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Despite anger, Urbanski not shunning religion

By WAVENEY ANN MOORE, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2002


Until he accused the bishop of sexual harassment, Bill Urbanski was close with Robert Lynch.

Until he accused the bishop of sexual harassment, Bill Urbanski was close with Robert Lynch.

So close that Lynch baptized Urbanski's children and became their godfather.

So close that Urbanski's mother and sister organized the Bishop's Ball in 1999 and 2000.

So close that when Urbanski's bicycle shop was struggling several years ago, Lynch gave him a job.

"He just took me in under his wing and never let me forget it and he told me, never forget who got you here and how ungrateful you are," Urbanski recalled Friday.

Urbanski, 42, comes from one of Tampa's prominent families.

His father is former Tampa Tribune president James Urbanski, who resigned after another son, Mark, was accused of rape a decade ago.

Urbanski's mother, Ann Urbanski, organized the first Bishop's Ball in Tampa in 1999 to benefit St. Peter Claver School. The bishop was the guest of honor. A second Bishop's Ball took place in April 2000 at Higgins Hall, this one co-chaired by Betsy Urbanski Smith, his sister. Both events were formal dinner dances that drew more than 200 patrons.

Urbanski is a graduate of the University of Florida and has a degree in speech and communications. He admits to being a partier as a youth, but says that is all behind him.

"I really tried to turn my life around and I haven't had a sip of alcohol since 1989, almost 13 years. I'm pretty proud of it," he said.

He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two children, ages three and four. A triathlete for 16 years, Urbanski said the hobby gives him an outlet and keeps him young for his children.

The Plant High School graduate has competed in events around Florida and the nation. In November, he ran the New York Marathon and the following month took part in the Tampa Bay Hops Marathon.

Before joining the diocese as its spokesperson more than four years ago, Urbanski owned a struggling bicycle shop called Hurricane Cycles. Earlier, he said, he had worked in press relations for the once-planned Tampa Coliseum.

As the spokesman for the diocese, Urbanski traveled occasionally with Lynch. They ate at all the best restaurants, he said, sometimes with others, sometimes alone.

After the advances began, Urbanski said he started trying to avoid the bishop.

"I tried to avoid him as the years progressed, without him getting mad at me. I couldn't have him mad at me. It was a tough day at work if he was mad at me, yet I couldn't leave. He went as far as to tell me how to wear my hair. If I got my hair cut, he would say, 'Oh, Bill. You need to grow your hair back. It's not a flattering haircut for you."'

Urbanski was clearly troubled about the storm of publicity that he helped create Friday. He says he is angry with Lynch, but he says he is praying for him as well.

He is a member of Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa. Despite the publicity, he plans to attend service on Sunday. He's not sure where.

"I'm still a Catholic," he said.

-- Staff writers Amy Scherzer and Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.

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