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    Metro Week in Review

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 25, 2002


    City waves warning flag over waivers

    INVERNESS -- Flag wavers in Inverness are going to need flag waivers.

    The City Council assured a group of frustrated veterans and residents Tuesday evening that a volunteer-driven plan to line Main Street on Sept. 11 with 100 American flags would move forward.

    Then after the crowd cleared out, the council voted at the urging of the city's attorney and insurance carrier to require the volunteers to sign a liability waiver before hanging the flags from the power poles from Sept. 11 to Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

    The waiver would protect the city in case anything went wrong, such as a flag falling and causing a traffic accident. The volunteers would become legally responsible for any mishaps.

    Reached after the meeting Tuesday night, project organizer Mary-Ann Virgilio said a waiver "is out of the question."

    "This is not the time in your life where you risk your stability and your estate with this kind of situation."

    Council member Ted Stauffer felt the waiver was reasonable.

    "We are two legs supporting this table called the flag program," he said. "I see this as the grass roots committee picking up their side of it."

    Juvenile curfews ruled illegal, head to Supreme Court

    TAMPA -- Curfews for teens were grounded in Pinellas Park and Tampa last week by a state appeals court.

    The 2nd District Court of Appeal declared the Tampa and Pinellas Park curfew ordinances unconstitutional, saying they are too intrusive for the purpose intended and must be more narrowly tailored.

    Michael Neimand, special assistant attorney general, plans to ask the appeals court to stay its decision until the Florida Supreme Court indicates whether it will take the cases. A stay would allow police to continue enforcing the ordinances.

    Tampa's ordinance has been in effect since 1994, and Pinellas Park's has been on the books since 1997. Police say juvenile crime has dropped as a result, but the court ruled that's not enough.

    "The objective of safeguarding minors is not compelling enough to justify the serious invasion of personal rights and liberties," the court wrote.

    Latest in long line of city managers finds job 'draining'

    CRYSTAL RIVER -- Last September, Crystal River set out a threadbare welcome mat for Philip Lilly, the eighth city manager in 11 years.

    Whatever image of stability the city wrapped itself in during the past year shattered Wednesday during a contentious meeting in which the city manager's wife made a tearful pledge to do whatever she could to get him to quit.

    "I have seen you be disrespectful, rude, arrogant, to my husband," Carol Lilly told the City Council, her husband at her back.

    It is not just city managers who have quit or been fired in Crystal River, but police chiefs, finance directors and public works directors, too.

    For his part, Lilly acknowledged that the job has had a steep learning curve. A resident of Crystal River before taking the position, he had previously worked for the Federal Aviation Administration.

    "One of my goals here was to lower the tenor of the debate," he said in an interview after the meeting. "To a great degree, it has happened. Yet there is still a great degree of suspicion and frustration. It's very draining."

    Leaders in art community question design of museum

    TAMPA -- When architect Rafael Vinoly unveiled his design for the new Tampa Museum of Art in June, it was seen as the first bold step toward a new Cultural Arts District downtown. But now, some figures in the local art community aren't so sure Vinoly has set the city on the right path.

    Art leaders wonder whether Vinoly's $52-million Tampa Museum of Art, with its spare design and 100-foot-tall metal canopy, fits within the vision of a 28-block Cultural Arts District, drawn up in 2001, that would pull people downtown to shops and cafes along the Hillsborough River. It also included a lush park and a pedestrian-friendly Ashley Drive lined with palm trees.

    "What's being done to make Ashley Drive a grand boulevard, like the public wanted?" asked Sandy Rief, a trustee with the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation.

    The art museum's design is still a work in process, said Emily Kass, the museum's director. Still, Kass said the public shouldn't expect drastic changes to Vinoly's initial design because "the feedback we've been getting has been incredibly positive."

    Rape allegations shake up Spring Hill fire department

    SPRING HILL -- Rape allegations against three firefighters have shaken Spring Hill Fire Rescue, upsetting union leadership and putting top officials on the defense for withholding information and making insensitive remarks.

    After receiving criticism from Spring Hill residents, fire Chief J.J. Morrison last week suspended Lt. John Ferriero, 39, Edward Falk, 39, and Tom White, 38 -- the three firefighters accused of raping a 32-year-old woman.

    Morrison's decision came almost two months after he learned they were being investigated for the assault of a woman at an Altamonte Springs firefighters' convention. No action was taken until local newspapers reported the investigation.

    The firefighters admitted to having sex with the woman but said it was consensual, authorities said. The woman, a student who met the men filming a documentary, told the Times that she got "extremely intoxicated" and did not remember precisely what happened. She said, however, that the men raped her in the hotel room.

    The secretary and treasurer of the Spring Hill firefighters union temporarily took control until the investigation against its president, Ferriero, and vice president, Falk, are complete.

    Meanwhile, County Commissioner Diane Rowden said a fire commissioner's comments were "reprehensible" and that she wants him removed from the Spring Hill board.

    Rowden was shocked when Commissioner Tommy Marasciullo said he did not believe the woman.

    "I think this was a groupie firefighter girl who went over there to have a good time," Marasciullo said. "You know, the lonely hearts club band type stuff."

    In short . . .

    -- INVERNESS -- Don Bates, who proclaimed himself one of the "God guys" in his campaign for School Board, quit the race last week after the Times uncovered his arrest on charges he masturbated in public at the Crystal River Mall in 1994. Bates was at the forefront of a highly publicized battle last year when School Board member Carol Snyder proposed that the board try to rotate various prayers at the beginning of meetings rather than using only Christian prayers, a long-standing tradition. Bates blamed depression, use of pain medications and a pending divorce for his "aberration."

    -- PINELLAS PARK -- An unincorporated area of Pinellas County known as East Lealman will pursue cityhood without their unincorporated brothers and sisters to the west. A community association proposed a city to the east of Kenneth City nestled between Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg.

    Coming up this week

    -- The Democratic candidates for governor will debate in West Palm on Tuesday. The debate will be aired at 7 p.m. on NBC stations and will pit former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno against Tampa lawyer Bill McBride and state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami.

    -- Florida A&M University's law school is back in business after a 34-year hiatus. FAMU, the state's only historically black public university, had its own law school in Tallahassee until 1968, when lawmakers shut it down just as the then-predominantly white law school opened at Florida State University across town. Orlando beat out Tampa in its bid as home to the new school.

    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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