tampabay.com

City may set aside cash to defend suit in death

By TIMES STAFF
Published May 3, 2007


CLEARWATER

The City Council is expected to set aside $50, 000 to defend itself and several retired city police officers in a lawsuit stemming from a death in 1977.

John Niesen last month sued in federal court, saying the officers violated his brother's civil rights and caused his death. Niesen has long claimed that his brother, Michael, 18, was beaten to death by police distraught over the death of rookie patrolman Ronald Mahony, 21, who died trying to keep Michael Niesen from escaping a traffic stop. Police say Niesen died from injuries caused by a wreck after the stop.

LARGO

City attorney's raise put on ice for present

Largo officials have delayed approval of a raise for city attorney Alan Zimmet, citing the ongoing property tax debate in the state Legislature, which is considering curtailing local government's revenues in 2007-08.

But in another sign of how City Manager Steve Stanton's departure continues to send reverberations through City Hall, at least two city commissioners said Tuesday that Zimmet didn't deserve the raise because of bad legal advice on a severance package for Stanton. Zimmet earns a retainer of $106, 290 a year.

PINELLAS COUNTY

Preserve acreage may get carved out

County commissioners are kicking around an idea to carve out a 1, 146 acre development-free section from 3, 623 acres of Brooker Creek Preserve, owned by the county's Utilities Department.

The proposal would leave the remaining land open to some other uses.

The complicated new proposal was unveiled to county commissioners last week.

The plan generally was supported by commissioners, who indicated they favor continuing to refine a new Brooker Creek Preserve map. They hope it will provide clarity on what is set aside and what may be used.

Many environmentalists said they like the preserve's map as it is now - with all the land designated as preserved.

They feel separating out acres for utilities sets them up for more intensive development, even for uses such as active recreation.

Mathew Poling, the past senior executive of the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve led a petition effort a few months ago that presented commissioners with more than 2, 000 signatures from residents who want to preserve the 8, 300-acre preserve.

"Right now, all 8, 300 acres are treated the same, " he said. "If this proposal is approved, a large piece of the preserve will be in jeopardy."

His fears may be well placed.

Commissioner Susan Latvala said Wednesday she would not oppose more ballfields in addition to the ones already proposed in the utilities acres.