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Bay area briefs

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 31, 2000

Driver resentenced under newer guidelines

TAMPA -- A Lutz man convicted in a drunken driving case that left one girl dead and another crippled had his sentence reduced Tuesday by about eight years.

Harold Vann, 53, originally was sentenced to 24 1/2 years in prison in 1998 for DUI-manslaughter and DUI with serious bodily injury.

The sentencing guidelines, however, were part of a set of laws passed by the state Legislature in 1995 and recently ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.

The ruling led to Vann's resentencing Tuesday by Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett, who gave him 16 years in prison, the high end of the 1994 guidelines.

Prosecutors said Vann, an auto body shop owner, missed a red light, killing 11-year-old Katie Jackson.

Deputy asked to step into elections post

Two weeks after losing one of her closest friends, Deborah Clark has been asked to succeed her as Pinellas County's interim supervisor of elections.

Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Clark on Tuesday to the position held for 12 years by Dorothy "Dot" Walker Ruggles, who died May 16 of breast cancer. Clark had worked with Ruggles for 22 years, most recently as her deputy administrator.

Police sex harassment case to cost Tampa $83,000

TAMPA -- The city will pay more than $83,000 to close the case of a former Tampa police officer who accused police Chief Bennie Holder of sexually harassing her.

A federal court jury found two years ago that Holder did not harass Lee J. Pope when she worked directly for him in 1994 and 1995.

But the jury decided the city retaliated against Pope for filing a complaint and ordered it to pay her $22,000 and attorneys' fees.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld the verdict in recent weeks, and attorneys for Pope did not file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court within the time allowed, said Thomas Gonzalez, the attorney who represented the city.

In July 1995, Pope's attorney sent a letter to the city charging that Holder made advances toward his client, then an assistant in the chief's office, and offered her a promotion in return for sexual favors.

Pope resigned from the Police Department in January 1996 after she was transferred to street patrol and concluded her career was over. She sued the city for nearly $200,000.

Postal unions call OSHA over Ybor fire response

TAMPA -- Two postal workers' unions have asked the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate whether supervisors at an Ybor City post office failed to follow basic safety procedures as a massive fire spread toward their building this month.

The American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers sent a four-page fax to OSHA on Tuesday detailing concerns raised by the fire May 19 that destroyed an apartment complex and the post office.

American Postal Workers Union President Richard Phillips said workers were told to keep sorting mail even as the fire across the street raged out of control and approached their building.

Bridget Robertson, a customer relations coordinator for the Postal Service, would not comment on the specific complaints.

But she said postal employees "were escorted from the building before it even caught fire."

"All of our safety procedures were in place," Robertson said.

The fire broke out about 9 a.m. at the apartment complex and burned for about two hours before spreading to the 21,000-square-foot post office. The unions said 56 employees were working inside that morning.

Phillips said workers were left to scramble out of the building on their own. There were several minor injuries when workers forced open a section of a security fence that blocked their escape.

Inside was the mail for all 44 routes the Ybor post office served. Much of it was lost to the flames, which destroyed the $4-million building.

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