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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Hagan aims low, but Ferlita deflects it
By SUE CARLTON, Times Columnist
Published August 18, 2007
There are plenty of contenders for Cheap Shot of the Week, but the award has to go to Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan for invoking the death of a sheriff's deputy while taking a political poke at a colleague.
As a contentious public hearing came to a close Thursday, Hagan brought up next week's funeral for Sgt. Ron Harrison. A respected longtime lawman, Harrison, 55, was killed by a gunman this week.
Hagan suggested fellow Commissioner Rose Ferlita considered it "bad government" and "inconsiderate" to reschedule a meeting for a funeral, preferring they "just send a designee or a card."
"And I certainly think it is not good enough for Tuesday," Hagan went on even as Ferlita objected. "So I think we should make every effort to attend. ... It's the least we can do to show our respect for this man."
The back story: Earlier in the week, the county administrator sent a misleading memo announcing the morning session of the next day's meeting was postponed until the afternoon "due to a light agenda." In truth, most commissioners weren't coming anyway.
At least four planned to attend a memorial service for Charles "Wes" Kearney Sr., an influential developer and father of politically active Bing Kearney. The family or related companies gave to the campaigns of all of the seven commissioners except Ferlita, who said she declined the contribution.
Ferlita objected to the last-minute cancellation, pointing out that citizens arranged workday schedules to attend the meeting. Couldn't the commission send a member of the board, the chairman, to pay their collective respects?
And by the way, if there was nothing uncomfortable about postponing the meeting for that purpose, what was all that "light agenda" business?
So there was Hagan three days later, quoting Ferlita from newspaper stories and assuming aloud she would have a problem with the deputy's funeral, too.
Ferlita shot back: "To say that in the same breath that you talk about the death of a deputy sheriff who died in the line of duty for us, you are absolutely hitting below the belt, Mr. Hagan." The audience applauded, and the commission ultimately voted to attend the funeral.
Here's the difference in the two scenarios. For an elected official, there is a difference between the funeral of a distinguished public servant who was murdered doing his job and a memorial for a personal friend and campaign contributor. To zing a fellow commissioner who is often on the opposite side of your issues on this emotional topic seems a low blow.
Said Ferlita, who joined the commission after two terms in city government: "Sometimes I feel I went from city council to kindergarten."
Seeing red on a lighter note, Ferlita made an unfortunate fashion choice for Thursday's big meeting.
Her red jacket mirrored the color worn by people who supported killing the division of the Environmental Protection Commission responsible for policing local wetlands.
Ferlita's support for saving the wetlands division put her in the camp of those who have consistently worn green to public hearings.
"I did two important things during the lunch break," Ferlita said. "I walked my dog, and I changed my jacket," returning in a black-and-blue number.