Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida on May 24, 1985 · 6
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Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida · 6

St. Petersburg, Florida
Issue Date:
Friday, May 24, 1985
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ST. PETERSBURG TIMES EO I Florida, 2-B I Legislature, 9-B I Business, 12-B Obituaries, 19-B section FRIDAY, MAY 24, 1985 1 de-fend ants surrender in mil By LARRY KING St Ptrtburg Timi 8f W Wrtf r TAMPA Most of the 25 people accused of bilking Hillsborough County residents through government corruption surrendered Thursday to federal officials and were quickly released on bail. Few of the 21 men and women arrested on assorted racketeering, fraud and obstruction of justice charges were talkative. "I'm innocent," former Hillsborough County Commissioner Fred Anderson said tersely as he left the federal courthouse in downtown Tampa. "I have nothing to say, excuse me," said Anderson's attorney Rennie Lazzara Jr., forging his way through a gaggle of reporters and camera crews who shouted ques- tions. Anderson whb one of three former county commissioners charged in a sweeping, 166-page indictment returned late Wednesday by a federal grand jury. The indictment also accused five lawyers, six businessmen and five companies of a long-running spate of alleged bribes, fixed votes and grand jury perjury. U.S. Attorney Robert Merkle said at a Wednesday night press conference that if the charges are proved, "it would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Hillsborough' County has basically been held hostage to a corrupt governing authority." About $190,000 in bribes were paid to fix votes on such things as zoning, road -paving con- Hillsborough. County 1Lj; Hon Q'ir i I m-w I If " t " 1 si, I -t 5s J 1 1 tracts, cable television, garbage rate increases and alcoholic beverage permits, the indictment alleges. Many of the defendants and their attorneys refused to comment Thursday because they hadn't yet read and digested the hefty indictment. But those who did speak seemed exasperated by the charges. "You look at this indictment and it reads like a fairy tale," said former County Commissioner Joseph Kotvas Jr. "I have nothing more to say." For Tampa lawyer John Demmi, it was the second time he has been indicted by the same grand jury. Last year, Demmi was charged with drug smuggling, racketeering and passing bribes to fix criminal drug cases. A Please see SURRENDER. 4-B Borrow pit Pinellas is fighting figures into corruption charges By MILO GEYELIN St. Pwriburg Tim 8tW Wrlur TAMPA A controversial borrow pit that Pinellas County officials have been fighting for three years figures into charges of widespread public corruption in Hillsborough County that resulted in federal indictments Wednesday. A federal grand jury handed up indictments charging bribes and attempted bribes in many aspects of Hillsborough County government, including a bribe that three commissioners allegedly sought in connection with the borrow pit. Former Hillsborough County Commissioners Fred Anderson, Jerry Bowmer and Joe Kotvas were all charged with soliciting a bribe from Hillsborough County resident James "Bobby" Martin in September 1982 in exchange for granting a county permit to dig a huge borrow pit near Pinellas County's largest source of drinking water. Martin and his brothers William and Charles have been at the center of a three-year old legal battle with Pinellas over whether materials buried at that site and at another nearby dump endanger the county's water supply. None of the Martins was charged in the indictment. In the Martin case, the indictment charges that Bowmer, Anderson and Kotvas "corruptly requested, solicited and agreed to accept a pecuniary benefit" from Martin in exchange for approving an application Martin had pending to quadruple the size of his 10 acre borrow pit. The commission with Kotvas, Bowmer and Anderson voting in favor reversed itself in October 1982 and approved the application after first turning it down. The indictment, however, does not charge Martin with bribing the commissioners. Nor does it say how much money Bowmer, Anderson and Kotvas allegedly tried to solicit. Martin could not be reached for comment Thursday. Please see PINELLAS. 