Staff Reports - 6/49 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

Vern Buchanan demands answers on VA drug thefts

Congressman Vern Buchanan Thursday demanded answers from the new Veterans Affairs secretary about the nationwide theft of opioids and prescription drugs intended to help suffering veterans.

In a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin, the Sarasota Republican wrote, “I’m concerned that Florida veterans may be at risk following press reports of a shocking spike in drug thefts at VA health facilities across the country.”

“The perpetrators are stealing directly from veterans who need help,” Buchanan wrote. “In addition, those VA employees may be using the stolen drugs at work, endangering the veterans they’re supposed to be caring for.”

A former VA employee in Baltimore was sentenced to 39 years in prison for causing a Hepatitis C outbreak after stealing a powerful painkiller intended for patients headed into surgery. After injecting the narcotic into himself, the employee refilled the same needle with saline solution and injected it into veterans. The employee had Hepatitis C and exposed more than 150 veterans to the deadly disease.

The Associated Press reported that drug loss or theft at federal hospitals, 98 percent of which are VA facilities, increased tenfold between 2009 and 2015 nationwide.

The VA’s inspector general has pointed to over 100 open investigations around the country.

The reports of missing prescriptions and opioids at VA hospitals come in the midst of a national crisis – drugs now kill more Americans than car accidents annually.

Charges have also been brought in VA drug theft cases across the country, including in Utah, Arkansas, New York, Rhode Island and California according to The Associated Press.

Buchanan specifically asked that the VA disclose how many facilities in Florida experienced drug theft and loss; which facilities were hit; the type and quantity of missing drugs; what the street value of the missing drugs was; how many Florida VA employees were involved, what had been done to discipline these employees and, most importantly, how many veterans were affected by the drug losses.

Buchanan urged the VA to thoroughly and swiftly discipline anyone responsible for the missing drugs. VA employees have been disciplined in roughly 3 percent of reported missing drug cases, according to the AP. Specifically, there were over 11,000 occurrences of drug theft or loss reported over the last six years – during which only 372 VA employees were disciplined for a drug or alcohol-related incidences.

“VA employees who are using, pocketing or trafficking prescriptions meant for our veterans must answer for their actions,” Buchanan said.

The congressman has been an active leader in addressing the opioid crisis in Florida. Last May, Buchanan chaired a hearing examining the impact of addiction on kids. He also hosted a roundtable in Bradenton. with local police officers, medical professionals and stakeholders. Buchanan also chaired a meeting of the bipartisan 29-member Florida congressional delegation in Washington, DC where members heard testimony from anti-drug experts. Buchanan serves as co-chair of the Florida delegation.

In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration adopted Buchanan’s proposal to make it more difficult for abusers to obtain certain highly addictive narcotics.

Full text of the letter can be found below:

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

St. Pete sewer symposium to hear public on wastewater woes

After recent meetings on the improvements to St. Petersburg’s sanitary sewer system, it is becoming clear that residents are watching developments with great interest.

With questions ranging from possible reactivation of the downtown Albert Whitted Plant, to costs of upgrades at other facilities and issues of resiliency system wide, public works leaders left with an increasing sense of just how important this systemwide fix is to constituents.

“Our residents want this taken care of,” said Director of Engineering and Capital Planning Brejesh Prayman. “These meetings give us a chance to explain how we are doing that.”

And while those explanations are a major part of the ongoing sewer symposiums — with the next scheduled Wednesday, March 15, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Azalea Recreation Center — the most interesting time is when residents give feedback on what they see happening.

A woman from Maximo Moorings wondered about the location of the Water Reclamation Facilities so close to the water (and what contingencies are in place for severe weather) while another attendee asked about the forecast of making it through a wet weather season without another spill (staff assured attendees that they are 100 percent sure that they have done — and will be doing — everything they can to prevent future discharges).

Questions about Injection Wells and master-planning also brought pertinent points of discussion to light in exchanges that let city staff know this is a very important issue to residents — even as they let residents know they’re doing everything they can do to get ahead of the problems

“We are working so hard on so many aspects of the sewage issue, but we may not have every angle covered,” Prayman said. “Public input — and continuing to hear what’s on the mind of the system users — keeps us aware of the whole picture,” he said.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Bad week for Bubba the Love Sponge; bank says he owes $75K

Bubba the Love Sponge Clem is not having a good week.

