by Matthew W. Kindel, one of the Carlson & Meissner law partners, Donaldson claims the suspension should be reversed due to procedural errors made by police and by a hearing officer for the Florida Department of Highway Safety’s hearing officer.

According to his Carlson & Meissner bio, Donaldson, born in Ney York and raised in New Port Richey, graduated with honors from the University of Miami Law School, was is rated among the nation’s top 1 percent of attorneys in 2015 by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel. It says Martindale.com calls him “AV Rated,” the highest ranking for ability and ethics.

However, Donaldson’s Martindale page does not include the AV rating, but does show a client rating of five out of five.

Donaldson is married to Elizabeth Maxcy Donaldson; they have five children.

This is not Donaldson’s first DUI arrest. He was arrested in Pinellas County in 1995 for DUI, reckless driving and unlawful speed. Records also show he attended DUI school in Palm Beach County in 1994, possibly indicating another DUI incident.

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Cuban Club, insurer face-off over $1.9M water damage claim

A Texas insurer is taking Ybor City’s venerable Cuban Club to court over the disposition of a nearly $2 million insurance claim dating back to 2014.

Built in 1917, the Cuban Club is the successor to the original clubhouse of “El Circulo Cubano,” a mutual-aid society originally created as a gathering place for Cuban immigrant cigar workers.

In Oct. 2014, Cuban Club Foundation Inc., doing business as Cuban Club, filed an insurance claim with United Specialty Insurance Company to cover water damage and a partial collapse of the ceiling. United Specialty is a subsidiary of State National Companies Inc., a publicly-traded insurer in Bedford, Texas.

Two years later, the Club alerted United that the incident had resulted in losses of nearly $1.9-million. United rejected the amount of the claim and the scope of the loss. At that point, both sides sought independent appraisers, but neither party could agree on an “impartial umpire.”

Now, United is asking the court to choose an umpire.

“This is an action seeking court appointment of a Neutral Umpire in connection with an ongoing appraisal pursuant to the terms and conditions of a commercial property insurance policy,” says the complaint, filed Jan. 17 in Hillsborough County’s 13th Judicial Circuit Court.

United’s complaint described the damage sustained by the Cuban Club as “a result of long-term moisture exposure.” The Cuban Club is at 2010 E Avenida Republica de Cuba in Tampa.

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Barclay Harless to kickoff St. Pete City Council bid with Jan. 31 fundraiser

Barclay Harless is starting 2017 with a bang.

The 31-year-old St. Petersburg banking executive, after launching a bid for City Council District 2 Monday, announced his first fundraiser for next week.

The event is Tuesday, Jan. 31 and begins 5:30 p.m. at Ricky P’s, 11002 4th St. N in St. Petersburg. Harless is seeking the seat covering most of Northeast St. Petersburg now held by term-limited Jim Kennedy. He is the first candidate to announce in the race.

“I want to thank you for the overwhelming support we are receiving,” Harless said in the email invite. “It is important we have a strong showing in our first week and I am cordially inviting you to my campaign kickoff!”

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

With a long list community activism, Harless served as state policy chair for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and held a seat on the Pinellas Charter Review, where he helped draft an amendment requiring citizen input for future county commission redistricting.

“We will not find solutions in finger-pointing or empty political rhetoric,” Harless said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “Rather, our problems require bold, decisive action to get things done.”

RSVPs and registration for the event are available online; more information on Harless and his candidacy is at voteharless.com.

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

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Poker championship winners accuse Tampa Bay Downs of running Ponzi scheme

John Ott

John Ott, a Tampa resident and district sales manager at Performance Foodservice, is also a professional poker player. Tampa Bay Downs, which began as a horse track for gamblers, now offers poker in its Silks Poker Room.

Ott considers Silks as his “home” club.

For years, Silks was one of the clubs across the U.S. holding tournaments for the Player’s Poker Championship, a Pompano Beach-based poker tour. The Silks competition was intended to be a “feeder” event, leading to the PPC Poker Tour finals in Aruba.

