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    Bucs visit doesn't mend rift with chamber

    A Buccaneer no-show at the Oldsmar chamber luncheon last week has each side seeing the dispute differently.

    By JULIE CHURCH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001


    OLDSMAR -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin did not come to the Greater Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce's luncheon last week, but on Tuesday team representatives came to the chamber's offices to discuss the matter.

    Afterward, chamber president Kevin Gartland said he doesn't think the Bucs were any closer to coming to Oldsmar than they were last week. The Bucs' Stephanie Waller, director of community relations, said the team has made no promises to the chamber, but she did not close the door on the possibility.

    "We would be happy to look at any type of request," Waller said. "We want to reach out to the chamber as we want to reach out to all of our fans."

    Before Tuesday's meeting, Gartland had sent the Bucs a letter acknowledging "it appears obvious that there was some serious miscommunication between your staff members and mine" prior to the May 9 luncheon, where the chamber had expected Kiffin to be the featured guest. He said in the letter that he would talk with his events coordinator about several "pertinent issues" the team had raised, but Tuesday he defended the way his staff had handled the matter.

    Gartland said his letter was not meant as an apology to the team and said Tuesday that he felt the Bucs shared much of the blame for the confusion that left the chamber without a speaker for its luncheon.

    "Our story really hasn't changed," Gartland said. "They tell me different things than what my staff is telling me."

    The Bucs maintained that none of the confusion was the team's fault.

    "We did everything we could to communicate to them that no representative from the Bucs would be at their luncheon," Waller said. "We clearly spoke with someone from his office on seven occasions."

    In addition, the Bucs said they sent the chamber a March 8 letter saying "unfortunately, we are unable to participate in your program." The team's letter added that because of "the tremendous volume of (appearance) requests received, it is not possible to fulfill each and every request."

    Gartland said Tuesday that the chamber did not receive that letter before the luncheon, and he has not seen it since.

    Gartland said he was not sure what the chamber's next step would be, but that he wanted to mend relations with the Buccaneers.

    "We want to make the problem go away and make it good," he said.

    The Bucs said they have not ruled out the possibility of sending a representative to an upcoming function, but that it would not happen in the next month.

    - Staff writer Julie Church can be reached at (727) 445-4229.

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