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Staff Reports

Tampa pizzeria shot at by UberEats driver now faces eviction

A Tampa pizza shop shot at by an UberEats driver in January is now facing another attack — eviction over unpaid rent.

New Port Richey resident Amy Abdallah, 38, is the co-owner of Crusty’s Pizza. In late 2015, Amy and her husband Tony Abdallah agreed to lease a commercial property to operate Crusty’s  at 6607 N. Florida Ave. in Tampa.

Fredrika Lundgren is listed as the landlord. Records also suggest Tony Abdallah could be the same person as 39-year-old Ahmed El Sayed Abdallah.

The five-year lease was agreed to last through the end of 2020.

But according to a lawsuit filed Feb. 7, the Abdallah’s have not paid rent since June 2016, with an accumulated $15,868.

Lundgren seeks to evict Crusty’s and collect the unpaid rent.

An eviction notice is only the most recent problem facing Crusty’s.

On Sunday, Jan. 15, Tony Abdallah had sent away an UberEats driver who arrived at Crusty’s “under the influence.”

Furious, the driver allegedly shot at least five rounds at the building with a BB gun, which the Tampa Bay Times described as “narrowly missing the couple’s 18-year-old daughter doing prep work in the kitchen.”

“It was very traumatizing,” Abdallah told Fox 13 News. “My husband asked him, ‘Do you have a heating bag to carry food in?’ and he became very angry and started screaming profanities.”

The driver then drove away, returning later to shoot two more times into Crusty’s front window, also hitting an adjoining Korean restaurant.

“I’ve never met someone who got so angry and cussed so much, not being able to deliver pizza,” Abdallah said.

Uber told reporters they suspended the unidentified driver.

Although Fredrika Lundgren is the plaintiff in the past due rent complaint, the attached lease identifies her as the landlord. Per the Hillsborough County property appraiser, the listed property owner is Paul Stephenson, Lundgren’s husband.

Addresses for both Stephenson and Lundgren are in Albia, Iowa.

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Francisco Gonzalez

Personnel note: Francisco Gonzalez leaves James Madison Institute

Francisco Gonzalez, formerly Vice President of Advancement for The James Madison Institute, has left the organization after nine years.

He’s been named the Director of Philanthropy for the National Review Institute, the parent organization of National Review magazine, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr.

Gonzalez, who will continue to reside in Orlando, starts Feb. 27, He’ll further NRI’s mission with supporters across the country. He says he wrote a blog post last week that revisits his 9 years at JMI.

“While I am departing JMI, my loyalty to its mission will remain strong as it continues the legacy and vision of our great founder, Dr. J. Stanley Marshall,” Gonzalez said. “As a Floridian who believes in limited government and free-market principles, the success of JMI remains important to me and to this great state.”

He added: “I look forward to working to help NRI spread its mission, support its talent, and strongly promote conservative intellectual ideas at a very pivotal time for our country.”

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In op-ed, Rick Scott still swinging against GOP opposition to incentives

Gov. Rick Scott has released an opinion column on the “Florida House playing politics with Florida jobs” one day before a House panel discusses killing Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA and many business incentive programs.

Scott’s office emailed the Op-Ed to news media Monday afternoon. The House Appropriations Committee meets Tuesday to consider  a bill that would eliminate the agencies.

The email calls out by name Republican House members “who just last year supported Gov. Scott’s efforts to increase funding at Enterprise Florida,” including Jason Brodeur, Travis Cummings, Bill Hager, Larry Metz, Holly Raschein, and Charlie Stone.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has called such use of public money “corporate welfare.”

The op-ed as released is below:


The Florida House of Representatives has decided to push legislation to undo economic development funding in Florida and defund our state’s tourism agency.  A House panel voted for this job killing legislation two weeks ago and the House Appropriations Committee will be voting on it tomorrow.

That’s correct, many of your elected members of the Florida House have decided their top priority this year is to eliminate funding for Florida’s economy.  They want to eliminate Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.

They say that they don’t want government intrusion in the free market. Of course, there is government financing in the areas of healthcare, transportation, education, housing, and social services. But, they have decided to try to totally eliminate funding for the one area where we can easily show a major return on the investment of your tax dollars – jobs are being created by more companies moving to our state, and our tourism industry has recruited a record-breaking number of visitors over the last few years.

Even more absurd, the politicians in the Florida House who already voted for this bill say they don’t necessarily want to abolish these programs but instead want to advance a “conversation” …meaning they voted for something they don’t support. This is hypocrisy at its best, and these are the kind of games I came to Tallahassee to change.

