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Yvonne Fry fights claims of bad business in increasingly nasty HD 58 primary

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Accusations of bad business are the new line of attack among Republicans in the increasingly nasty House District 58 primary.

Fry began her long history of Hillsborough County government work in 2009 with the State Attorney’s Office while in a relationship with State Attorney Mark Ober. Years later that work translated into a litany of other contracts with county public agencies.

With all of this coming to light as a result of Fry’s candidacy, a potential conflict of interest and ethical questions are certainly be called to question if Ober was still the State Attorney and may still.

But belying the inference of anything untoward is the fact that Fry’s IT company, Lines of Communication, also worked at the same time with several other constitutional offices countywide, as well as with water management districts throughout Florida.

McClure and Fry are in an intense battle for the Oct. 10 GOP primary in HD 58; the seat opened last month after incumbent Republican Dan Raulerson stepped down for health reasons.

Fry launched her business shortly after the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, designed to deregulate aspects of the telecommunications business. Originally, the company catered to small businesses and nonprofit groups, but later expanded its reach in 2012 after the state approved it to bid on government contracts.

Among Fry’s clients were the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office, the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts, the Hillsborough County Public Defender’s office, and the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s office.

“We were getting ready to switch from Verizon to another provider, and she tracked and traced and worked with the technicians with the phone company and found all of these old lines that Verizon had been charging us,” says Warren Weathers, chief deputy for the Hillsborough County property appraiser’s office. “We got a huge refund. We’re probably saving $15,000 to $16,000 from her work.”

Fry’s company also worked with the cities of Plant City and Sarasota, the South Florida Water Management District, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Many of those contracts began before Fry began her relationship with the State Attorney’s Office in 2014.

Records show that Lines of Communication received monthly payments of $745 for their services — $8,840 annually — from the State Attorney’s office, and provided quarterly reports highlighting key performance indicators and recommendations for the office.

Any insinuation she received any breaks in her business deals is offensive, Fry says.

“I’ve built my professional reputation on my results and on the relationships I’ve attended to in terms of servicing my clients and doing my job,” Fry said in an interview conducted late Monday afternoon. “To say that there was a political favor, or something of that sort, is very insulting, and quite frankly potentially damaging as a businesswoman.”

Lines of Communication also contracted with several other Hillsborough government agencies.

Ober served as Hillsborough State Attorney from 2000 to 2016. He was considered the favorite to win another four-year term last fall but was upset by Democrat Andrew Warren.

McClure declined to comment.

The winner of the GOP primary faces Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and nonparty affiliated candidate Ahmad Saadaldin in the Dec. 19 general election.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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