In addition to a former girlfriend seeking an injunction for domestic violence, the well-known and controversial Tampa radio shock-jock is being sued by Bank of America over a $75,000 line of credit.

The 50-year-old Clem, who owns Bubba Radio Network, Inc., obtained the line of credit in July 2013 from Bank of America for his business, with Bubba Clem personally guaranteeing repayment.

According to a suit filed Feb. 24 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, the bank is accusing Bubba Radio and Clem of defaulting on the loan.

“On November 23, 2016, Plaintiff declared Bubba Radio in default under the terms of the Line of Credit as a result of such failure and demanded that Bubba Radio pay the aggregate amount outstanding under the Line of Credit,” the suit says. “Bubba Radio failed to pay in full all principal, interest, and other charges outstanding under the Line of Credit despite the Bank’s demand for payment.”

As of Jan. 31, 2017, the bank says both Bubba Radio Network and Bubba Clem owe the full $75,000 in principal, plus nearly $1,000 in interest. Court records show interest “pursuant to the Loan Documents continues to accrue at a rate of $9.38 per diem.”

Bank of America is seeking payment.

In January, Beasley Media Group, a subsidiary of Beasley Broadcast Group, dropped Bubba’s show from Tampa’s WBRN-FM 98.7, leaving his show only on WRXK-FM 98-Rock in Fort Myers.

As of Feb. 13, the Bubba show was picked up by Tampa’s WWBA-AM 820.

Over the years, the former Todd Alan Clem has been involved in a variety of lawsuits and legal action throughout the Tampa Bay area.

In 2011, Clem sued then-wife Heather Dawn Clem for divorce. Later, both Heather and Bubba made national headlines when a 2006 sex tape involving Heather and pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan was leaked to the gossip website Gawker. Clem and Hogan settled a related lawsuit out of court.

Ten years earlier, Clem faced animal cruelty charges after an on-air castration and slaughter of a pig, of which he was later acquitted. In 2004, he was fired by Clear Channel Communications after amassing $755,000 in Federal Communications Commission fines for indecent behavior.

In 2013, Clem also successfully sued rival radio DJ Todd Schnitt for defamation.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Bubba the Love Sponge hit with restraining order for domestic violence

Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, the well-known and controversial Tampa radio shock-jock, is once again facing legal action, this time by a former girlfriend seeking an injunction for domestic violence.

In a complaint filed Feb. 23 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Nicole Maria “Nikki” L’Ange – also known as Nikki Lange — says she first met Bubba in 2002 and later lived with him at his home in St. Petersburg. L’Ange was a merchandise/event coordinator at Beasley Media Group, which carries the Bubba radio show.

L’Ange claims that throughout the four years they were living together, she suffered violence at the hands of Clem, but this was the first time she sought a restraining order. L’Ange says Clem “once got on top of me and strangled me, which I have pictures,” hit her in the back of the head “to get my attention,” threw her to the ground and threatened to hurt her if she left or contact the police.

L’Ange’s LinkedIn bio shows she stopped working at Beasley in January 2017, suggesting L’Ange’s job was possibly connected to Bubba’s. In a YouTube video uploaded January 2015, Clem videotaped himself coming home from work, showing an aggravated L’Ange cleaning dishes in the sink.

After she finally left, L’Ange says Clem allegedly continued harassing her, her father and friends, texting her father that “he’s sorry he has a daughter like her.” Clem is also accused of preventing L’Ange from obtaining unemployment benefits, canceling her health insurance, and vowing to ruin both her and her new boyfriend’s business.

Clem allegedly “spoke ill” of L’Ange on his radio show, instructing listeners to “say awful things” about her.

“He is completely unstable,” she says in her petition, “and has a horrible temper.” L’Ange filed the injunction without the help of an attorney.

L’Ange is asking the court to keep Clem away from her, her family, friends and new boyfriend.

Over the years, the 50-year-old Clem, previously known as Todd Alan Clem, has been involved in several lawsuits and legal action throughout the Tampa Bay area.