I ran for Governor to fight this sort of politics and bring common sense from the business world to our government.  The plan has worked, as Florida has added more than 1.26 million new jobs.

Many politicians spend a lifetime in government, and they simply don’t have any understanding of how business actually works. These are the facts that confirm the negligence of eliminating our jobs and tourism agencies generating jobs:

— Before I came into office, state incentives were often awarded before goals, like job creation, were met.

— But, today Florida companies only receive economic incentives after an independent third-party audit proves stringent requirements are met, including proven job growth and wage requirements to ensure a great return on investment for Florida families.

— This means NO MONEY is given as “corporate welfare” because no money can be awarded until contract requirements like jobs are created.

— Because of our economic development programs, several companies like Hertz, Northrup Grumman, and Blue Origin — to name a few — have located or expanded in our state to create thousands of jobs.

The Florida House likes to rely on inaccurate information to push their narrative of “corporate welfare,” by highlighting the failed deal of Digital Domain.

Let’s look at the facts: EFI recommended that the state not fund Digital Domain.  Ironically, politicians in the Florida Legislature chose to ignore EFI’s recommendation and circumvented EFI’s strict process in 2009 by funding the failed project FROM THE LEGISLATURE.

Both Visit Florida and EFI have made mistakes over the years.  In both cases, we have made changes to ensure transparency of taxpayer dollars and brought in new leadership.  That is what you do in business; you make changes and get it right.   But what you do not do is close up shop.

If the House were to succeed with ending economic development and tourism programs in Florida, the small and rural communities in our state would be hurt the most. Canceling our statewide program would hurt those areas in Florida that would truly be revitalized by a new job creator in their community.

Just last week I traveled the state and met with business owners who are devastated that there is even talk of abolishing these programs.  Many job creators rely on EFI and Visit Florida and said they would not be able to keep their doors open if it weren’t for their help.  No job is expendable to the families they employ.

Coming into this job after a lifetime in business, I knew I would have to learn to tolerate some aspects of politics, and I would have to endure lectures from people who do not know the first thing about creating jobs. But, I cannot allow thousands of Floridians to be denied jobs and opportunities in our state just so a few in elected office can get headlines for their campaign for higher office.

Our economy is booming. Our economic development and tourism programs are some of the best in the nation when it comes to getting a positive return on investment. I will continue to set the record straight on the politics the Florida House is playing and fight for the Florida families who expect their government officials to bring them more opportunity, not less.

This is no time to stand still. In business, you are either moving forward or you are moving backward.  The Florida House is currently planning to take our state backward.  I will fight to stop them, and so should you.

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City of Tampa, mobile home park owner face off over $13M in code violations

After years of legal wrangling, the city of Tampa is suing the owner of a condemned – and now mostly abandoned – mobile home park for millions of dollars in code violation fees.

Nearly six years ago, GreenPark Residences obtained a neglected 18-unit mobile home park on 5004 North 19th Street in Tampa.

Since then, officials with the City of Tampa have been at odds with Rosario C. “Ross” Scopelliti, 51, who owns Greenpark and has seemingly done whatever he can to legally avoid necessary repairs and maintenance on the trailers.

In 2012, according to the Tampa Tribune, Tampa city officials had condemned 17 of 18 of GreenPark’s mobile homes, relocating nearly two dozen tenants.

On several occasions, Scopelliti tried to get the city to pay him, including filing for bankruptcy protection, and bringing a 15-count federal lawsuit against the city in April 2014 for “inverse condemnation.”

In that lawsuit, Scopelliti accused the city of interfering with his leases and undermining his business by offering his tenants $1,500 each for relocation costs. He pointed out that once the city condemned the trailers, tenants stopped paying rent.

Scopelliti also argued that the city used selective code enforcement against him, claiming that Tampa had “multiple mobile home parks and other properties comparable to GreenPark …”

When the U.S. Middle District of Florida court ruled against him, Scopelliti continued his battle by filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals, which affirmed the District court’s ruling January 24, 2017.

That ruling paved the way for a suit filed Feb. 6 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, where Tampa says Greenpark owes more than $13-million in unpaid code violation liens issued in 2011.

The city is now seeking to foreclose on Greenpark.

Scopelliti, a Canadian native, is no stranger to lawsuits of this type. He had previously sued a local government for condemning housing he owned. The Tampa Bay Business Journal reported that Scopelliti sued the City of St. Petersburg in a similar case in 2001.

Court records also show Ross Scopelliti sued wife Heather DeRigo Scopelliti – a musician and henna artist – for divorce in 2008. The couple agreed to share custody of son Angelo Tommaso Scopelliti.

