Phil Ammann - 7/389 - 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.

Over 18K ballots returned so far for St. Pete’s Al Lang referendum

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark has posted the vote by mail numbers for the St. Petersburg Special Referendum election Tuesday, May 2.

As of Monday morning, of the 66,840 mail ballots sent, just over 26 percent – 18,072 – have returned.

The SOE website says there are 168,145 registered voters eligible to vote in this election: 46,658 Republicans, 77,825 Democrats and 43,662 No Party Affiliation/other. The City of St. Petersburg will not conduct early voting as provided in Florida Statute.

Residents will decide whether to allow the City Council to approve extending the Al Lang Field lease with the Tampa Bay Rowdies for up to 25 years, part of a plan by the Rowdies to attract a Major-League Soccer expansion team.

According to the referendum language: “These conditions include but are not limited to: term not exceeding 25 years; primary but not sole purpose is a home field for a Major-League Soccer expansion team; and City funding shall not be used for stadium upgrades or expansion proposed in bid for expansion team or required for award of expansion team.”

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards is also paying for the referendum itself.

Mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. election day at one of the Pinellas elections offices: 315 Court St, Room 117, in Clearwater; 13001 Starkey Rd, Largo (Starkey Lakes Corporate Center) and 501 1st Ave. N (5th St. N Entrance), St. Petersburg. Office hours are Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Election day hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.


‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ trailer drops with an ominous teaser

Fans of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” received a foreboding message this weekend.

“Jedi must end,” Luke Skywalker says darkly in the first teaser, which premiered Friday at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando.

Premiering Dec. 15, the movie follows Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, who had last tracked down Mark Hamill’s Skywalker, at the end of 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The two-minute trailer shows Rey handling a lightsaber to Luke, and a brief shot of Ray using the Force, followed by Skywalker’s ominous words.

“I only know one true thing,” Luke says offscreen. “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, the 65-year-old Hamill confirmed that it was indeed his voice in the quote.

“There’s a difference between teaser and a trailer,” Hamill said. “A teaser is supposed to show you dynamic images that heighten your awareness and make you want to see the trailer, but avoid all story points if at all possible. [But] I think that’s the only story point that’s in the teaser, which is Luke saying it’s time for the Jedi to end.”

Hamill admits he was “as surprised as anyone” that Luke would say something like that.

“It was as shocking to me to read what Rian [Johnson, the director of “Last Jedi”] had written as I’m sure it will be for the audience,” he said.

When asked about the possibility Luke turns to the dark side, Hamill said: “It’s possible, anything’s possible.”

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Charlie Crist to be ‘carved up’ at Suncoast Tiger Bay After Hours April 20

Suncoast Tiger Bay Club often likes to “carve up” politicians for lunch. Next week, they will have one for dinner, too.

Congressman Charlie Crist is the special guest for the Club’s “Tiger Bay After Hours” event Thursday, April 20. The St. Petersburg Democrat will appear at a special evening meeting, which begins 6:30 p.m. at The Hangar Restaurant at the city’s waterfront Albert Whitted Airport downtown.

There will be appetizers and a cash bar. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

As seating will be limited, organizers have announced a firm RSVP deadline of Monday, April 17 – walk-ins will not be accommodated. Tickets are free for Tiger Bay Club members, and $10 for guests.

Reservations are available online. The Hangar is at 540 First St. SE in St. Petersburg.

Models accuse Tampa strip club of using photos without permission, payment

Six models are accusing Skin Tampa strip club of using photos in various online promotions without permission or payment.

The women are Kimberly Cozzens of San Jose, California; Cielo Jean Gibson of Santa Monica, California; Irina Voronina of Los Angeles; Sara Underwood of Columbia County, Oregon; Kara Monaco of Orange County, California and Alison Waite Jordan of Los Angeles County, California.

SKN Trading LLC, doing business as Skin Tampa, is at 1620 E. Adamo Drive, is owned by Maytham Zahedi.

Gibson, also known as C.J. Gibson, is a 33-year-old Clearwater native and model who has lived in Tampa.

In a complaint filed March 27 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, the women accuse Skin Tampa of copying their photos and using them without permission or payment, on the club’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and other social media sites.

Among the charges in the suit: “The image of Cozzens which featured her in a pirate costume was used out of context … to advertise the strip club and free admission. Specifically, the image of Cozzens was posted along with the lewd and salacious phrase, ‘COME PLUNDER SOME BOOTY.’”

The lawsuit argues Skin’s unauthorized actions harmed the women’s reputations by associating them with stripping and sex acts, by failing to compensate, and by not giving an option to not allow the use of their images.

The women are asking the court for damages.

In 2015, two of the six women who are now suing Skin Tampa had filed a similar lawsuit against Clearwater’s Diamond Dolls strip club. The case is ongoing. Court records show Diamond Dolls’ denying any wrongdoing.