In 2011, Clem, owner of the Bubba Radio Network, Inc., sued then-wife Heather Dawn Clem for divorce. Later, both Heather and Bubba made national headlines, when a 2006 sex tape involving Heather and pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan was leaked to the gossip website Gawker. Clem and Hogan settled a related lawsuit out of court.

Ten years earlier, Clem faced animal cruelty charges after an on-air castration and slaughter of a pig, of which he was later acquitted. In 2004, he was fired by Clear Channel Communications after amassing $755,000 in Federal Communications Commission fines for indecent behavior.

In 2013, Clem also successfully sued rival radio DJ Todd Schnitt for defamation.

However, Clem’s recent radio career is also struggling.

Beasley Media Group, a subsidiary of Beasley Broadcast Group, dropped Bubba’s show in January from Tampa’s WBRN-FM 98.7, leaving his show only on WRXK-FM 98-Rock in Fort Myers.

Beginning Feb. 13, the Bubba show was picked up by Tampa’s WWBA-AM 820.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Jack Latvala raises nearly $1M in February

Sen. Jack Latvala’s political committee had one of its strongest fundraising period to date, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in February.

Florida Leadership Committee, Latvala’s political committee, raised at least $870,083 during the one-month fundraising period, according to contribution data posted to the committee’s website. That number is expected to rise to more than $1 million when final numbers are calculated and reported to the state later this month.

That one-month fundraising haul boosts total contributions to the committee to more than $7.7 million.

Top contributors during February included FCCI Services, Altria Client Services, The Voice of Florida Business PAC, Mednax Inc., LEMA Construction & Developers, Broadview Realty, Equestrian Sport Productions, Costa Nursery Farms, and Southeast QSR.

The big fundraising month comes as rumors have been circulating that Latvala is mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid. The Clearwater Republican can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, but earlier this month told the Tampa Bay Times he considering a run for governor.

A prolific fundraiser, the February numbers mark one of the biggest fundraising period the committee has reported since 2013. State records show the committee raised $487,625 in February 2015, the next largest haul posted on the state’s campaign finance website.

Latvala is one of several Republicans believed to be considering a run in 2018. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran are often mentioned as possible contenders.

On the Democratic side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum made it official this week, announcing he plans to run for governor. State records show he filed his paperwork Tuesday, and he formally announced his run Wednesday. Gwen Graham, Philip Levine and John Morgan are also considering a run.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Email Insights: Adam Putnam political committee brings in more than $2M in February

The political committee backing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says it raised more than $2 million in February, bring total contributions to more than $9 million.

In an email  to supporters from Justin Hollis, the chairman of Florida Grown, said the committee raised more than $2.25 million in February 2017. Hollis said that one-month fundraising haul brought total contributions to the committee, which is expected to fuel Putnam’s 2018 campaign, to more than $9.4 million.

“Support for Adam’s Florida Grown PC is not only evident through fundraising, however, it’s also seen on social media platforms,” wrote Hollis. “More than 170,000 people follow Adam on Facebook, while Phil Levine has just 44,000, Bob Buckhorn has just 17,000, Gwen Graham has just 13,000 followers and the newly announced gubernatorial candidate from the Capital City Andrew Gillum has just under 17,000.”

Gillum formally announced his 2018 bid Wednesday; while Levine and Graham have both indicated they are mulling a bid. Buckhorn is also believed to be considering a run.

Putnam is expected to run in 2018. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering a run.

Hollis went on to say that behind the scenes, the Florida Grown team is “working hard, traveling the state and building relationships.”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Report: Andrew Gillum apologizes for political emails

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign is already facing criticism, despite being barely a day old.

On Tuesday, Tallahassee Reports posted emails to its website that showed the mayor used email software purchased with city tax dollars to send out “an email blast to invite to a Biden/Clinton campaign event.” The site, which is run by Republican activist Steve Stewart, received the emails through a public records request.

According POLITICO Florida, Gillum’s team had denied charges the mayor used inappropriately used the NGP VAN technology. Instead, POLITICO Florida reported, the mayor’s office said it was used for constituent outreach.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported on three emails Tuesday linked to the Mayor’s Office using the NGP VAN system.

The first was sent after the first Tallahassee Forward Summit, and included the mayor’s campaign logo and campaign post office box. A second email was sent in August by Gillum’s wife that discusses his speech at the Democratic National Convention, and included an “unsubscribe” button that takes them to the NGP website. The third is an invite to an event featuring Vice President Joe Bide in Tallahassee.