 

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Bar exam board seeking two lawyer members

The organization responsible for writing the state’s bar examination is looking for two good lawyers.

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners has two openings for attorney-members, it said in a Monday news release.

Applicants have to be “practicing lawyers with scholarly attainments” and must have been a member of The Florida Bar for at least five years.

Sorry, judges and law professors are ineligible.

Members have to “attend approximately ten meetings a year in various Florida locations, be willing and able to devote the equivalent of 3-4 days’ work a month, or up to 350 or more hours per year on Board business,” the release added.

Interested? Click here to download the application or call (850) 561-5757 to get one.

Completed applications must be received by the Executive Director, The Florida Bar, 651 East Jefferson St., Tallahassee, Florida, 32399-2300 or submitted via e-mail to <specialapptapp@floridabar.org> no later than close of business on Monday, April 3.

A “screening committee” will recommend six nominees for the two vacancies at its May 26 meeting.

“The nominations will then be forwarded to the Supreme Court to fill two five-year terms commencing November 1, 2017, and expiring on October 31, 2022,” the release said. 

Florida’s bar exam is given twice yearly over two days, in July and February, at the Tampa Convention Center. The next exam is this Tuesday and Wednesday.

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FPL to build 8 new Florida solar energy plants, add 2.5M panels by 2018

Florida Power & Light Co. is doubling down on solar power, announcing Monday a significant expansion of renewable energy production through next year.

FPL, currently the largest generator of solar energy in Florida, will build eight new universal solar power plants by early 2018 – boosting its production with more than 2.5 million solar panels.

“We have been working hard to drive down the costs of adding solar,” said FPL President/CEO Eric Silagy, “so we can deliver even more zero-emissions energy to all of our customers.”

FPL was the first company to build cost-effective solar power generation in Florida, Silagy added, promising to lead the advancement of an infrastructure for affordable, clean energy.

“We have proven that it’s possible to cut emissions and deliver reliable service while keeping electric bills low for our customers,” he said during an event Monday morning at the Manatee Solar Energy Center.

The Manatee facility is one of FPL’s three most recently completed solar power plants, along with its Citrus Solar Energy Center and Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center. Each plant began powering FPL customers Dec. 31, 2016.

A subsidiary of Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy, FPL is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s cleanest, most reliable energy providers, as well as one of the most affordable. FPL’s typical 1,000-kilowatt-hour residential customer pays less than 10 years ago, and rates are well below the current national average. The company believes the new solar centers will remain cost-effective over time, with millions of dollars in long-term savings for FPL customers.

Each of the planned eight new solar plants – located throughout Florida — will have a capacity of74.5 megawatts, producing nearly 600 megawatts total – enough to power nearly120,000 homes. The additional facilities will be in addition to the three previously announced locations in Alachua, Putnam and DeSoto counties.

Building is expected to commence this spring, Silagy said, and could create from 200 to 250 jobs during peak construction.

“A year ago, I stood here as FPL broke ground on this solar site, marking the start of the installation of 1 million solar panels that are now producing zero-emissions energy,” said Audubon Florida executive director Eric Draper, who also attended the announcement. “An additional eight new solar energy centers is a major step toward reducing carbon emissions and saving water, benefiting the earth and all Floridians.”

As Florida’s largest rate-regulated electric utility, FPL has more than 4.8 million consumer accounts statewide, making it the third-largest customer base in the United States.

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Busy week for fundraising ahead of 2017 Legislative Session

There’s one committee week left until the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, and you can bet lawmakers will be doing more than just debating the merits of their bills during their time in the capital city this week.

House Majority, the campaign arm of the Florida GOP, will host fundraisers for several House Republicans, all of which are running for re-election, this week.

On Feb. 21, there is a fundraiser for Reps. Chuck Clemons and Bobby Payne at noon at The Governor’s Inn, 209 S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

That same day, there is a fundraiser for Reps. Danny BurgessBob Rommel, and Erin Grall at 5 p.m. at The Edison, 470 Suwannee Street in Tallahassee. Across town, there will be a fundraiser for Rep. MaryLynn Magar at 5:30 p.m. at The Florida Realtors, 200 S. Monroe Street.

On Feb. 22, there is a fundraising reception for Reps. Alex MillerGrallCyndi StevensonAmber Mariano, and Jackie Toledo. The event is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

Miller and Toledo will be back at the Governors Club for a 5 p.m. fundraiser on Feb. 22. A few blocks away, there is a fundraiser for Rep. Jay Fant at The Florida Realtors starting at 5:30 p.m. It is also scheduled to host an event for Rep. Jay Trumbull at The Governor’s Inn at the same time.

