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Ex-official's name to hit new heights


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000

TAMPA -- Forget about the Fred Karl law library.

Karl, a former county administrator and county attorney, will get his name put on the 28-story County Center, the seat of government power in Hillsborough County.

Commissioners voted Wednesday to put Karl's name on the downtown skyscraper. As county administrator in 1992, Karl negotiated the purchase of the tower, appraised at $90-million, for the bargain price of $30-million.

"I have always said it was one of his greatest accomplishments," Commissioner Jan Platt said.

The decision Wednesday came as commissioners were wondering what to do with the Frederick B. Karl Legal Center, a small downtown office building that will be demolished next year.

The commission had voted to name the county law library after Karl. But several problems arose. Last month commission chairwoman Pat Frank suggested naming the library after James Lunsford, a lawyer who donated his books to start the library in 1937.

Then, commissioners learned that the Law Library Board, which is appointed by the governor, might actually have the power to name the library.

Last week, Karl essentially took his name out of consideration for the library. In a letter, he called the naming of the Legal Center "one of my special treasures." He asked if he could have the plaque on the building after it is torn down to build a 700-space parking garage.

"Please do not allow the naming of the Hillsborough County Law Library to be a divisive issue," he wrote commissioners.

Commissioner Jan Platt saw Karl outside the University Club after getting his letter. "I'm sorry this has all happened," she told him.

Karl said the flap did not bother him. "I really was not upset about it -- my wife can tell you that," Karl said. "I knew it was an older building, and I knew sooner or later they would have to take it down."

On Wednesday, Karl's assistant at a Tampa law firm told him to check his messages. When he did, he heard the news about the Frederick B. Karl County Center from County Attorney Emmy Acton.

"I am almost speechless," Karl said. "Needless to say, I am flattered and I am pleased. It will be a great thing to have happen if it happens."

Commissioners Pat Frank and Chris Hart voted against naming the County Center for Karl, who now works as a lawyer and lobbyist for clients such as rancher Robert Thomas and the developer of the proposed desalination plant on Tampa Bay.

"It should be named after someone who does not get anything from what they do," Frank said Wednesday. "You don't just name buildings (like that). What sort of message does that send?"

Karl said his lobbying work should not diminish from his accomplishments as county administrator, county attorney, CEO of Tampa General Hospital, a Florida Supreme Court Justice and a state legislator.

" "Lobbyist' is a term they put on my activities," Karl said. "I don't do lobbying in terms of arm-twisting or entertaining."

Commissioners, by the way, also voted to ask that the law library be named for Lunsford, who died in 1952.

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