The Biden email was also posted to Tallahassee Reports website.

In a statement provided to both POLITICO Florida and the Tallahassee Democrat, Gillum said he plans to reimburse the city for “all expenses related to the NGP email system.”

“It is ultimately my responsibility that an official government email system in my office was used to send messages that were not related to government business,” he said in the statement. “It was inadvertent, but that does not make it okay. I’m sorry, and I plan to reimburse the city of Tallahassee for all expenses related to the NGP email system.”

Gillum told supporters on a conference call Tuesday he planned to run for governor in 2018. He officially launched his campaign Wednesday morning, sending an email to supporters asking them to “join together with us … to help prove that we have that power, that hope, that determination to rebuild this state into one that works for all of, no matter what we look like, where we come from, what we believe of whom we love.”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Florida consumer sentiment in February drops from record high

After three months of positive gains, consumer sentiment among Floridians fell 3.3 points in February to 94.0, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

The pattern in Florida is similar to consumer sentiment at the national level, which also dropped 2.2 points in February to 96.3 from January’s record 98.5 according to the University of Michigan’s survey of consumers.

“While readings about current economic conditions increased slightly, expectations for the future decreased sharply among Floridians in February,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Floridians’ perceptions of their personal financial situation now compared with a year ago ticked up six-tenths of a point this month, from 87.7 to 88.3. Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket household item such as an appliance inched up seven-tenths of a point, from 100.7 to 101.4.

“The increase in these two components reflects that current economic conditions have improved in general among Floridians. These perceptions are particularly strong among men, those 60 and older and those with income levels over $50,000,” Sandoval said.

However, all three components that ask about future economic conditions showed a marked decrease. Expectations of personal finances a year from now showed the greatest decline in this month’s reading, dropping 6.6 points from 106.0 to 99.4.

Opinions about the national economy were also negative: Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year decreased 5.2 points, from 96.8 to 91.6. Anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the next five years fell from 95.1 to 89.3, a 5.8-point drop.

“Expectations about future economic conditions increased between November and December of last year, but have declined since then. Floridians are pessimistic about their future personal finances independent of their socioeconomic and demographic status. The greatest declines in perceptions about the national economy were among women, those under age 60 and those with annual income above $50,000,” Sandoval said.

Until September 2016, the current economic conditions components and the future expectations components moved together in tandem. But from September 2016 until February 2017, the future expectations components went up faster and stayed above the components reflecting current conditions.

“Expectations about the U.S. economy improved greatly before and right after the presidential election, perhaps because the population was optimistic about the incoming administration,” Sandoval said. “However, these expectations are turning pessimistic in February and the gap between the present perceptions and future expectations has disappeared.”

Overall, economic activity has expanded and the labor market continued to strengthen in the U.S. As a result, earlier this month the Federal Open Market Committee decided to keep the benchmark overnight lending rate target at a range of 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent.

In recent months, Florida job gains have remained strong and the unemployment rate has remained low, reflecting the state’s positive economic environment.

Economists look to consumer sentiment as an early signal of future conditions, because confidence among consumers leads to spending and consumption. “High levels of confidence are important to keep the economy growing,” Sandoval said. “The next few months will be key to assessing the potential economic outlook for the following years.”

Conducted Feb. 1-23, the UF study reflects the responses of 489 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross-section of Florida.

The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

Details of this month’s survey can be found at http://www.bebr.ufl.edu/csi-data.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

After driving through crash scene, Tampa nurse accused of DUI claims lack of due process

Registered nurse Evie Nordgren was arrested in 2016 for DUI and possession of narcotics. She claims the arrest lacked due process.

After driving through an accident scene, a Tampa nurse accused of DUI claims the officers used “illegal search and seizure” and failed to give due process in her arrest.

Mary Evelyn “Evie” Nordgren is a 42-year-old a registered nurse who works at 1412 W. Waters Ave. in Tampa, according to her nursing license. Currently, Superior Injury Care is at that address.

Nordgren’s medical license records show no emergency actions, discipline cases or public complaints. She is married to Daniel Glen Nordgren; the couple live in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.