House Majority is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for Burgess and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 23 at Clyde’s and Costello’s, 210 South Adams St. in Tallahassee.

All of the events are hosted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Democrats are also getting in on the fundraising action, Sen. Vic Torres and Reps Richard Stark, Joe Geller and Amy Mercado hosting a fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. at the Florida Realtors Association on Feb. 22.

House members aren’t the only ones raising cash before the 2017 Legislative Session kicks off next month. Sen. Greg Steube will hold a fundraiser, hosted by Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21 at the Governor’s Inn Boardroom. Sen. Debbie Mayfield is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for her Senate District 17 re-election campaign at 5 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the Governors Club Boardroom, 202 ½ S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

And Rep. Manny Diaz will hold a fundraiser for his upcoming state Senate campaign at 6 p.m. at the Governor’s Inn Boardroom on Feb. 22. The fundraiser is hosted by Simpson, and Sens. Bill Galvano, Dennis Baxley, Anitere Flores, Doug Broxson, and Rene Garcia.

 

 

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New St. Pete resident sues Tampa pawn shop over high-priced stolen wristwatch

A Texas man who recently relocated to Florida is suing over a rare wristwatch stolen and turning up at a Tampa pawn shop.

In late 2016, Edward C. Bailey moved into a $750K third-floor condo at the Parkshore Plaza high-rise on St. Petersburg’s tony Beach Drive. Court records show no mortgage recorded in Pinellas County, suggesting the purchase was paid in cash.

Bailey claims that his wristwatch was stolen (or misappropriated) Jan. 5, and was taken to Mr. Money Pawn and Gun at 3315 E. Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa.

The watch is no ordinary timepiece, however; Bailey describes it as one of 50 Breitling Bentley Flying B Chronographs  – with white mother of pearl, a guilloche pattern, rose gold with a pave case, and a “full pave diamond bracelet.”

In the claim for return of stolen property from a pawnbroker – filed Feb. 7 without the help of an attorney – Bailey puts the current value of the watch at $157,000. No police report was attached to the paperwork, although it is possible police helped the watch at Mr. Money.

While the claim does not specify who took the watch nor how it got to the pawnshop in question, Bailey is asking Mr. Money to return it.

According to TLO.com there is no “Edward C. Bailey” listed in St. Petersburg. The phone number he provided the court has a Dallas, Texas area code. Bailey apparently used a Texas driver’s license as identification for the notary, listed as Joseph M. Pugliano.

Edward Carl “Ed” Bailey is a well-known restaurateur in Dallas, who owns several dozen McDonald’s franchises in North Texas, but available records do not make it clear he is the same person bringing this Florida suit.

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Personnel note: AT&T names Dan Pollock Regional Director of External Affairs

Dan Pollock joins AT&T as regional director of External Affairs for Central Florida.

In his new role, Pollock will work closely with leaders in Orange, Brevard, Seminole, Lake, Sumter and Marion counties on AT&T legislative and community efforts. He will be based in Orlando.

“Dan’s addition to our team is a big win for AT&T,” said Joe York, AT&T Florida president. “His proven track record in public affairs will help AT&T promote a business-friendly environment in Florida.”

Before joining AT&T, Pollock was president of Pollock & Associates, a Florida public affairs firm. His previous experience includes: Co-founder of TargetVote.com, executive director of the Florida Greyhound Tracks Association and chief Senate aide to former Sen. Tom Rossin.

Pollock is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University, receiving a bachelor’s in political science. He is a volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Florida. Pollock has also donated time to the Chillum Adelphi Volunteer Fire Department and the Orlando Citizens Police Review Board.

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St. Pete City Council approves ordinance language and schedules March 2 public hearing ahead of Al Lang Stadium referendum

St. Petersburg City Council approved today ordinance language in the first step towards scheduling a May 2 referendum, which would allow residents of St. Petersburg to vote on giving City Council the authority to negotiate a long-term use agreement for Al Lang Stadium.

The use agreement, which can’t exceed 25 years, would allow Al Lang Stadium’s primary purpose to be the home field for a potential Major League Soccer team.

City Council also announced today, that they have set the public hearing date for Thursday, March 2, where St. Petersburg residents and business owners are invited to weigh in on the ordinance before Council votes on scheduling the May 2 special election.

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards will cover the entire cost of the May 2 election.

In a release, the Tampa Bay Rowdies said it appreciates St. Petersburg City Council for scheduling the Public Hearing and allowing the club to continue its aspirations of bringing another major league sports team to the city.

 

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