In November 2016, a group of players – Ott; Stephen Deutsch of Baltimore; James Beadnell of Ohio; Michael Lerner of Maryland; and Joan Sandoval from Wisconsin — won five of the top six prizes at the 2016 PPC Main Event finals, an amount well over $300,000.

Ott finished in sixth place at the event, held at the Hilton Aruba Resort Casino & Spa, for $32,085.

Instead of paying out full cash awards, however, Ott and the others say PPC gave them each $10,000, promising a share of future cash until for the rest. They refused, and now are claiming they are owed just under $300,000.

Ott says he is still owed $32,085.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 17 in Hillsborough County, the plaintiffs say Tampa Bay Downs joined PPC to promote what they claim is a fraudulent Ponzi scheme where future payoffs are used to pay past winners.

They are asking Tampa Bay Downs, whose president is Stella Thayer, to make them whole.

Thayer, who has been with Tampa Bay Downs for more than 50 years, was named one of 2016’s most influential women in Tampa Bay area sports. Her brother, Howell Ferguson, serves as vice president.

The suit argues that the PPC Main Event in Aruba is “largely operated by” Tampa Bay Downs, sending poker dealers, a floor supervisor, and Silks director Patrick Murphy to work the annual championship event. Murphy, it continues, is alleged to be a co-owner of the poker room used for the tournament.

The Hillsborough County action is intended to be a companion to a similar suit filed Jan. 3 in Maryland against PPC and its principals, Bryan Oulton and Thomas “Sandy” Swartzbaugh. Plaintiffs decided on a Florida suit because Tampa Bay Downs does no business in Maryland.

 

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Seminole tae kwon do instructor in jail for child molestation faces first lawsuit

Andrew Jin Kim

A tae kwon do instructor accused in 2016 of multiple child molestations over a period of years faces his first lawsuit in Pinellas County Circuit Court.

In early 2016, Andrew Jin Kim, an instructor at Oh’s Taekwondo in Seminole, was arrested and charged with molesting two female students, aged 6 and 7.

Shortly after, WFLA reported that a third child came forward to accuse Kim, now 24, of molestation.

Detectives said, Kim, a native of Illinois, worked at the dojo from 2012 to August 2015.

Myung K. Oh and his wife, Myung J. Oh, are listed in tax records as owners of the property on which Oh’s is located, 7520 Seminole Blvd. in Seminole. At least one news article about the alleged molestation identified the dojo’s owner as Richard Oh — possibly Myung K. Oh is the same person.

“I am very sorry for the victims and the families. I am truly sorry for what happened,” Richard Oh told the Tampa Bay Times. “We teach students to defend themselves from people like (Kim). He got caught, and I’m glad he got caught.”

In the first lawsuit emerging in the case, filed Dec. 29 in Pinellas County, Sakha Temeka Reed, a 40-year-old St. Petersburg resident, claims that over a three-year period, Andrew Kim “continually sexually abused and molested” her minor child, listed as “John Doe.” The molestation left the child — which is alternately referred to as “John Doe” and as “her” — with severe psychological injuries.

Reed is accusing Oh’s of negligence in its hiring, training, and supervision of Kim.

The Tampa Bay Times article said when confronted, Kim “admitted to the allegations and was arrested,” although court documents do not give a clear indication why there will be a trial. He remains in Pinellas County Jail.

The first three charges against Kim were filed in February 2016, and two additional charges were filed in April 2016 — which could bring the number of alleged molestation victims to as many as five.

About three weeks before his arrest, court documents show Kim married Laura Marcela Leal Correa. She filed for divorce in June 2016.

In an unrelated incident, Myung J. Oh sought a restraining order in March 2016 against her son, James Oh. The mother accused the son of robbing her multiple times, threatening her and other family members, firing a gun in the house, threatening suicide, and saying he was addicted to drugs and alcohol.

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Attorney suing Clearwater dealership over warranty has former identity, darker past

Lawyer Chloe Jay Roberts, formerly known as Jennifer Ann Latham

Lawyer Chloe Jay Roberts, while suing a Pinellas County dealership for failing to honor a warranty, has revealed a former identity with a somewhat darker past.