Similarly, in January 2016, three models filed a lawsuit against the Thee Dollhouse strip club in Tampa, which is also ongoing.

Two attorneys at Casas Law Firm – Sarah M. Cabarcas and Ludmila Khomiak – have filed all three lawsuits.


Tampa health care tech firm starts cracking down on delinquent providers

Dr. Ricky Poole Lockett

Tampa-based CareSync is cracking down on delinquent medical providers, asking a Hillsborough County court to help collect money owed from an orthopedic practice in default.

CareSync is a fast-growing health care technology company headquartered at 14055 Riveredge Dr., Suite 600 in Tampa.

According to the CareSync website, the company builds “easy-to-use technology, and combine it with exceptional services to help people better coordinate care.”

Dr. Ricky Poole Lockett is medical director and owner of Orthopedic Injury Management in St. Petersburg. According to his bio, Lockett “practices pain management, neuromusculoskeletal medicine and physical medicine & rehabilitation.”

In August 2015, Orthopedic Injury Management, at 1501 Fifth Ave. N in St. Petersburg, entered a “chronic care management services agreement” with CareSync, which billed Orthopedic by the month, with amounts ranging from $5,460 to $7,476.

In a March 27 filing with the Hillsborough County Circuit Court, CareSync is hoping to collect more than $53,000 in back payments.

This filing is the latest effort by CareSync to crack down on delinquent practitioners. Court records show CareSync brought an action against eight medical clients in Hillsborough over a five-day period March 24-28. These were the first filings in Hillsborough County.

In December 2016, the firm announced plans to hire 350 more employees in 2017, increasing its current workforce to 500. Margie Manning of the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported the expansion was Tampa Bay area’s second-largest job announcement for the year. Jobs will include clinical care coordinators, product developers, human resources, information technology and administration.

Manning writes: “CareSync, previously headquartered in Wesley Chapel, has received several rounds of venture capital funding, including $18 million in the last three months of 2015.”

Travis Bond is the company’s founder and CEO.


Polk County civil rights activists sue USF over public records

A Winter Garden civil-rights activist group is suing the University of South Florida over access to public records.

Among the requests made by the Poor and Minority Justice Association Inc. (PMJA) to the USF board of trustees include University President Judy Genshaft‘s travel expenses, police use of derogatory words and others.

According to its website, PMJA, is a nonprofit civil-rights group founded in 2012 to protect minority communities in Polk County from “profiling, harassment and abuse by police” and to “attack inequality and injustice with the use of nonviolent direct action.”

Clayton Allen Cowart, the 45-year-old pastor of Church of God the Bibleway, is PMJA’s founder and president.

PMJA claims to have collaborated with, Joel Chandler, an infamous Lakeland public records advocate who has filed dozens of lawsuits against Florida government agencies for open-records law violations.

The number of ‘nuisance’ lawsuits filed by Chandler (and others) has prompted Florida lawmakers to propose legislation. A bill (SB 80) filed in 2017 by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, sought to crack down on “serial records abusers” who attempt to lure public officials into public record violations to extort a settlement.

In 2013, the Lakeland Ledger reported on an undercover operation of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office that spied on a 2012 PMJA meeting At the Church of God the Bibleway.

The Ledger wrote that PMJA was started by pastor Clayton Cowart after he pleaded to a misdemeanor stalking charge May 31, 2012, in what was then described as an “affair with a parishioner gone wrong … He is still fighting to overturn his conviction. The group, about 90 percent black, meets weekly.”

On Feb. 10, PMJA emailed eight separate public-records requests to the University of South Florida, seeking records on:

– Judy Genshaft’s travel expenses.

– Procurement of graduation gowns.

– Contracts with food service giant Aramark or subsidiaries.

– Information collected regarding the infamous Dozier School for Boys.

– Use by USF Police Department employees of any of more than 200 pejorative terms, including:  “butt pirate … jungle bunny … Hebrew … sand nigger … slut … wetback … tranny … wheelchair jockey … terrorist.”

– Payment of membership contributions, dues and cellular phone service.

– Procurement of products or services offered by Safe Restraints Inc.

Since the requests, PMJA had received no more than an acknowledgment of the records request.

In a complaint filed March 26 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, PMJA is suing for unconstitutionally withholding public records. It seeks a court order requiring USF to make the requested records available.

However, five days after filing this lawsuit, PMJA abruptly dismissed the case with prejudice, and now cannot file another suit based on the same claims.

St. Pete preservation announces May Movies in the Park series

Conservancy group St. Pete Preservation has unveiled its latest lineup in the annual Movies at the Park series.

Movies in the Park is a free showing of film classics and live music set for each Thursday night in May at St. Petersburg’s North Straub Park on Beach Drive between Fourth and Fifth Avenues NE. The fun begins with music at 7 p.m., movies begin at dusk. Parking is available at the Museum of Fine Arts on Beach Drive, with participants encouraged to arrive by a Coast Bike Share, which has a hub less than a block away.

