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Public input invited on state Constitution plans

By Times Staff and Wire Reports
Published January 2, 2004

Tampa Bay area residents get a chance next week to speak out on whether Florida's system for changing the state Constitution should be changed.

The House Select Committee on Constitutional Amendments holds a public hearing from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Vincent A. Stabile Research Building at the Moffitt Cancer Institute in Tampa.

Legislators troubled by the torrent of ballot initiatives in recent years, from class-size reduction to pregnant pigs, say it's time to make it harder to amend the Constitution.

The committee is headed by Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, and has two Tampa Bay area members: Rep. Frank Farkas, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Sandra Murman, R-Tampa. Hearings also have been scheduled for Jan. 9 in Daytona Beach, Jan. 12 in Tallahassee and Jan. 16 in Boca Raton.

Couple return money awarded for harassment

FORT MYERS - Seen dating again, a woman and her boss have paid back $35,000 in taxpayer funds she received after accusing him of sexual harassment.

Julie Dalton resigned as chief deputy of Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson in March 2002 after her affair with Wilkinson became public.

Dalton claimed in her complaint that Wilkinson pursued the sexual relationship with her, then dumped her after the press found out about it.

Wilkinson, she said in the complaint, "clearly used his position as my boss to influence me to have a relationship with him. When he no longer desired to have this relationship he wanted me to resign."

Dalton was paid the settlement out of taxpayer funds, with $10,000 compensating her for what was described as "mental anguish, injury to reputation ... and stigma." The rest went to her attorney.

She also got back a job in the office, not directly supervised by Wilkinson.

New parents' car stolen as baby leaves hospital

SARASOTA - A couple's car was stolen when a man left it running to help his fiancee and newborn out of a hospital.

Markita Godfrey was waiting just inside Sarasota Memorial Hospital with her newborn daughter, Jai'Den, when Antonio Mallory pulled up and ran up to meet them.

A man dressed similar to valet parkers immediately jumped into their Chevy Metro and drove away, Godfrey said.

Godfrey said they had to wait two hours for someone to come and pick them up.

"It's really unusual," said hospital spokesman Mike Vizvary, "but (Mallory) did leave the car running with the doors open."

Detective accused of stashing money retires

JACKSONVILLE - A detective accused of filing away $550,000 in property settlements rather than depositing them retired under threat of being fired.

Brian Murphy, 45, will still be investigated to find out whether any money is missing or whether he broke any laws by stashing the money over five years, police said. No criminal charges have been field.

Murphy waived a hearing Monday before a police disciplinary board after his attorney, William Sheppard, met with the officials. The case involves his handling of settlement funds for vehicles and other property seized in crimes.

The money, $525,000 in cash and $25,000 in checks, was found in file cabinets in his office on Dec. 4.

[Last modified January 2, 2004, 02:01:08]

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