Roberts, 38, is a Miami-based attorney and graduate of the University of Tampa and Stetson University College of Law.

In August 2015, Roberts bought a 2006 BMW 325i from Elite Car Sales for about $12,500, after the dealership had allegedly promised any future engine problems would be covered under warranty.

Elite is a Clearwater used-car dealership at 18400 U.S. Hwy 19 N managed by Panayiotis Vasiloudes.

But in a suit filed Jan. 6 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Roberts claims that repeated problems with both the engine and windshield wipers left her stranded on the roadside several times. She adds that Elite refused to cover repairs unless Roberts drove the car to the dealership — “hundreds of miles” away.

Attempted repairs were unsuccessful, and Roberts says she experienced uncomfortable “rapacious stares” by dealership owners, who called her “beautiful” and asked her on dates.

Roberts is seeking damages for breach of contract.

As a primary attorney at the Roberts & Associates law firm, Roberts’ practice specializes in “victims of sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile work environments, domestic violence, date rape and sex trafficking.”

With over 10 years’ litigation experience, Roberts says she has “a winning trial record, and have settled millions on behalf of my clients.”

According to her Roberts & Associates bio, Roberts is an active volunteer attorney with Bay Area Legal Services and has served on a variety of nonprofit boards, including the PACE Center for Girls. After graduating from Stetson, she “gained courtroom experience in the Legal Division of the Bureau of ATF where I assisted in getting ‘The Radisson Hotel Killer’, Nely Rodriguez, sentenced to prison for life.”

A Miami native, Roberts appears to have had spent a good amount of her career in Tampa.

In November 2016, she penned “The Issue With Confidential Sexual Harassment Settlements.” On top of her legal work, Roberts wrote a play — Rendezvous La Petite Morte — performed in 2014 at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.

Although she has become an accomplished attorney and author, Roberts also has a previous history under another name.

In January 2016, she was arrested in Tampa for DUI, with a police report showing she is also known as Jennifer Ann Latham.

Highlands County court records show that in late 2011, Latham changed her name to “Chloe Jay Roberts.” Before the name change, Latham was arrested twice for domestic violence — 2003 in Hillsborough and 2010 in Highlands County — as well as in 2004 for trespassing in Hillsborough. She was also cited for careless driving in Hillsborough in 2007; in 2009, Latham was ticketed in Highlands for driving with a suspended license.

For her 2016 DUI arrest, the “permanent” address Roberts gave police was 4526 Granada Ave. in Sebring. However, Highlands County records show that address is a mobile home belonging to Nellie M. Latham; before that, it was co-owned by Jack Latham, who died in 2006.

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Largo biker claims he is illegally in jail for attempted murder

Joseph O’Donnell

An alleged member of a Pasco County outlaw motorcycle gang, in jail for a 2015 attempted murder, is asking the court to free him, claiming unconstitutional imprisonment and excessive bail.

Largo resident Joseph O’Donnell is a 42-year-old New York native currently at the Pinellas County Jail awaiting trial.

O’Donnell, a day laborer for Labor Ready, was arrested Dec. 23, 2015, on charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and tampering with physical evidence.

In a Jan. 4, 2017 petition for writ of habeas corpus, O’Donnell – who filed a handwritten form without the help of an attorney – claimed he was unmarried with one dependent. O’Donnell also said he was responsible for child support.

O’Donnell is asking the court to discharge him from jail because he has been “unlawfully imprisoned.” He argues both bail and bond amounts are “excessive,” unconstitutional, and out of his financial reach.

In police reports on the incident, as well as a Facebook post by the Largo Police, O’Donnell — known as “Spook” — is an “associate of the Legends Motorcycle Club in Pasco.”

Just before Christmas 2015, Allen Frye and Frank Bagnuolo allegedly visited O’Donnell at his Largo home to pick up some “patches.” At the time, O’Donnell lived at 705 Sixth Ave. NE, Apt. B. An argument ensued, when O’Donnell allegedly pulled a 9 mm gun, shooting Frye in the face. He then pointed the gun at Bagnuolo, who told the story to police while at Bayfront Medical Center.

