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    Tampa Bay briefs

    By Times staff and wire reports

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2001


    Judge approves Bayfront settlement

    TAMPA -- A federal judge approved the city of St. Petersburg's settlement agreement with Bayfront Medical Center on Thursday, officially ending the longstanding legal and political conflict between the city and its largest hospital over religious entanglement.

    U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore's approval ends the suit the city filed against Bayfront a year ago over its participation in BayCare Health System, an alliance of area hospitals.

    The conflict arose after Bayfront joined BayCare and changed its policies to conform to the Catholic doctrines endorsed by church-affiliated members of the alliance.

    The city sued in March 2000, alleging unconstitutional mingling of church and state.

    USF station gets improved facilities

    TAMPA -- After 35 years in the basement of the student services building, the staff of WUSF-Ch. 16 feels like the station is moving up in the world.

    Station staffers still are moving to a new, $9.1-million building on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.

    The new broadcast building, shared by WUSF's television and radio staffers, took 20 years to get state funding, said general manager James B. Heck. That's how long USF has been trying to get money for it from the Legislature.

    The Federal Communications Commission mandate that all broadcasters add digital capability by 2003 boosted the urgency of the station's funding request. Its old equipment was almost obsolete.

    Fraternity ousts four after hazing incident

    TAMPA -- Four fraternity members at the University of Tampa have been expelled from their organization after being accused of hazing two pledges March 29 with a stun gun, school officials said.

    The two unidentified students told school officials that the four Phi Delta Theta brothers, all freshmen, demanded that the pair swim blindfolded across the Hillsborough River or risk getting shocked. The pledges refused and told authorities they were zapped with the gun.

    The pledges did not press criminal charges.

    The university's judicial affairs office has held hearings to determine punishment for the four. The university would not disclose the punishment Thursday.

    Notes involving late state attorney released

    TAMPA -- State Attorney Mark Ober released records Thursday that his predecessor had fought in court to keep secret.

    Ober decided not to fight a public records lawsuit by the Tampa Tribune seeking to have the notes about former state attorney Harry Lee Coe opened to the public.

    Coe was state attorney until he committed suicide in July as reporters pressed him about his use of an office computer to access gambling Web sites. Coe had ordered the office's computer chief to delete records from his computer to conceal his gambling.

    Ober decided to drop a court battle to keep the records secret.

    "I just felt under the circumstances of that event, the public had the right to know what was occurring at the State Attorney's Office," Ober said.

    The notes released Thursday were taken by two of Coe's closest aides, Paul Duval Johnson and Michael Hayes.

    The records show how the aides helped prepare and rehearse answers to reporters' questions about Coe's gambling problems.

    Teen's guardians sue estate for child support

    TAMPA -- The guardians of the teenage daughter of Grover Freeman Jr., a lawyer gunned down in his Carrollwood home last year by his ex-wife, are suing Freeman's estate and second wife for child support payments.

    In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Hillsborough Circuit Court, the guardians, Kim and Jane Buchanan, claim the estate has refused to pay all of the $1,456 in monthly child support owed, or to provide for the costs of private school tuition, insurance and future college tuition costs.

    The suit claims the payments were part of a 1995 divorce settlement between Katherine and Grover Freeman.

    Katherine Freeman was sentenced to life in prison March 16 for breaking into her ex-husband's home on May 15 and shooting him 16 times, then attacking his second wife, Connie Freeman.

    Connie Freeman survived and was named representative of the estate after her husband's death. The Buchanans, friends of Katherine Freeman, were named guardians of Grover and Katherine Freeman's daughter, now 15 years old.

    Woman behind in dues gets to keep house

    CLEARWATER -- Linda Hammer can keep her home.

    That was the ruling on Thursday afternoon from a county judge weighing the foreclosure sale of Robert and Linda Hammer's $235,000 East Lake home because they owed several hundred dollars in homeowners association dues.

    Mrs. Hammer, who said she fell behind in paying the dues while she was battling colon cancer, was jubilant and tearful after the decision was announced. She hugged her children and grandchild, as well as neighbors and friends who had come for support.

    Mrs. Hammer, 58, said she is "ready, willing and able" to pay nearly $3,000 she owes to the Eagle Trace at Boot Ranch Homeowners Association to square her account. Of that, about $650 is delinquent association dues. The rest is attorney fees and court costs.

    Last March, the homeowners association filed a foreclosure suit to recoup the unpaid fees by taking her house. In February, the property was sold at auction to Mark Veltre and Stephen Maisel. Veltre and Maisel paid $36,100 for the property, but also had to assume the $125,000 mortgage.

    Senior County Judge Stephen Rushing determined Linda Hammer's failure to make payments was "excusable because so many things were going on in her life."

    Authorities investigate Dunnellon boater's death

    DUNNELLON -- Officials are investigating the death of a Dunnellon man found floating Wednesday in the Rainbow River.

    Authorities said the boater's death is not suspicious but they are unsure of the circumstances of the apparent drowning. The man, Jeffery S. Artman, 43, of 10720 SW 190th Ave., was fishing on his boat Wednesday and called his wife on his cell phone about 8 a.m. to report catching a bass, said Lt. Joy Hill of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    An hour later, a waterfront homeowner discovered Artman's empty boat near her property. Officers found his body upstream, about 800 yards north of KP Hole.

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