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    Contractor for diocese jobs calls Lynch 'good friend'

    By CHUCK MURPHY and SHARON TUBBS
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 17, 2002

    They met in July 1995, soon after Robert N. Lynch became pastor of St. Mark Catholic Church in west Broward County.

    The school there was going to be expanded, and David Herman was going to be the contractor. Lynch, who arrived at the parish after the deal with Herman Construction Services had been made but before contracts were signed, executed the deal made by his predecessor.

    He said he was glad he did.

    "He impressed me... by very quickly out of the box at these meetings making recommendations for changes that would save us money," Lynch recalled Thursday. "Our relationship during the six months that I was pastor there was professional. I did not have any contact with him on a personal basis or the basis of friendship."

    In December 1995, the Vatican tapped Lynch to become bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg (Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties).

    Herman and his parents attended Lynch's ordination as bishop in January 1996. In April David Herman returned with seven friends competing at St. Petersburg's St. Anthony's Triathlon. All eight stayed at Lynch's St. Petersburg home.

    "That would be the first time that I ever had any kind of personal conversation at the personal level to kind of get to know the person David Herman," Lynch said.

    The guests learned that Lynch had attended Herman's alma mater, Ohio State University. Herman mentioned that he was hoping to find tickets for the Ohio State-Notre Dame football game that fall.

    Lynch got the tickets, then joined Herman and Herman's uncle on the trip. In April 1997, Herman and a couple of friends returned for St. Anthony's and stayed at Lynch's home again.

    A short time later, Lynch called Herman and asked him to move to the Tampa Bay area. He offered him the job of demolishing a building and constructing a new media center at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, next to the diocesan offices. Herman, who was single and had recently sold his home in Plantation, agreed.

    He moved to Tampa in November 1997. It was the first satellite office opened by Herman Construction Services.

    Herman worked on the media center, and his friendship with Lynch grew.

    Over the next five years, the pair, sometimes joined by others, visited Rome and Israel on separate trips. Lynch and others went to Hawaii in 1998 to watch Herman compete in the Ironman triathlon. Herman finished 1,114th among 1,379 who completed the competition.

    They were joined on one trip to West Palm Beach by Bill Urbanski, the former spokesperson for the diocese who also competed in triathlons. Urbanski recently received a $100,000 settlement from the diocese after filing claims that he had been sexually harassed by Lynch. The bishop denied any wrongdoing and characterized the payment as severance pay.

    Shortly after Lynch's news conference announcing the payment to Urbanski, Herman came to the bishop's defense. "He's a great man," Herman said. "He's one of the best men I've ever known."

    Thursday, Herman said simply, "He's a good friend."

    In October 1998, Herman sold his south Tampa home to Urbanski and bought a house in St. Pete Beach. Herman has frequently been a guest in Lynch's waterfront home, which is owned by the diocese and overlooks Weedon Island in north St. Petersburg.

    Lynch has visited Herman's home too, though he has never had dinner there.

    "He doesn't cook," Lynch said. "All he has in his refrigerator is Gatorade."

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