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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 30, 2004 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

This week's items: Michael Andrews appoint to the 6th Judicial Circuit bench in May says 'It's a wonderful place'Republic deal still bigFederal court clerk Liz Vasquez shows patience under fireLee Roy Selmon leaves for banking

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

'It's a wonderful place'

When Gov. Jeb Bush elevated Michael Andrews to the 6th Judicial Circuit bench in May, there was much celebrating. And when Andrews learned he would serve in Pasco County, there was much joking.

"The county court judges, they are a whole lot of fun," Andrews says. "They don't take a whole lot too seriously."

Might be their way of coping with misdemeanants who tend to find their way back in front of them time and again. Sometimes, hearings in county court seem more like a Jerry Springer episode than a Perry Mason movie (not because of the judges).

"There's a lot of people who suggested to me going to Pasco was not going to be a good idea," Andrews says. "There were those who attempted to prepare me."

Gag gifts were predictable, considering Pasco's past reputation as an area populated mostly by blue-collar retirees and poor rural residents. There were packs of chewing tobacco, a red monster toy truck, a cowboy hat and fake Billy Bob teeth. And, of course, the judge received Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if."

Thanks to Pinellas County Judge Sonny Im, who was behind the pranks, Andrews says he was well prepared for Pasco, which isn't so bad.

Lawyers come right to the judge's office, he says. They don't have to wait for a bailiff's permission to visit as they do in Pinellas. And the lawyers and judges have brown bag lunches.

"It's a wonderful place," he says.

By the way, Andrews is the first African-American circuit judge to serve in Pasco and Im is the first Asian-American judge in the Tampa Bay area. Bush appointed both.

Republic deal still big

Gargantuan bank sales seem to be announced weekly. Even so, the pending sale of St. Petersburg-based Republic Bancshares Inc. to BB&T Corp. is holding up as one of the bigger recent deals in the nation.

If it wasn't for the Jan. 23 announcement that Regions Financial Corp. was hitching up with Union Planters Corp. in a supposed merger of equals, the BB&T takeover of Republic would still rank among the 10 biggest U.S. bank unions of the past two years. The Regions-Union Planters deal pushed it down to 11th place.

Patience under fire

Federal court clerk Liz Vasquez is due an award for patience. The 20-year federal employee recently drew the short straw on a rather upset pro se litigant.

It appeared to be a simple mistake. The man had filed two civil lawsuits in the Tampa federal courthouse. But a document intended for one file ended up in the other.

The man became animated about how this would require him to print out 100 pages of court documents at 10 cents a page.

Vasquez politely tried to calm the man, while others wondered why she hadn't yet called for a federal marshal. At the man's insistence, she sought advice from supervisor Alycia Marshall. The clerks came up with a compromise. They offered to waive the printing costs. It was then he became demonstrably grateful.

Fellow clerk Denise Vought says it's not unusual for the two clerks to find themselves in a peacekeeping role. Vasquez adds: "We serve the same for pro se as the attorneys."

He'll take the bank job

Is it more stressful being a university athletic director or sitting on a bank board?

The answer, according to Pro Football Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon's recent behavior, is the AD's job.

A Jan. 23 announcement by First National Bankshares of Florida Inc. that Selmon had agreed to join the boards of the bank holding company and its Naples-based wholly owned subsidiary, First National Bank of Florida, may have brought a few local sports fans up short.

It had been only 10 days since Selmon asked the University of South Florida for a six-week leave of absence for what one of his brothers indicated was a stress-related medical condition. Selmon, 49, a local icon since his stellar career with the early Tampa Bay Buccaneers, isn't expected back as USF athletic director.

Selmon's USF salary is $164,000 a year. Although he might return in a diminished role at the school, Selmon probably would still make more than his new gig as a First National Bankshares director.

F.N.B. Corp. spun off First National Bankshares at the end of 2003. Before that, F.N.B. paid directors an annual retainer of $15,000, plus $2,000 for every monthly meeting attended, in 2002, the latest year for which compensation information is available. Board committee assignments garnered extra pay.

Vouching for financial statements and the like in this Sarbanes-Oxley environment certainly isn't stress-free for corporate directors.

But, apparently, it's nothing compared to the pressure of trying to field a competitive collegiate basketball team with only seven scholarship players the year before your school is scheduled to enter the tough Big East hoops conference.

Top 11 transactions

(announced since Jan. 1, 2002)

BuyerSellerSale price

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.Bank One Corp.$58.7 billion

Bank of America Corp.FleetBoston Financial Corp.$49.3 billion

Regions Financial Corp.Union Planters Corp.$6.0 billion

BB&T Corp.First Virginia Banks Inc.$3.4 billion

North Fork Bancorporation Inc.Trust Co. of New Jersey$725.8 million

PNC Financial Services Group Inc.United National Bancorp$649.0 million

Wells Fargo & Co.Pacific Northwest Bancorp$621.2 million

National City Corp.Allegiant Bancorp Inc.$488.3 million

Mercantile Bankshares Corp.F&M Bancorp$484.6 million

Cathay Bancorp Inc.GBC Bancorp$450.4 million

BB&T Corp.Republic Bancshares Inc.$436.0 million

Source: SNL Financial

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