In 2010, Evie Nordgren was arrested in Hillsborough County for DUI with property damage; she refused a Breathalyzer test, which triggered an automatic one-year license suspension.

Case documents say Nordgren completed substance abuse treatment in November 2011.

On the night of September 24, 2016, Tampa police were investigating a traffic crash near the intersection of Himes Avenue and Busch Boulevard, when a 2016 Chevy Impala LTZ – driven by Evie Nordgren – made a turn that went through the accident scene; the area had been set off by flares, and a Florida Highway Patrol vehicle with emergency lights flashing.

After officers yelled at Nordgren to stop and roll down her window, they reportedly smelled alcohol and thought her to be intoxicated. Another officer was called to conduct field sobriety exercises.

Nordgren again refused a Breathalyzer test. Being her second such refusal, it triggering another automatic 18-month license suspension. Nordgren was arrested for both DUI and possession of narcotics without a prescription.

In a Writ of Certiorari petition filed Feb. 13 with the Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Nordgren is asking to lift the suspension. She argues the traffic stop amounted to an “illegal search and seizure” since police lacked sufficient evidence to stop her in the first place.

Nordgren says she filed a timely demand to the DHSMV requesting a Formal Review Hearing of the suspension, as well as filed a timely Prehearing Statement.

As for the two troopers on the scene, the suit says “both testified that Ms. Nordgren’s driving pattern did not impact any other vehicles on the road and did not create an unsafe environment or rise to the level of a traffic infraction which she was cited for.”

Nordgren’s complaint argues she was denied due process since the actions of the trooper performing the DUI investigation, as well as other officers: “were not supported by competent and substantial evidence and their decision departed from the essential requirements of law.”

Court records are not clear whether the Florida Department of Health is aware of Nordgren’s 2010 and 2016 incidents, with the latter seemingly relevant to her work as a nurse, as she is accused of possessing narcotics without proof of a prescription.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Tree trimmer death blamed on employer, says widow, OSHA

The widow of a Thonotosassa man who died after falling while trying to trim a palm tree is blaming the landscape company for failing to provide adequate instruction and safety equipment.

Gray, Georgia resident Bonnie Beatrice Roberts, the surviving spouse of Darryl James Roberts has filed suit against Total Scapes Inc., doing business as Tampa landscape company Totalscape Solutions.

Totalscape Solutions is founded, owned and managed by 45-year-old Mark Anthony Gonzalez, and is located at 1717 E. Busch Blvd. in Tampa.

Darryl Roberts, formerly known as Darryl James Babilius, was a 48-year-old Thonotosassa resident working at Totalscape Solutions when he died Aug. 11, 2015, leaving behind three children, six grandchildren and Bonnie Beatrice, his wife of two years.

Bonnie was a cosmetologist Roberts married in 2013 after divorcing ex-wife Deborah Babilius in 2011.

According to the suit, filed Feb. 17 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, claims Roberts, as an employee of landscaper Totalscape, went to Culbreath Key Bayside condominiums at 5000 Culbreath Key Way in Tampa. Totalscape was hired to trim some palm trees “at great heights.” The trees were “not accessible by a lift,” so Roberts — using a body belt and lanyard — was required to use a ladder to reach the palm tree while also carrying a chain saw.

Attempting his first cut, Roberts fell backward off the ladder, suffering a fatal blunt trauma to his brain.

A federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration report on the accident concluded Roberts: “leaned backwards on the ladder to start to cut the first branch with his chain saw and he fell to the ground below sustaining head injuries.”

OSHA fined Totalscape Solutions $6,300 in for two violations of federal safety rules, one of them labeled “serious.”

In Roberts’ obituary, it said he “admired and respected the guidance and leadership of the owner of the company, Mark Gonzales.”

In the suit, however, widow Bonnie Roberts blames Totalscape, saying the company offered “insufficient equipment and training” and that he was misled to think the safety equipment would protect him.

The suit continues: “The Defendant’ s conduct made Darryl James Roberts unaware of the risk he faced because the danger was not apparent to him given the alleged ‘safety’ equipment provided and the fact the Defendant concealed or misrepresented the danger so as to prevent Darryl James Roberts from exercising judgment about whether to perform the work.”

Bonnie Roberts is seeking damages for negligence.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons