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Florida demands Largo anti-bullying nonprofit to stop fundraising

A Largo anti-bullying nonprofit is under fire by the state of Florida, demanding it stops fundraising after its solicitation license lapsed.

On the Gulf Coast Giving website, the charity — incorporated in 2009 by Nick Foley of Largo – had said its “main mission is to provide underserved schools and nonprofits with updated technology and training to maximize their efforts; and to provide cyberbullying awareness, prevention and intervention programs to secure a brighter future for our community’s youth.” Gulf Coast promises to donate a portion of its fundraising proceeds to groups such as Habitat for Humanity, the Clearwater Seaquarium, Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, Cornerstone Campus Ministry and others.

 As recently as last week, however, the website still included a ‘Donate Now’ button and a ‘Giving’ menu selection. On Monday, the website has been taken down.

As of Sept. 23, 2016, the Florida Division of Corporations had dissolved Gulf Coast Giving for failing to file an annual report. Charities in Florida cannot solicit funds unless registered with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In the 2015 report, Gulf Coast listed three directors and/or officers: Foley, Anthony Foley and Paul J. Burns. Jessica Moody-Shafer is listed as operations manager.

Gulf Coast, located at 12597 Walsingham Rd #2 in Largo, claims it had established a partnership with the City of St. Petersburg and Mayor Rick Kriseman to screen the documentary “Bully” and host a discussion about bullying. Allegedly attached to the event were boxer Winky Wright, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, and St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway.

In a 2013 article in the Tampa Bay Times, Gulf Coast – described as a group that “promotes volunteer work” – organized a bully-awareness week at local schools.

However, after Gulf Coast Giving allowed its registration to lapse, FDACS filed a complaint about illegally soliciting contributions. In an order issued Aug. 16, the department demanded Gulf Coast to stop seeking donations and pay a $500 fine. A lawsuit filed by the state in Pinellas County Circuit Court Jan. 5 says the Gulf Coast has done neither and is asking the court to intervene.

The home page of Gulf Coast Giving. As of 1/11/2017, the website still included a ‘Donate Now’ button. Image courtesy of BayLawsuits.com
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tourism

For-profit ‘Florida Tourism Bureau’ sued over $15K defaulted loan

A newly formed business called “Florida Tourism Bureau” is facing court action by a creditor who fronted several thousand in startup costs.

The Clearwater company — founded June 2016 by Tim Gahagen and Richard Dawes — is somewhat unusual in that tourism bureaus are traditionally quasi-governmental entities and not outright for-profit businesses.

John Edward Eder, a 55-year-old Margate resident, loaned Gahagen and Dawes $15,000 just one week after the Florida Tourism Bureau was incorporated. The Bureau is located at 300 S. Duncan Ave., Suite 164-A in Clearwater.

The pair promised to pay Eder back within six months, in monthly installments. Filings show that the money was a “friendly” loan, since the agreement shows Eder would not charge the two any interest.

Nevertheless, Eder argues that neither defendant paid back a dime of the loan. He is now seeking relief from the court, filing a suit Dec. 30 in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court for Pinellas County.

State records show this was not Gahagen’s first foray into the tourism industry.

In 2013, Gahagen founded the Florida Travel and Tourism Bureau, as well as the Florida Tourism Council in 2007. And in 2003, Gahagen incorporated the Orlando Central Tourist Bureau. A cursory search by Baylawsuits.com finds no “meaningful information” about any of the Gahagen companies created over the past two years.

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Swimmer sues Brandon L.A. Fitness after chlorine gas mishap in pool

During a morning swim at a Brandon LA Fitness, two patrons were harmed when poisonous chlorine gas was discharged into the pool.

Around 6:20 a.m. Dec. 14, 2015, William Cordova was in the pool when the gas began coming out of the pool jets. The gas came without warning, he says.

Cordova claims to have suffered serious injuries in his eyes, skin, respiratory passages, lungs and ears.

The gas was described as a “yellow-colored substance,” presumably chlorine gas. Hillsborough fire crews responded to the incident.

Cordova is now suing the Irvine, California-based LA Fitness, and the pool maintenance company, Sharper Image Pools of Tampa, for negligence. Because he was subjected to dangerous conditions, he is seeking damages more than $15,000 for hospitalization, medical costs, loss of earnings, and loss of ability to earn money.

LA Fitness and Sharper Image, allegedly, planned, controlled and maintained the pool. The gym owed its patrons a duty to protect them from dangerous conditions.

The LA Fitness in question is located at 2890 Providence Lakes Blvd. in Brandon.

According to iClubs.com, two similar incidents occurred in Georgia and Connecticut.

News Channel 8 reported: “Two people were transported to a hospital after too much chlorine was put in a pool at the Brandon LA Fitness health club …”

 

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Slip & fall specialist gives Blue Martini a goodbye gift — a slip & fall lawsuit

The owner of a clinic specializing in slip and fall cases is suing the soon-to-close Blue Martini in International Plaza — in a slip and fall case.

The victim, Elizabeth Salvia-Rodriguez, is seeking damages from the restaurant, as well as Taubman Company LLC, a Michigan-based firm doing business as International Plaza and Bay Street.

Salvia-Rodriguez, a 52-year-old Cuba native, is president and owner of Bayview Medical & Rehab. Bayview, with locations in Tampa and Brandon, is a family practice specializing in several areas, including slips and falls, chiropractic care, auto accidents and personal injuries.

In December 2015, Salvia-Rodriguez was at Blue Martini in International Plaza. Around 1:30 a.m., she slipped while walking on an uneven surface while exiting the bar. According to the suit, she sustained many injuries, including “significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement … injuries to her head, face, jaws, neck, back, spine, arms, legs, nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, soft tissues and body as a whole.”

Blue Martini, an upscale bar and restaurant, is set to close Saturday. Although the restaurant was open in the International Plaza for 15 years, disagreements with lease negotiations forced the establishment to close and will be replaced by Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar, a South Florida chain.

Salvia-Rodriguez was arrested in 2006 on a felony charge for filing a fraudulent insurance claim. A pretrial intervention program allowed the charges to be dropped.

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Tampa Realtor president sues neighbor for access to ‘landlocked’ property

Andrew Scaglione

The owner of a landlocked private property in Tampa is suing his neighbor to create an easement allowing access to the land.

ANMF, managed by Andrew Scaglione, is suing neighbor, Henry Robertson Jr., on two counts “to establish an Implied Way of Necessity” and “to establish a statutory way of necessity.”

The company owns a five-acre parcel located in Millan de Avila, an exclusive Tampa neighborhood.

According to the suit, filed December 14 in Hillsborough County’s 13th Circuit Court, ANMF suggests the only practical access point to the land is through Robertson’s property. The property cannot be used to its full potential without such access.

ANMF seeks for a 38-foot wide easement to be established, offering to pay $100 as compensation for the use of the roadway.

A diagram attached to the suit outlines the property owned by ANMF. It depicts the property to be surrounded by cement walls to the north and west as well as a wooded wetland just west of the property. South of the property is where Robertson’s land is located. An easement currently stretches from Indian Head Drive to the end of Robertson’s property.

The land was previously owned by Robertson before losing it to foreclosure. Two years after that, ANMF purchased the land.

Scaglione, 55, also serves as president of the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors, a nonprofit association representing more than 9,000 real estate professionals. He also is a board member of USAmeriBank, a director and former chair of the Tampa Sports Authority, and the owner of Empire Commercial Realty Service.

Scaglione lives in Avila, directly north of ANMF’s property.

The diagram suggests a possible access to the property could be obtained via Scaglione’s property. However, it also appears to show a cement wall separating the two properties.

Image courtesy of BayLawsuits.com

 

Enhanced map with the home of Andrew Scaglione in green. Image courtesy of BayLawsuits.com
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Misplaced road signage resulted in death of Pinellas Park couple, suit claims

Henry and Diana Neuner

Two companies responsible for placing proper signage and blockades on the Veterans Expressway in Tampa during construction are being held accountable in the death of a Pinellas Park couple.

Henry and Diana Neuner‘s two sons, Leo and Nolan Neuner are suing GLF Construction of Miami and Sema Construction, a Centennial, Colorado-based firm, for negligence. The wrongful death action was filed in Hillsborough County’s 13th Judicial Circuit Court on Dec. 13, 2016.

The Neuners died June 11, 2016, while en route to Withlacoochee State Park to watch the sunrise. As Mr. Neuner drove north on the expressway, he stayed in the far-right lane, which is typically an exit-only lane. However, the lane appeared to continue.

As the car traveled over the Gunn Highway overpass, the lane suddenly ended. The car slammed into a concrete barricade at an estimated 45 mph. GLF owned the barricade, which obstructed the entire right lane. There wasn’t an opportunity for Mr. Neuner to brake or avoid collision with the obstruction. Both Henry and Diana died almost immediately.

Florida Department of Transportation contracted Sema and GLF to work on widening the Veterans Expressway. Each company was assigned a sector of the highway. The line adjoining the two sectors is the Gunn Highway exit around Mile Marker 9. Both companies were responsible for erecting and maintaining “roadway construction signage, traffic cones, and other directional devices.” Barrels and signs stating “Road Closed” were placed by the exit prior to the accident, however at some point before the crash, they were removed and never replaced.

The sons are co-representatives of their parents’ estate.

A Tampa Bay Reporter article on the accident stated that Mrs. Neuner wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

The Neuner’s left behind two sons and four grandchildren.

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Lesbian employee says nursing home tolerated anti-gay discrimination

After being assaulted and harassed for being a lesbian, a senior living facility employee is suing the facility for discrimination.

Michelle Del Valle was working at Inspired Living Validus Senior Living in Tampa when she was assaulted by the spouse of a resident.

Now she is suing her employer on seven counts including negligence, retaliation, breaking the Florida Civil Rights Act, and discrimination.

Del Valle began working for the facility June 1, 2015 as a medical technician. She was responsible for giving residents designated medicines. To do this, she used a secure cart that was never to leave her side while performing her job duties.

Del Valle claims to have been harassed, ridiculed and abused daily because of her sexual orientation. Her employer didn’t do much to stop the harassment, despite multiple complaints from Del Valle.

The spouse, Patrice Gunther, demanded Del Valle refrain from contacting or coming near her and her husband. Inspired Living did as requested, thus pardoning illegal acts happening within its facility, in the opinion of Del Valle.

Per the suit, Gunther told the director of the senior living facility Del Valle was “in her ‘space’ too much,” and that she did not like the employee because she’s lesbian.

Gunther would call Del Valle a “dyke” and “trash” and would be aggressive and angry toward her.

Rather than defending its employee, Inspired Living indefinitely suspended Del Valle. She was suspended for days before she was brought back to work and “was directed to stay away from Mr. and Mrs. Gunther.” She wasn’t permitted to be in the same hallway as the couple, take her cart to the dining hall where the Gunther’s could be, or administer Mr. Gunther his medication.

Gunther was also given Del Valle’s work schedule to know when she would be in the building.

Even after Del Valle complied with her new rules, Gunther continued to make complaints about her presence.

Things took a turn for the worse Aug. 28, 2015.

Del Valle was handing out medicine to patients when she arrived at Gunther’s room. Per procedure, she called another employee to get Mr. Gunther’s medicine from the cart. Gunther came from her husband’s room and ran to the medicine cart. She screamed at Del Valle to “get out of here.” However, Del Valle would have been in violation of her job duties had she left the cart, so she apologized and told Gunther she had to do her job.

Gunther continued screaming, calling Del Valle a “piece of crap.”

Gunther attempted to grab the cart key from Del Valle’s hand, causing her to fall backward. On Aug. 31, Del Valle was terminated for not walking away from the situation. If she had left the cart, she still could have faced termination.

In the suit, Del Valle seeks damages for front and back pay, benefits and emotional distress caused by the harassment.

The Inspired Living facility in question is at 5130 Kelly Road. It opened in early 2015 with a specialization in Alzheimer’s, dementia and other mental impairments.

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Florida sues open-carry group run by former Libertarian Senate candidate for illegal fundraising

Alexander Snitker

A Pasco County-based political group promoting “liberty” and smaller government, as well as open-carry and campus-gun laws, is being sued by the state of Florida for fundraising as an illegitimate nonprofit.

Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is suing Liberty First Network, demanding the New Port Richey-based organization cease fundraising immediately and pay a $1,000 fine.

Alexander Andrew “Alex” Snitker, 41, founded the Florida Liberty Network in 2013, which was later renamed Liberty First Network. Its principal business address is listed as 9851 State Road 54 in New Port Richey.

Those who follow politics may remember Snitker as the 2010 Libertarian Party candidate for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat. Snitker left the Party in 2016 to join the Republican Party, despite his continued support for Libertarian Gary Johnson for president.

In a Sunshine State News Op-Ed, Snitker explained why he left: “The Libertarian Party of Florida is filled with far too many bureaucrats who continuously look to bring more power within the party up to the top and will do so by any means.”

On the Liberty First website, Snitker established the organization with one principle: “To place Liberty first in Tallahassee.”

As a self-described “pending” 501(c)(4) Florida nonprofit organization, Liberty First seeks to “educate citizens about Liberty, and to advocate for the restoration of Liberty in the Florida Legislature and elsewhere.”

Nevertheless, charities who raise funds in Florida are required by the state to register annually with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services — something Liberty First failed to do, since registration for the Network lapsed last year.

On Feb. 1, 2016, the Department filed a complaint, accusing the group of illegally soliciting contributions. By March 26, the state had ordered the Network to stop fundraising and pay the $1,000 fine.

In a suit filed Jan. 4 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, the state says the Network, as of yet, had done neither. Now the department is asking the court to intervene.

The Network’s primary goals are to limit government’s role in the lives of Floridians. To that end, it employs lobbyists — John Hallman, Danielle Alexandre and Theile Riordan (for “marketing”) — in an effort to push an extensive priority list: enact open-carry and campus-carry gun laws, abolition of red-light cameras, reduce funding for state purchases of conservation land, and eliminate funding for Enterprise Florida, the governor’s corporate relocation incentives fund.

The Network has also actively supported the effort to prevent Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

By way of the Florida Action Alerts website, the Network also issues calls to Florida lawmakers (as well as concerned citizens) to take legislative action on its agenda.

One such call to action came in October 2015, when Liberty First and Florida Citizens Alliance asked supporters to email state representatives and senators in support of open-carry bills HB 163, from state Rep. Matt Gaetz, and SB 300, from Gaetz’s father, state Sen. Don Gaetz. Both bills sought to establish what state Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican, described at the time as the “God-given right to openly carry weapons.”

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Riverview parents say school put 5-year-old son on wrong bus

Parents trust the county school bus system to get their child home safely from school, but parents of a 5-year-old Riverview boy faced their worst fears after the school bus dropped the child off at the wrong stop.

According to a lawsuit filed by Steve Fish on behalf of his son, Takoda, the School Board of Hillsborough County failed Takoda and his parents when the boy was put onto a school bus that wasn’t his designated vehicle, and leaving him at the wrong stop. A member of the school board had escorted Takoda to the bus.

After he didn’t come home from school July 28, 2016, both parents searched frantically for their son, before eventually finding him safe.

Bus driver Vicki Hampton apparently left the child at a random stop, where there was no one there to greet or pick him up.

Fish is accusing SBHC of negligence for failing to provide supervision for Takoda, failing to put him on the correct bus, failing to drop him at the correct stop, and failing to provide a safe environment.

Takoda is a student at Summerfield Elementary School, located at 11990 Big Bend Road in Riverview. Given that the incident took place in July, it is possible that Takoda Fish was at Summerfield Elementary for either summer school or camp.

Takoda has allegedly suffered due to the incident, forcing him to seek ongoing medical care and mental treatment.

That morning, Fish posted a photo of himself and Takoda to Facebook that read, “Off to see the TB Bucs practice this morning.”

Takoda and Steve Fish, in a Facebook post the same day Takoda was allegedly put on the wrong school bus.
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Landscaper loses big toe, then job, after lawn mower accident

Florida Workers’ Compensation is set up to protect employees injured on the job; however, one worker who lost his toe to a lawn mower also lost his job after seeking compensation.

Hillsborough County resident William Francis worked for Village Lawn Care for 10 years. In late September of last year, his big toe was cut off in a lawn mower accident.

VLC, owned by Albert Aucoin Jr. of Lutz, is located at 1501 Skipper Road in Tampa.

The day of the accident, he notified VLC of his injury and made a claim for benefits for a work-related injury.

Medical documentation of the accident was provided to his employer Oct. 4 along with the appropriate workers’ compensation paperwork.

Francis was fired Oct. 7, in what he says was retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

In the Dec. 8 suit, Francis requests the court grant compensation for lost pay, benefits and damages for emotional distress.

The suit does not state who was operating the mower at the time of the accident.

 

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