Police also interviewed Joseph Ingleston, who was O’Donnell’s roommate, and Lori Forsey (Frye’s mother).

A May 2015 Tampa Bay Times article says “outlaw” motorcycle gangs are “still prevalent” throughout the Tampa Bay area: “… many of their members have day jobs, running tattoo shops, strip clubs or tow yards. A few are said to be lawyers or even doctors.”

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Aerialist Rick Wallenda to skywalk over Sundial St. Pete Feb. 11

St. Petersburg will get a rare opportunity to experience the Flying Wallendas this week with a death-defying stunt over downtown’s Sundial luxury shopping center.

World renowned aerialist Rick Wallenda will cross over Sundial by tightrope Saturday, Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. The event, which is open to the public, will benefit Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County.

As part of the Wallenda family tradition, the third-generation performer will cross the courtyard on a cable no thicker than an index finger, without either a harness or safety net.

Before Wallenda’s skywalk, a variety of circus-themed performers will entertain attendees starting at 4 p.m. to mark the event, Sundial retailers will donate proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

Wallenda will also be available for photos in the courtyard with the public.

“We are thrilled to welcome one of the world’s greatest tightrope walkers to Sundial,” said owner Bill Edwards. “Sundial is a gathering place for the community, so it’s only fitting the event take place there.”

Edwards also said he was pleased the event will be helping Habitat for Humanity, noting that the well-regarded charity will be celebrating the completion of its 400th home in the area.

The Wallenda family holds multiple World Records for their stunts including, the highest blindfolded tightrope (between two Chicago skyscrapers) and traversing Niagara Falls.

 “We are grateful to Bill Edwards and the Edwards Group for their partnership to bring Rick Wallenda to the people of Pinellas County,” said Ronice Barlow, chief operating officer of Franklin Templeton and a board member of Habitat Pinellas.

“What a perfect way to countdown to the highly-anticipated Habitat for Humanity Blueprint Vieux Cirque Gala at the Vinoy Saturday, April 8, 2017!” Barlow added. “Local corporate sponsors like the Edwards Group help our community give a ‘hand up, not a handout’ to our local families in need.”

Sundial St. Pete is located at 153 Second Ave. N. in St. Petersburg.

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Christine Brown to hold campaign kickoff in Gulfport City Council re-election bid

Christine Anne Brown is holding a campaign kickoff event for her re-election to the Gulfport City Council.

The event is Wednesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Pia’s Trattoria, 3054 Beach Blvd. in Gulfport.

Brown is running again for Ward 2, which covers much of the city’s waterfront. She faces local business woman Linda Bailey.

Born in Honolulu to a Navy family, Brown moved frequently as a child. By 1988, she landed in Pinellas County, graduating from St. Petersburg’s Lakewood High School.

Brown moved to Gulfport in 1996, where she and Lou Worthington purchased a home on 53rd Street and 28th Avenue South. The two married in 1998. In 2007, Brown explained to the Gabber newspaper the move was for her young daughter, Elizabeth Brown-Worthington.

Before her 2013 Ward 2 victory — replacing Barbara Banno, who chose not to run for re-election — Brown ran twice for city council.

According to the Gabber, Brown had been a member of Gulfport’s firefighter pension board until she qualified for the Ward 2 seat, which she resigned to prevent a conflict of interest. Brown also served as a volunteer firefighter before the city switched to a paid fire department. She had volunteered with the Gulfport community emergency response team (CERT). She taught math at Boca Ciega High School, and served as treasurer for the Gulfport Historical Society.

“We need a public/private government team to work together to help Gulfport,” she told a reporter in 2013.

Both Brown and Bailey are scheduled to attend a “Meet the Candidates” forum Thursday, Feb. 2 beginning 7 p.m. at the Catherine Hickman Theater, 5501 27th Ave. S. The forum will be broadcast on the City of Gulfport Television Station, Channel 640 on Spectrum Cable, as well as on the City’s website: mygulfport.us.

