State senator says Ambler bent the rules

By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published January 19, 2008

Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, has pledged to tell his Senate colleagues that the Hillsborough legislative delegation never reached consensus on a controversial local bill sponsored by Rep. Kevin Ambler.

Justice wrote an angry letter to Ambler, accusing him of presiding over "questionable procedures" to get approval for a bill that would increase county appointments on the Planning Commission and Tampa Sports Authority.

Faced with the failure of the proposal at a Hillsborough legislative delegation meeting last month, Ambler waived rules that require the support of three of four senators and eight of 12 representatives for a local bill to move on to Tallahassee. The bill was approved with the backing of two-thirds of the senators and two-thirds of the representatives present at the meeting, which amounted to positive votes from two senators and six House members.

Justice, who said he missed the meeting because of a family medical emergency, told Ambler the point of the rules is to give "colleagues in Tallahassee the confidence that they are passing a good bill that has been vetted locally. ... Divisive moves like waiving the rules to further legislation may be how some people do business in Tallahassee, but that is not how the delegation as a whole should operate."

Letter calls for action, not words

John Ovink, a longtime champion of protecting the Hillsborough River, has resigned from the Mayor's Environmental Roundtable created by Pam Iorio. Ovink wrote to the mayor that he would rather spend his time working with groups that "actively" work on protecting the environment in Tampa instead of just talking about it.

"The round table in its current form does not serve my goal to make Tampa a 'green' city," he wrote.

Ovink said focus areas are continually revised and meeting time is wasted "discussing what we should be discussing, and how."

Raise used to chide Iorio administration

Tampa City Council Attorney Marty Shelby, who makes more than $90,000 a year in his part-time job, was surprised to discover his recent paychecks didn't include a cost-of-living raise, something he's received in each of his previous years of service.

He appealed to his bosses on the City Council, resulting in a memo from Chairman Gwen Miller to City Attorney David Smith demanding that Shelby get his money.

Smith said the lack of a raise was an oversight.

But the letter from Miller accused Iorio's administration of unilateral actions to withhold the cost-of-living adjustment.

Miller concluded the letter with this: "Thank you for reminding the Administration of the City Council's powers under the Charter."

He wore the jersey, just not prominently

Lucky for Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan that he did not place this bet through a bookie. So he should survive with his knees intact.

Hagan sort of made good this week on a bet with the commission chairman in Lane County, Ore., over the outcome of the Brut Sun Bowl Dec. 31 between the University of South Florida Bulls and Oregon Ducks. As chairman of the county whose school lost, Hagan was supposed to wear the other team's jersey for a full commission meeting.

Well, Hagan slipped into the Ducks' jersey around the equivalent of halftime of Wednesday's commission meeting. He returned from the lunch break with the jersey beneath his sport coat.

Staff writers Janet Zink and Bill Varian contributed to this report.