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J. Grandoff, ex-county attorney, dies at 70

Published April 4, 2006

TAMPA - J. Bert Grandoff, a nationally prominent construction litigation lawyer who served as Hillsborough County Attorney and chairman of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, died Saturday after undergoing cardiovascular surgery at Tampa General Hospital. He was 70.

Mr. Grandoff, a native of Ybor City and fifth-generation Floridian, practiced law for more than 40 years, most recently as a shareholder with the Allen, Dell law firm. He worked as an assistant state attorney before entering private practice, where he did everything from criminal defense to personal injury and maritime law, said his son John Grandoff III, who followed his father into the profession.

"He was my inspiration to be a lawyer," said John Grandoff, now a prominent Tampa land use attorney. "He could try any case."

His skills as a lawyer attracted the attention of Hillsborough commissioners, who hired Mr. Grandoff in 1979 to be the county attorney. He left that post after two years - two years before three commissioners were arrested for their parts in a vote-buying scandal.

"It was very apparent to him that all was not well," said Fran Davin, one of the two commissioners not implicated in the scandal. "How much of that led to his early departure, I cannot say, but it obviously was a factor. No honorable person wants to be associated with that kind of problem."

In 1989, then-Gov. Bob Martinez appointed Mr. Grandoff to a four-year term on the Aviation Authority.

Martinez said he got to know Mr. Grandoff as a customer of the Cafe Sevilla restaurant that Martinez owned before becoming mayor of Tampa, then governor. Later, the two worked together at the Carlton Fields law firm, where Martinez now does government consulting. Martinez remembered Mr. Grandoff as a gifted mediator with a good sense of humor, whether it was in recounting funny stories about golfing or local politics.

"He would have been a good guy to be trapped in an elevator with, because he'd keep you laughing the whole time," Martinez said.

In more recent years, Mr. Grandoff focused on construction law and was a founding fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers, as well as its past president. He provided legal guidance to Tampa Bay Water on construction projects since 1996.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy; his brother, Cecil H. Grandoff; his children, John Grandoff III and wife Kimberly, Stephen A. Grandoff and wife Patricia, Jennifer G. Gooper and husband J. Allen, Rhoda Murray and husband Tim, and Carla Saavedra and husband Henry; and nine grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 509 N Florida Ave. The family requests that any donations be made to the University of South Florida Foundation Inc. to support research to find a cure for Parkinson's disease.

[Last modified April 4, 2006, 03:00:35]

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