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    Metro week in review

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 10, 2002

    Easy gun buy led to killing, parents say

    INVERNESS -- It doesn't do much good to pass tougher gun rules and waiting periods if no effort is made to tell the gun shops about them, a letter to Citrus County asserts.

    The parents of a girl killed with a gun by her former boyfriend are seeking $200,000 from the county because the shop owner that sold the weapon didn't know about Citrus' three-day waiting period.

    The boyfriend, Troy Truax, used a shotgun he bought Feb. 19, 2001, at A-OK Pawn & Gold in Crystal River, where the owner, Marlene S. Williams, said she wasn't aware of the new law.

    Al Manchester, owner of Manchester's Pawn & Gun, was aware of the ordinance and refused to sell Truax a shotgun that day.

    Many other Citrus gun sellers, however, said they also were unaware of the county ordinance, which was more strict than the prevailing state standard.

    But County Attorney Robert Battista said it is not the county's job to notify specific gun shop owners, or anyone else, of the ordinances that affect them.

    Given that the county ran legal notices and held hearings on the issue, it's "unfortunate" (Williams) was unaware, Battista said, "but there's no legal duty for us to do that."

    Inglis thieves slink off with mayor's anti-Satan posts

    INGLIS -- Mayor Carolyn Risher's edict banning Satan from the town of Inglis apparently doesn't mean much to thieves.

    Someone has stolen the wooden posts Risher and her pastor erected at the four entrances to the town. Each post bore the words Repent, Request and Resist, and each was hollowed out and stuffed with the mayor's written proclamation casting the Prince of Darkness from the Levy County town.

    "Whoever did it should be sorry," Risher said just before her 142nd media interview -- she has kept meticulous records -- since her proclamation made headlines worldwide in November.

    Facing a lawsuit over Risher's proclamation, the Town Commission held a meeting in late January and declared it the work of an individual, not a town official, because it was never authorized by the commission.

    The posts remained, though, until a week or so ago, when someone ripped them out of the ground.

    The posts are expected to be replaced this week. If someone wants to take the new ones, they'll have a devil of a time getting them out.

    Risher's pastor bought 8-foot posts, twice as long as the originals. He plans to bury one end 4 feet in the ground and anchor it with concrete.

    Loose lips sink inmates' plan for prison breakout in Pasco

    ZEPHYRHILLS -- The whispers started in the autumn of 2000 inside the walls of D Dorm at Zephyrhills Correctional Institution.

    The inmates, most serving life sentences, wanted out.

    According to the official investigation of the incident, each man had a job.

    One or two would dig. Another would stand watch. The plan was to burrow under a nearby classroom building. The mobile structure had metal skirting around the bottom, so the diggers could dump all the dirt they wanted under there undetected.

    From there, only 40 feet of earth separated them from the woods on the other side of the barbed-wire fence.

    But someone talked. Robert Pasquince, who killed a Subway clerk in South Pasadena in 1998, came forward in exchange for a move to another Florida prison near his brother.

    Seven inmates were charged in the escape plan and six prison staff members were cited for negligence.

    Traffic rule muddles Catholic school plan

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- A proposed Catholic school in Pasco County may be too popular to pass muster with county regulations.

    Based on a rule that even Pasco County's top administrator said "seems to defy logic," a committee composed of high-ranking county staffers approved construction plans for Bishop McLaughlin High School but only on the condition that the number of students not exceed 425.

    The Diocese of St. Petersburg, in the midst of a fundraising campaign to build a $21-million "dream" school for 800 students, called the enrollment cap a "deal breaker."

    The main sticking point appeared to be the handful of car trips the school would generate on a 1-mile stretch of U.S. 19 in Port Richey.

    Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher suggested the diocese try to renegotiate a mutually acceptable traffic count with the Pasco planning staff.

    "If it really boils down to 13 trips on U.S. 19 (that push the school over the county limit), that shouldn't stop that school from expanding," Gallagher said.

    Pasco County commissioners in dark over adult club rules

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- With Pasco County's adult business ordinances in shambles, don't ask the local county commissioners what the future holds.

    Commissioners thought they had approved airtight ordinances a few years ago, based on legal advice.

    But just a couple of months after the laws took effect, a federal judge shot them down, saying they were overly restrictive.

    At their meeting Tuesday, county commissioners threw in the towel. They voted 4-0 to hire consultants to rework a zoning ordinance that tried to place adult businesses in industrial districts.

    Cowed by their defeat, they agreed to ask the clubs' attorney, Luke Lirot, what he wants for his clients and what could avoid a future court challenge. Lirot's off-the-cuff answer: nothing.

    The county already has laws on the books about prostitution, excessive noise or drug dealing that would address any of the problems the commissioners blame on the businesses, Lirot said. "I don't see why they should be treated differently than people at Arthur Murray's," Lirot said, referring to the national chain of dance studios.

    In short . . .

    BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando County Administrator Paul McIntosh survived an attempted ouster by a 3-2 vote. Despite his comments that McIntosh might be ineffective, Commissioner Chris Kingsley joined commissioners Betty Whitehouse and Mary Aiken on Wednesday to keep McIntosh on board -- at least until his six-month evaluation comes up in July.

    SAFETY HARBOR -- On Monday, Seung Woo "Sonny" Im fulfilled his parents' immigrant dreams when Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to a Pinellas County judgeship, making Im the first Asian-American in Pinellas-Pasco, and perhaps the Tampa Bay area, to be appointed to the bench. Im, born in South Korea, is a Republican who specialized in criminal and corporate law.

    On Tuesday, Pinellas County's only Krispy Kreme doughnut store debuted in Clearwater to glowing reviews. Pastry fans lined up at 5 a.m. to be the first, and one dressed up as an eclair.

    Coming up this week

    What's on the ballot in Clearwater's city elections Tuesday may not be nearly as interesting as the ballot itself. Clearwater voters will be the first to use the fancy new touch-screen voting machines for which Pinellas County paid $14-million in the wake of the disastrous 2000 presidential recount. Pasco and Hillsborough counties also are switching to touch-screen systems.

    Next weekend, a three-person committee of professors from other universities will visit the University of South Florida to see whether the American Association of University Professors should censure USF for its treatment of Sami Al-Arian, a controversial professor whom federal authorities have linked to terrorists. USF president Judy Genshaft has indicated a desire to fire him, but students and professors have called the move an attack on academic freedom.

    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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