4-B jncqum snnaens She uses shears, not carving knife, on these 'rat tails' Suddenly, ominously, there it was! The first rat's tail ever seen in Harvest Temple Christian School. Then another appeared . . . and another . . . five in all. And by Wednesday morning a foothold, or more properly, a neckhold, had been gained for this sinister hair style. (The rat's tail is a youth coiffure, deceptively normal on top and on the sides but with a tuft of hair growing down the back of the neck, a tuft that hopes one day to become a pigtail.) But the rats' tails had history to contend with. Nothing so punkish in origin had ever appeared in the 13-year history of the calm little private school on Walsingham Road in Largo. THE RAT'S TAIL also had Principal Georgia Bell to contend with. And this smiling, soft-spoken woman would as soon cut it off as look it. And did. Wednesday morning, a sign went up for the school's 240 students (preschool through 12th grade; $1,395 per year) to read and ponder: "Bell's Barber Shop," was the top line. Then, illustrated by a yellow-crayon drawing of a pair of scissors, it continued: "Open this afternoon around 2:00. If your hair is over your collar, boys . . . GET IN LINE." Mrs. Bell merely gave the order. Her secretary Gretchen Ward did the deed. "Well, I am a licensed hairdresser," said Mrs. Ward. Then with unblinking honesty she added: "Anyway, I'm licensed in Ohio." She did not, of course, give the five boys, all of them elementary students, real haircuts. "It's not like I cut off great chunks of hair," she said. "I just took off the bits touching the collar." REPORTEDLY, THE RAT tailers' reactions were restrained. "One boy kept telling me, 'Don't take off too much,' " said Mrs. Ward. "And another looked kind of sad and said, 'Well, at least this will make my parents happy.' " It did not make at least one parent happy. The divorced father of one of the boys happened to have his son for an overnight visit on haircut day. When he saw what had been done, he went to the Largo police and complained that school officials had assaulted his son. "I'm angry," he said. "The school has a right to its dress code but no right to enforce it without both parents' approval. Nobody has the right to take shears to a child's head." He has not decided whether to take further legal steps. "But I'm not going to let it slide," he warned. His former wife does not share his anger and asked that her son not be identified and brought publicly into the conflict. She declared: "I have custody of my child, I pay the school bills, and I signed a contract to abide by the school policies. They have a perfect right to do what they did. I'm just sorry I didn't get around to taking him to the barber shop myself." Principal Bell was understandably less than enthusiastic about this latest Pinellas County clash between school dress codes and youth fashions. In fact,' she greeted this reporter with the same wary friendliness that people ordinarily bring to their first meeting with a Doberman pinscher. "THERE ARE SO many wonderful things about this school," she kept saying, indeed enumerating. "I'm so serious about this school I don't want people to think we're kooks. We don't have an inches-thick book of rules. All we have is a simple dress code. Girls wear dresses, boys wear trousers, not jeans, shirts with collars and hair neatly trimmed and not below the collars. "But this was no uprising. I suppose some of the boys want to get a head start on their rat's tails for the summer. Still, we can't ignore our rules just because summer is coming." ' :,( r u S rVr ; r- (, . S v -: " - . n -i-: St ;: iav-'' (t 'n fj Reed named university chancellor By CARL McCLENDON St. Pf f bur 9 Timi StW Wrttr St. Pctartburg Timn ERIC MENCHER Hurry up, you guys After a rough and tumble game of soccer at Bear Creek Park, these young athletes wait for a much-needed drink of water at the fountain. The children, ages 4 to 6, play the sport as part of the tot program of the St. Petersburg Soccer Club. TALLAHASSEE A Florida Board of Rei gents search committee Thursday picked the insid; er most observers had predicted would be the next chancellor of the state's university system. The committee unanimously nominated Charles Reed, Gov. Bob Graham's right-hand man, to replace outgoing University System Chancellor Barbara Newell. The nomination means that a mere formality stands between Reed and the job that had been sought by about 75 candidates, most of whom had some ties to the state university system. That formality, a confirmation vote by the full board, is expected to come today. Newell announced in March that she is quitting the $97,000 a year post to return to teaching. At an impromptu press conference in his Capitol office after the nomination, Reed denied what many skeptics have said throughout the quick search: that his selection was a foregone conclusion. "I know that that is not a fact, for sure," said Reed. He said he only made up his mind last week even to be interviewed for the job. "I REALLY like the job I have," he said. As chancellor, Reed will administer a system of Please see REED, 7-B CHARLES REED Full of changes, bill to raise drinking age passes Senate Legislators, lobbyists reach compromise on growth plan 9-B By LAURIE HOLLMAN St. Ptf tburg Tiroi Staff Wrrtw TALLAHASSEE The Senate voted Thursday to raise the legal drinking age in Florida from 19 to 21. But don't go away: Although the legal drinking age is now almost certain to rise, there's still a chance that it won't. That's because the Senate passed a different bill than the House passed last week. And that's because some senators are out to do everything they can to keep the legal drinking age from changing. They