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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Apr. 9, 2004 14 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

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This week's items: Court counselor charged with abuseHillsborough Judge Charlotte Anderson challenged by Tampa lawyer Kim VancePalm Bank celebrates its first quarterly profitMagazine pacts disputed

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

Court counselor charged with abuse

Coffee Talk has learned that a therapist who tries to reform batterers in Pasco and Pinellas counties has himself been charged with domestic violence.

Douglas John Summers, 47, of Treasure Island, appeared April 5 in Pinellas court to answer a charge of domestic battery. The police in his barrier island hometown arrested Summers over the previous weekend. He was released on his own recognizance after the court appearance.

The defendant was ordered to have no contact with the victim, court records show. Summers, a licensed mental health counselor, asked the court to appoint a public defender to represent him. But a judge found Summers solvent, and denied the request. His case was continued to a later date.

The Florida Department of Children & Families lists Summers as a state-certified counselor of battering defendants in a 2003 annual report on domestic violence, entitled "Violence Free Florida! Ending Abuse - Improving Lives."

Summers is one of 16 counselors or agencies certified to accept referrals from the civil and criminal courts of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, which covers Pasco and Pinellas. He runs an anger management program for court-ordered participants.

The department's Batterers Intervention Programs, in which Summers is a counselor, provides "direct services to perpetrators of domestic violence and are used as a tool by the criminal justice system to hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their actions, to deter re-offense, and protect victims," according to the annual report.

Anderson challenged

Hillsborough Judge Charlotte Anderson should be used to challenges by now. She won election in 1994 with 54.06%. In 1998, 56.08% of the voters re-elected her during the primary. Now Tampa lawyer Kim Hernandez Vance wants her job.

This is the second contested election for a county judge spot in Hillsborough. Attorneys Henry Gill, Elizabeth Rice and Brad Souders seek the seat that Hillsborough Judge Elvin Martinez is vacating.

But Anderson is the only incumbent county judge who faces a challenger. Judges currently unopposed are James V. Dominguez, Nick Nazaretian, Michelle Sisco, Raul C. Palomino Jr., Artemeus Elton McNeil and Paul L. Huey.

Those lawyers who haven't appeared in front of Anderson might remember the judge best for her 2002 appearance in the Hillsborough County Bar Association "Law Follies" where she parodied Anne Robinson, the former game show host of "The Weakest Link."

Vance, of Cohn & Cohn PA, earned a law degree in 1997 from the Stetson University College of Law. While Anderson, who is the county's civil administrative judge, earned a law degree from the Florida State University College of Law.

Palm Bank profitable

A Tampa community bank that recently celebrated its first birthday is whooping it again.

The Palm Bank, which opened in early 2003, reported net income of $40,830 on revenue of $497,522 for the three months ended March 31. That is the first quarterly profit for the bank, which was formed as a subchapter-S corporation.

Albert C. "Chris" Anderson, president and chief executive, says in a press release that Palm Bank has been making money on a monthly basis since January.

Assets grew at a 13% clip during the quarter, to $51 million. Deposits were $41 million, up from $32 million at the end of 2003. Loans stood at $26 million, an increase of about $4 million for the quarter.

The bank concentrates on the upscale neighborhoods of South Tampa, a potentially lucrative market of mostly business professionals. Several older community banks used to serve the area, such as Southern Exchange Bank.

But those banks have sold out to larger institutions in recent years. The Palm Bank sees an opening, as do other upstarts such as First Citrus Bank and First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay, which are moving into South Tampa.

The Palm Bank operates from a headquarters on South Dale Mabry Highway and recently opened a satellite loan office on South MacDill Avenue in the former Palios Brothers restaurant.

Magazine pacts disputed

Gov. Jeb Bush's top internal investigator says state purchasing officials erred when they gave no-bid contracts to Florida Trend.

Derry Harper, Florida's chief inspector general, concluded in a recent report that the departments of state and education failed to gather enough documentation to support their award of sole-source contracts to the St. Petersburg-based business magazine.

From 1999 to 2003, Florida Trend was paid more than $3.5 million to print and distribute an assortment of cultural and educational periodicals promoting state universities and other government-funded organizations. Many of the publications were inserted into regular monthly editions of Florida Trend.

Saul Stone, a local magazine consultant, had complained to Harper's office that Florida Trend executives used "personal associations" with state officials, such as former Secretary of State Katherine Harris, to win the government business. Harper says he found no evidence to substantiate that allegation.

The inspector general did find some support for another Stone accusation that Florida Trend misrepresented in its contract proposals just who reads the magazine.

Florida Trend had claimed nearly 200,000 of its readers were business owners, entrepreneurs, executives or professionals. Florida Trend President Andrew P. Corty, who is also an executive of the affiliated St. Petersburg Times, told state investigators that the 200,000 figure was "a leap of faith."

Executives of the magazine arrived at that number by making some assumptions based on earlier readership surveys of how many subscribers passed along each issue to others who didn't subscribe, Corty told the investigators.

As for another claim, that one in three Florida Trend readers is a millionaire, Harper's investigative team reported that they could neither prove nor refute the magazine's assertion.

Corty told the Times after Harper's report became public that he took "great exception" to the IG's opinion that Florida Trend had failed to present an accurate demographic portrait of its readership.

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