This week's items: Tampa attorney Brad Souders has loaned his campaign for county judge $75,000A suspended St. Petersburg lawyer Philip Dann calls reporter stalkerTampa personal injury attorney John Bales rents 20 roadside billboards
Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)
The race for Group 7 Hillsborough County judge is getting serious. Tampa attorney Brad Souders has loaned his campaign $75,000 in a bid to fill the seat that County Judge Elvin Martinez intends to vacate in December.
Apparently Souders, a solo practitioner, thinks this time around early money is the key to success. He lost in September 2002 in a race for the 13th Circuit seat won by Monica Sierra. He earned only 13.26% of the popular vote at the primary election.
So far, Souders is reporting $77,000 in total campaign contributions through the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.
That amount is far more than the $17,725 that Stearns Weaver attorney Elizabeth Rice has reported to the Hillsborough supervisor of elections in her bid for the Group 7 seat. But there is a difference. Rice is reporting 35 individual contributions, with Souders reporting only seven. This is the first try at public office for Rice, the former president of the Florida Bar's Young Lawyers Division.
The only other reported candidate for Group 7 is Tampa attorney Henry A. Gill Jr., who says he has collected about $1,301 so far. This is his second shot at public office. He lost a bid in 2000 for state House District 56.
Of the incumbent county judges, none faces any opposition, at least not yet, according to county election records. Still, some of the incumbents already are reporting five-digit contributions.
Hillsborough Judge Nick Nazaretian, Group 6, has reported $34,225 in contributions. Judge Michelle Sisco, Group 9, a Gov. Jeb Bush appointee, has raised $29,950 toward her first campaign for re-election. Judge James V. Dominguez, Group 1, has raised $29,950 toward his re-election bid. Judge Paul Huey, Group 15, has raised $15,778. He also reports the largest number of contributors, 118 individual contributions.
Stalking or hearing the other side?
GCBR wasn't able to reach Philip W. Dann, a suspended St. Petersburg lawyer, for this week's article on his effort to get reinstated to the Florida Bar.
But in a Feb. 16 hearing on his petition to get reinstated, bar prosecutor Jodi Anderson had grilled Dann about his daily two-hour lunches at Harvey's Fourth Street Grill. At Anderson's prodding, Dann acknowledged he drinks beer or vodka juice during those leisurely lunches where he reads the newspaper at the bar. But he said he rarely drinks alcohol at home.
Anyway, Coffee Talk decided to check out Harvey's to see if Dann might want to give his side of the story. Sure enough, Dann was there as the crowd filled the popular eatery on Feb. 24, and he declined comment.
No problem. His choice, right? Well, it appears that Dann told the bartender the reporter (who was eating lunch) was stalking him. When the reporter called the following day trying to track down a misplaced credit card, apparently left there the previous day, the bartender said, "Oh, this is the stalker."
Coffee Talk wonders what Dann would have said if GCBR hadn't tried to reach him prior to publication?
Tampa personal injury attorney John Bales has relied for years on print and TV advertising. Now he's taking a gamble on billboards.
The Bales & Weinstein partner rented 20 roadside billboards throughout the Tampa Bay area through a contract with C.J. Advertising.
Bales won't talk about the costs. "I can't divulge that." But he appreciated hearing from someone who had seen at least a few of them.
The billboards project a professional image, with a photo of Bales, his name in large letters and his telephone number, 1-800-Call-John.
"To be honest, I can't tell you if billboards are good or bad," he says. "The value is in the eye of the beholder. The main thing is I want it to be professional and perceived as professional."
Third time the charm?
Veteran Manatee County banker Gerald L. Anthony got barely 10 weeks of severance pay when he quit Coast Financial Holdings Inc. Feb. 17.
But Anthony, 61, received something for his resignation as president and chief executive of Coast Bank's parent that he probably considers more valuable at this stage of his career.
Coast Chairman James K. Toomey and the rest of the holding company's board of directors agreed to cancel a clause in Anthony's employment contract that prohibited him from competing in Manatee against Coast for one year after a separation.
The $125,000-a-year contract was set to expire at the end of March.
The non-compete waiver could be significant. Anthony has expressed a desire to stay in banking and in the Bradenton area. He didn't return a telephone call to his home before Coffee Talk's deadline.
Meanwhile, Brian P. Peters, who replaced Anthony in December as bank president, has been given the departing founder's titles at the holding company as well. Peters has hop-scotched across the Sunshine Skyway for most of his banking career, holding a variety of banking positions in Manatee and Pinellas counties.
The 41-year-old Eckerd College graduate has his work cut out for him at Coast.
The company absorbed a $1.7 million loss for 2003, reporting it shortly after going public last fall. Almost 150,000 shares of Coast stock changed hands on the day of Anthony's resignation. The issue rarely sees one-sixth of that level in daily volume. The next day, the price rose about 70 cents to nearly $14.20 a share. It has since receded to the $13.80 range.
Coast's 2003 deficit was primarily due to bad loans, especially in the motor vehicle lending portfolio. Peters has discontinued indirect credit products sold through automobile dealerships.
Toomey and Anthony wished each other well in written statements.
Oyster Roast time
It seems that folks in other counties have been calling on the Clearwater Bar Association's Oyster Roast Committee trying to find out the secret to the annual bash's success. After all, the event is in its 58th year.
Well, committee chair Connie R. Stephens isn't too quick to give away the secret. Then she shares it. "Find an innovative group of party goers, organize the party in an orange grove, pick the oranges, then plug them with bourbon and let the whole thing evolve year to year. In 58 years, you'll have it. 'Yup, it's still crazy after all these years.' "
Good luck to those who try to duplicate the event, to be held March 20 on the grounds of Florin, Roebig & Walker in Palm Harbor.