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Black students sue Pinellas County school district over killing ‘successful’ reading program

Attorney Todd Hoover

Parents of two Pinellas County students are suing the school district over the cancellation of a “highly effective” reading program for African-American students. They claim it was due to personal animosity toward the program’s founder, who happens to be the attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Jadrius Boykin and Malik Williams are African-American students attending schools in Pinellas County’s “Area 3” district. A story published May 15, 2016, suggests Boykin is a student at Melrose Elementary.

The boys’ mothers — Tracie Boykin and Camille Archie — filed a joint suit against the Pinellas County School District saying their children are more likely to end up “illiterate” as a result of what they claim is a “callous decision” to shut down rather than expand the “First 25” reading program.

They say top school officials — including Area 3 Superintendent Robert Poth and Pinellas County District Superintendent Michael Grego — were “hostile” to the program because of a personal animosity toward the program’s founder, attorney Todd Hoover.

Poth is a former Pinellas County teacher who became an administrator after 15 years of teaching. He was named Outstanding Mathematics Teacher of the Year by the Pinellas Classroom Teachers of Mathematics and was a finalist for Pinellas County Teacher of the Year in 1990.

Also named in the suit is Deputy Superintendent William Corbett.

Hoover, who represents the parents in the suit, is a graduate of Stetson Law and was admitted to the Florida Bar September 2016. While attending Stetson, Hoover introduced a voluntary, weekly, before-school reading and athletics program at St. Petersburg’s John Hopkins Middle School which later became known as “First 25.”

The goal of the nonprofit program was to improve the reading fluency of struggling African-American students. Barry Brown was principal at John Hopkins when First 25 began in 2012, and is still principal there.

In 2014, Bay News 9 named Hoover one is its “everyday heroes.” Nevertheless, the school district decided to end the program in 2015.

When district leaders decided to discontinue First 25, Hoover asked the full school board for an investigation — which later found no sign of malfeasance. However, Hoover claims the request made district officials even more hostile toward both him and the program.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 25 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, says that although John Hopkins principal Brown was initially a supporter of First 25, he scaled back enthusiasm after district officials opposed to the program.

After the end of First 25, Hoover criticized the district in a 2015 Bay News 9 story, saying that the refusal to consider the program on its merits “cost the district an opportunity to improve the reading skills of African-American students, whose performance on average not only trails local whites’ but that of their black counterparts elsewhere in Florida.”

School district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf responded that the PCS was not trying to kill the reading program, but wanted to bring First 25 “into compliance with district guidelines.”

Hoover blasted that as “more excuses … the question is, why don’t you want 25 kids from the toughest neighborhoods showing up on their own to read?”

The suit argues that the program was effective — 75 percent of the students participating in First 25 saw increased reading scores, and 55 percent saw improvements so great as to be considered “learning gains” by Florida Department of Education standards.

According to the lawsuit: “By suppressing successful reading programs for black children, Defendant has increased the chances that Plaintiffs will be illiterate” and that “domestic strife and unrest” will continue to bedevil the black community.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Florida Bank insiders shafted minority investors in sale to IberiaBank, suit says

Minority investors in a Tampa Bay-area bank are accusing the board and other insiders of shafting them by manipulating share values before the bank’s sale to a Louisiana firm.

Tampa-based Florida Bank Group – the holding company operating under the name Florida Bank – received millions in federal Troubled Asset Relief Program TARP funds after losing $137-million between 2007 and 2013.

Florida Bank, originally the Bank of St. Petersburg, had been operating since 1985, and now has nine offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties, as well as 13 offices throughout Florida. Robert Rothman was Florida Bank’s president and CEO, later replaced by Susan A. “Susie” Martinez.

TARP is the federal program set up by Congress in 2008 to stabilize banks holding large amounts of bad loans.

James Lewis Wilkes II and Timothy Charles McHugh are the namesakes of Tampa-based law firm Wilkes & McHugh, a Tampa-based law firm founded in 1985. The firm is most noted for suing nursing homes for negligence. Wilkes & McHugh also operate offices in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Arizona.

When Florida Bank announced a private placement of additional stock in 2013, several investors – including Wilkes and McHugh – said they “could not conceive of chasing good money after bad.”

In late 2014, the Tampa Tribune reported that Florida Bank Group was to be acquired by Louisiana-based IberiaBank Corp. for $90-million. After the deal had been finalized in early 2015, Martinez was named IberiaBank’s Florida regional president. Rothman stayed on as board chair.

In a breach-of-fiduciary-duty suit filed Feb. 13 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, the plaintiffs – Wilkes, McHugh, firm attorney Bennie Lazzara Jr. and his wife, Joyce – claim they didn’t know that Florida Bank’s 2013 private placement, another in 2011, as well as incentives and other stock programs were designed to maximize shareholdings of the bank’s directors and officers.

The suit also accuses the bank of diluting holdings, so that bank insiders could make a killing in the sale to IberiaBank. Plaintiffs claim that in 2013, the private placement alone increased the number of outstanding common shares from 21-million to 212-million, with most of them acquired by insiders.

The plaintiffs also allege nearly a dozen bank insiders including CEO Martinez and chair Rothman put their own needs ahead of those outside minority investors, which they say lost a considerable amount of money in the sale.


Tampa developer sues Housing Authority over public records for ‘Encore’ renewal project

A Tampa developer is suing the Tampa Housing Authority, claiming officials are holding back documents related to a sprawling urban renewal in the neighborhood between downtown and Ybor City.

Pinnacle Holdings Group is accusing the THA of withholding key documents from public records for the “controversial handling” of Encore, the ambitious mixed-use project to replace Central Park Village. Frank Donald DeBose is president of Pinnacle Group, located at 4830 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 600 in Tampa.

Encore is the name of the plan that combines public housing, retail and commercial buildings with market-value condominiums.

In March 2016, the Tampa Tribune reported that Pinnacle Group was interested in purchasing to downtown parcels for $7.4-million as part of the Encore project.

Among Pinnacle’s tentative plans were a 20-story hotel and a 28-story residential tower. Other community features include an urban farm, museum, middle school, solar park and a renovated Perry Harvey Park, with an amphitheater and displays to honor Central Avenue’s history.

In November 2016, Pinnacle Group submitted a public records request to the THA, asking for “all documents pertaining or relating to the planning and development of Encore since November 2, 2010.”

The request specified documents and correspondence concerning developer Related Group – the private Miami-based developer also involved with the Encore project – as well as those involving Pinnacle Group itself.

Pinnacle claims documents received in December from the Authority were “insufficient,” and a subsequent request for “missing” items made January 10 provided not much more.

In a lawsuit filed February 17 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Pinnacle is suing under Chapter 119 of Florida Statutes (otherwise known as the “Public Records Act”). The company asks the court to set an immediate hearing and order the THA to “allow the inspection and copying of the requested public records.”

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.

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.


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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