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    At meeting, ballot chads prove to be the mother of invention

    By Times staff writer

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 18, 2000


    Members of the county's canvassing board seemingly had their work cut out for them Dec. 9. They thought that they would have to examine more than 4,200 "undervoted" ballots to see whether votes had in fact been cast for Al Gore or George W. Bush.

    Ballot-reading machines had not recorded a vote in the presidential race on those ballots, but the Florida Supreme Court ordered counties to hand count the cards just in case the naked eye could see what the machine could not.

    Before beginning the task, the canvassing board discussed how to refer to the different kinds of holes punched in the ballot. A chad connected to the ballot by two corners would be a hanging or swinging chad. One connected by three corners was the tri-chad.

    What about the chad connected by all four corners but boasting a bulge in the middle, as if someone had tried to push it out? Should it be called a pregnant chad? Or was the proper term dimpled?

    "I think we've gone from "pregnant' to "dimpled,' " said canvassing board chairman Patrick Caddell, a county judge.

    Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark had a more complete explanation.

    "Dimpled is the first trimester," she said.

    AT HIS EXPENSE: It is unlikely that lawyers ever will rid the world of jokes directed at their profession. Perhaps it is wise, then, to follow the lead of attorney John Hubbard, who recently offered his own punchline to a lawyers-are-evil wisecrack.

    The Heritage Preservation Board, which makes decisions about construction in historic districts in Tarpon Springs, usually does not have a lawyer present at its meetings. But the board was making a decision about a controversial house proposal Wednesday night, so Hubbard, the city attorney, watched over the proceedings.

    "I always shudder when the lawyers come in," board member Ed Hoffman said.

    "It's a good reaction, Mr. Hoffman," Hubbard deadpanned, drawing big laughs from the audience. "One we all applaud."

    NO SPICING UP WATER: Monday's County Commission workshop on water quality included lengthy, coma-inducing discussions about chloramines, cryptosporidium and the ever-popular dibromochloromethane. About two hours into the talk, Jerry Maxwell, general manager of Tampa Bay Water, stood up to make his own presentation.

    He apologized profusely to Commissioners Bob Stewart and Karen Seel, who, as Tampa Bay Water board members, have the added burden of enduring these discussions more frequently.

    "While it's not new, it's always boring," Maxwell said. "It's really hard to take water chemistry and make it entertaining."

    Perhaps a sing-along would help.

    FAME IS FLEETING: Three weeks after her term on the County Commission ended, Sallie Parks was back before the board Tuesday, at least in spirit.

    Parks, who served on the commission for eight years, sent a letter to Commission Chairman Bob Stewart asking that one of the commissioners agree to sit on the Area Agency on Aging board of directors, of which she is the president.

    Stewart announced that he had a letter from Parks.

    "Some of you may remember her," he teased before reading the letter aloud.

    "Every time I see Sallie, I say, "Didn't you used to be someone?' " Stewart told the crowd. "For some reason, she didn't like that."

    CRAYOLA CREATIONS: The controversy continues over the color of the public comment cards at the Pinellas County Commission meetings.

    Each week, Bob Stewart, as the commission chairman, traditionally comes up with an original way to describe the orange-ish cards that citizens fill out at the start of the meeting if they want to address the board.

    Colors he has invented in the past include "midsummer dusk," "coral shimmer" and "appealing apricot." But it seems that the closer Stewart gets to the end of his chairmanship, the more he shirks this duty.

    A few weeks ago, he imposed upon board secretary Wanda Kimsey at the last minute, asking her to suggest a color. She came up with tangerine.

    On Tuesday, Stewart did it again, placing tremendous pressure on Kimsey to come up with a color off the top of her head. She suggested tangerine.

    "No, that's not acceptable. You've already used that once," Stewart said.

    Just then, Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd came to the rescue, suggesting "Christmas garland persimmon" as the card's official color of the day.

    "I apologize for teasing Wanda," Stewart said later. "But I enjoy doing it so much."

    SMILE! YOU'RE ON COURT TV: Incoming Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober caught the attention of a security camera Tuesday during his final court appearance as a defense attorney.

    The soon-to-be top prosecutor was milling around the hallways near judges' chambers while his client, John W. Peel, conferred alone with his parents about taking a plea deal in his murder case.

    Ober then struck up a conversation with a deputy, who got a phone call from a higher level.

    "Big Brother either heard or saw me" on closed-circuit TV screens, said Ober, who could tell by the deputy's responses that there were concerns about him being there. The area is normally off-limits.

    "I take full responsibility for going back there," Ober later confessed to Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Dee Anna Farnell.

    Farnell said she knew he was back there and jokingly told Ober to consider it as an initiation for his new position. Ober takes office Jan. 2.

    - Times staff writers Katherine Gazella, Edie Gross and Jounice L. Nealy contributed to this report.

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