Gulfport’s municipal elections are March 14. Last day for new voter registration is Monday, Feb. 13, and the deadline to request a mail ballot is March 8.

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Women descend on DC to push back against new president

Throngs of women determined to push back against the new American president descended on the nation’s capital and other cities around the globe Saturday for marches aimed at showing Donald Trump they won’t be silent over the next four years. They came wearing bright pink “pussyhats” and wielding signs with messages such as “Women won’t back down” and “Less fear more love.”

City officials tweeted that organizers of the Women’s March on Washington had increased the expected turnout there to 500,000, up from 200,000, as crowds began swelling well ahead of the event’s start and subways into the city became clogged with participants.

It wasn’t just a Washington phenomenon and it wasn’t just women: More than 600 “sister marches” were planned across the country and around the world, and plenty of men were part of the tableau.

In Washington, Rena Wilson, of Charlotte, North Carolina, said she hopes the women can send Trump a message that they’re “not going anywhere.”

Joy Rodriguez, of Miami, arrived with her husband, William, and their two daughters, ages 12 and 10. “I want to make sure their rights are not infringed on in these years coming up,” Joy Rodriguez said.

March organizers said women are “hurting and scared” as the new president takes office and want a greater voice for women in political life.

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore,” their mission statement says.

Retired teacher Linda Lastella, 69, who came from Metuchen, New Jersey, said she had never marched before but felt the need to speak out when “many nations are experiencing this same kind of pullback and hateful, hateful attitudes.”

“It just seemed like we needed to make a very firm stand of where we were,” she said.

Rose Wurm, 64, a retired medical secretary from Bedford, Pennsylvania, boarded a Washington-bound bus in Hagerstown, Maryland, at 7 a.m. carrying two signs: one asking Trump to stop tweeting, and one asking him to fix, not trash, the Obamacare health law.

“There are parts of it that do need change. It’s something new, something unique that’s not going to be perfect right out of the gate,” she said.

Many arrived wearing hand-knit pointy-eared “pussyhats” — a message of female empowerment aimed squarely at Trump’s demeaning comments about women.

The march attracted significant support from celebrities. America Ferrara led the artists’ contingent, and those scheduled to speak in Washington included Scarlett Johansson, Ashley Judd, Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Moore. The promised performance lineup included Janelle Monae, Maxwell, Samantha Ronson, the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Cher, Katy Perry and Julianne Moore all were expected to attend.

Women and other groups were demonstrating across the nation and as far abroad as Myanmar and Australia. In Prague, hundreds gathered in Wenceslas Square in freezing weather, waving portraits of Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin and holding banners that read “This is just the beginning,” ”Kindness” and “Love.”

“We are worried about the way some politicians talk, especially during the American elections,” said organizer Johanna Nejedlova.

In Copenhagen, march organizer Lesley-Ann Brown said: “Nationalist, racist and misogynistic trends are growing worldwide and threaten the most marginalized groups in our societies including women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community and people with disabilities.”

In Sydney, thousands of Australians marched in solidarity in Hyde Park. One organizer said hatred, bigotry and racism are not only America’s problems.

Friday’s unrest during the inauguration led police to use pepper spray and stun grenades to prevent the chaos from spilling into Trump’s formal procession and the evening balls.

About a mile from the National Mall, police gave chase to a group of about 100 protesters who smashed the windows of downtown businesses, including a Starbucks, a Bank of America and a McDonald’s, as they denounced capitalism and Trump.

“They began to destroy property, throw objects at people, through windows. A large percentage of this small group was armed with crowbars and hammers,” said the city’s interim police chief, Peter Newsham.

Six officers suffered minor injuries, he said.

The confrontation began an hour before Trump took the oath of office and escalated several hours later as the crowd of protesters swelled to more than 1,000, some wearing gas masks and with arms chained together inside PVC pipe.

As night fell, protesters set a bonfire blocks from the White House and frightened well-dressed Trump supporters as they headed for the inaugural balls. Police briefly ordered ball guests to remain inside their hotel as they worked to contain advancing protesters.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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