tacked one amendment after another onto the House bill, making people who want to raise the legal drinking age to 21 furious. ONE OF these amendments, which the House refused to accept last week, bans discrimination by private clubs that have liquor licenses. Another amendment allows young people in the military to drink. Rep. Fran Carlton, D-Orlando, had a simple description for the senators who proposed these amendments: tools of the liquor industry. "I think that this morning was a disgusting display of control of the Senate by interests who are in the business of selling alcohol to young people," she said. Carlton said the chances for raising the drinking age are still excellent, even if it means making senators live with the amendments they tacked onto the bill. "It would be poetic justice," she said. As things now stand, the two drinking age bills have to be reconciled before Gov. Bob Graham can sign the legislation into law. ASSUMING THAT happens, anyone who can drink legally now won't lose that right when the drinking age rises. Both House and Senate bills allow anyone who turns 19 by July 1 to continue drinking legally. Anyone younger than that, though, wouldn't be able to drink legally until they turn 21. For seven years, lawmakers like Carlton have tried in vain to raise the drinking age, arguing that the change will save lives. What's likely to make the difference this year is the federal government. It has threatened to deny federal transportation aid to states that don't raise the legal drinking age. That could cost Florida more than Please see DRINKING. 7-B Accused drug smuggler escapes from small-town jail By ED MARKS St. Pf fburg Timl Staff Wrttf Joseph F. Valverde III, Pinellas County businessman and accused drug smuggler, escaped from a small jail in North Florida early Thursday, barely a month before he was to stand trial. When Madison County jailers checked on Valverde Wednesday night, the Scripture-quoting prisoner was sitting on his bunk with a Bible in his hand. When they came to wake him up Thursday morning, they found nothing but pillows stuffed under his blankets, said Madison County Sheriff Joe Peavey. "The last word he said to the jailer Wednesday night was 'God bless you,' " said Peavey, who helped Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agents search for Valverde all day Thursday. Valverde and his accused accomplice Thomas R. Geers, who shared a cell, were discovered missing about 8 a.m. Thursday. Valverde had made several phone calls from the jail before lights were turned out Wednesday night, Peavey said. "They got out of their cell, walked along a catwalk, pulled a screen out of the window, crossed through the yard and jumped over a 12-foot chain-link fence with barbed wire on the top," Peavey said. "We don't know how they got the cell door open. We don't know if they jimmied it or had a key brought in from the outside." Valverde, 36, was arrested last December after FDLE agents said they caught him and Geers unloading 3,000 pounds of marijuana from a small plane on a farm Valverde owns in Madison County. Valverde was accused of using dummy corporations Please see ESCAPE, Page 18-B sunrise DIGEST $1 1 -million expansion at airport urged 3-B County computer chief resigns 18-B Falling concrete pins man in cement mixer A Brooksville man was pinned inside a cement mixer for 1 5 minutes Thursday when a piece of concrete fell on his neck. Seife Joseph Awad, 34, had been cleaning dried concrete from the inside of the cement mixer with a jackhammer. Awad was freed after his coworkers at Florida Crushed Stone cut open the cement mixer with a blowtorch. He was reported in stable condition Thursday night at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. Rainwatchers say maybe today's the day Just in case, you'd better grab your umbrella before you go out today. Forecasters predict a 40 percent chance of thundershowers today and Saturday under partly cloudy skies. Temperatures will be in the upper 80s, easing off to the low 70s at night. On Sunday, forecasters predict a 20 percent chance of rain, with temperatures again in the upper 80s. Teen charged with grandmother's murder A 1 6-year-old boy has been charged with beating his grandmother to death with a hammer, says Gadsden County Sheriff W. A. Woodham. Hattie Stephens, 75, was still alive Monday afternon when she was found sitting upright in a chair in her home in Gibson. She never regained consciousness, however, and she died Wednesday. The teen-ager's name was withheld because of his age., Woodham would not discuss a possible motive. CAROL GENTRY More Sunrise Digest on 18-B. Correction, Section B Attorney John T. Allen Jr. represents Pinellas County on matters relating to water supplies. A headline Thursday said he works for another government agency. Lawn sprinkling and car washing allowed today only at homes with even-numbered addresses before 7 a.m. and from 9 p.m. until midnight.

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