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Former Pinellas commissioner Norm Roche loses Round 1 of lawsuit

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Newton has denied a plea that Pinellas County turn over public records to former Commissioner Norm Roche.

Newton said in her order, filed Monday, that state law requires governments and other public agencies to make records available. However, she wrote, Roche failed to produce proof that such records exist.

Roche, she said, testified that “based on common sense and conventional wisdom, he believed that additional documents … existed.” The county, she said, “clearly refuted all of [Roche’s] claims about the existence of such documents.”

Roche said, “The ruling is perplexing given the hard evidence presented, along with corroborating testimony by me and several of the witnesses. However, it is not entirely unexpected. Going up against the county within the circuit comes with its own set of special challenges. We hope to get some answers to all of this when all is said and done.”

Roche is suing Pinellas claiming officials blackballed him from working for the county after he lost a re-election bid. Roche, a former county employee, was turned down for 26 jobs with Pinellas after he left office. He was hired for the 27th job he applied for – a customer service specialist paying about $15 an hour. But before he could report for work, he was told that he would not be hired. Roche called it being “unhired.”

Part of Roche’s lawsuit involved an allegation that county officials failed to provide him with public records concerning his employment status. That’s what Newton ruled on.

Roche’s cause of action alleging he was blackballed is still ongoing. He has asked for a jury trial.

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