The list of movies was unveiled last week at a Movie Announcement Party, a celebration held in the courtyard of the Ale & the Witch brewpub in downtown St. Petersburg.

In addition to weekly Movies in the Park, SPP has also added a special Movies to Midtown event for Thursday, April 27, in the garden at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American History Museum, 2240 Ninth Ave. S, in St. Petersburg. The movie is “Red Tails” (2012), with music provided by Tremain Lamar.

In commemoration of the May Movies in the Park series, local artist Carrie Jadus created an original poster that will be on sale at the SPP tent at Movies in the Park and at the Saturday Morning Market, held in the parking lot of Al Lang Field.

The scheduled May Movies in the Park:

– May 4: Charade (1963) with music by Rayzilla’s Hippie Slayers.

– May 11: Princess Bride (1987) with music by Mezzu’ Mare.

– May 18: Footloose (1984) with music by The Joe Milligan Project.

– May 25: Top Gun (1986) with music by Funk Shui.

For more information on the Movies in the Park series, as well as other events hosted by St. Pete preservation, visit

Founded in 1977 as an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, St. Pete Preservation seeks to “keep St. Pete special,” through acquisition, preservation, restoration and maintenance of various historical, natural and scenic sites throughout the city.

New St. Pete Pier operating budget at $3.2M, Colliers tapped to manage

St. Petersburg City Council members received a glimpse at expected ongoing costs for the soon-to-be-reopened St. Pete Pier, which will have a $3.2 million annual budget.

During Thursday’s council meeting, the board also selected Canadian-based commercial real estate firm Colliers International to manage the pier.

Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal offers a breakdown: $3.2 million annual operating costs, $600,000 for pre-opening operations and a $50,000 grand opening event.

A staff presentation to council members to hire Colliers revealed taxpayers will spend $2 million to operate the Pier, an increase from $1.4 million devoted to the old inverted pyramid.

Comparing the old and new projects is not entirely accurate, city development administrator Alan DeLisle told council members. The new pier takes up 21 more acres than before, which makes a cost-per-acre only $73,000, compared to $266,000 per acre for the old structure.

DeLisle pointed to a $10 million minimum economic impact for the region – increased spending on things like hotel stays, retail purchases and dining.

The new Pier will also impact the city’s local, national and international stature, he added.

Irwin writes that the revised $10 million economic impact estimate was adjusted down from an initial $80 million, to offer a more accurate number.

Big City Events, which organizes RibFest, Guavaween and the Gasparilla International Film Festival, among others, will be in charge of all Pier events.

According to Irwin, the new contract will stipulate both Colliers and Big City Events must host at least 78 events in the first year — increasing by five every year after that – with two of them major. Most, however, will be small-scale and open to the public.

Also under the agreement, St. Pete will take half the Pier’s first $100,000 in revenue, and 35 percent above that. Colliers will assume all financial risk of Pier events. There will also be a potential for revenue for naming rights.

Council members will also consider adding $14 million to the pier’s budget, Irwin reports, for added amenities and acquiring public art.


Rick Kriseman to host major St. Pete fundraiser this month for re-election bid

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is joining a significant group of Tampa Bay area supporters –  including some leaders in the Tampa Bay Rays organization – for a major fundraiser this month supporting his re-election campaign.

The event is Monday, April 17, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at 3 Daughters Brewing, 222 22nd St. S. in St. Petersburg. Suggested contribution is $250.

According to the email invite, the host committee includes Rays owner Stu Sternberg and President Matthew Silverman, former Florida CFO Alex Sink and state Rep. Bill Heller, St. Petersburg City councilmember Charlie Gerdes, former Democratic candidates Eric Lynn and Augie Ribeiro, among others.

On Thursday, Kriseman released a 43-page report prepared by the city to make its best pitch for the 85-acre Tropicana Field site as the ideal location to build a new Rays stadium. The proposal did not include financial details on how that would happen. One of Kriseman’s campaign promises is to resolve the ongoing stalemate with the Rays over a new location for the team.


Florida could put police lineup standards into law

Florida could put into law police lineup guidelines that the state’s top law enforcement agency developed six years ago.

The Senate voted unanimously for a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to use the lineup standards to avoid eyewitness mistakes that could lead to wrongful convictions.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement encouraged agencies to adopt the standards, but agencies aren’t required to do so.

Eyewitness mistakes are to blame in 64 percent of cases in which defendants are later exonerated by DNA evidence.

The current guidelines suggest lineups be conducted by an administrator who does not know the suspect in order to ensure impartiality. Also, witnesses should be told that suspects may or may not be in a photo or in-person lineup and that they are not required to make an identification.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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