Tampa Bay Archives - Page 2 of 185 - Florida Politics

House candidate Terry Power lives in $500K home but applied for food stamps

The Republican who’s challenging state Rep. Jamie Grant for his House District 64 seat lives in a $500,000 home but applied for food stamps, according to recent tweets.

The account known as Enforce Current Laws (@FirstWivesFirst) revealed the information.

For his part, Terry Power said he had been blocked by the same account.

“If it’s anything related to my ex-wife re-opening my divorce two days after I filed for the Florida House, I’ll be litigating the matter in court, not in the media,” Power told one of our reporters.

Here’s another:

Other tweets questioned his finances.

We previously reported that Power owes nearly $88,000 in alimony. A document in the case from Pinellas County shows a “payoff amount” of $87,904. It also lists a “balance due” of only $4,668.

In a previous statement to Florida Politics, however, Power says he doesn’t legally owe any of that money: “I am 100 percent current on all of my court-ordered alimony obligations.”

Power, an Oldsmar retirement plan consultant, is challenging Grant in the Republican primary for the seat, which covers northwest Hillsborough County and a slice of eastern Pinellas County. The area leans heavily Republican.

The primary is Aug. 28; the general election is Nov. 6.

Updated 9 p.m. — Power’s ex-wife has moved for contempt proceedings against him, according to court documents filed last month and provided to Florida Politics.

Warning: The documents are uncensored and contain strong language.

Dana Young

Dana Young announces Aug. 22 fundraiser for SD 18 re-election bid

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young is holding a fundraiser for her re-election campaign next week alongside former House Speaker Will Weatherford, his brother and former FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford and attorney Ron Christaldi.

The Aug. 22 event will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 1601 S. MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Those looking to attend can direct their RSVPs to Kristin Lamb via Kristin@FLFStrategies.com or 850-339-5354.

Young was elected to Senate District 18 in 2016, but due to the shakeup caused by redistricting she and other state Senators in even-numbered districts must run for re-election after only two years.

She is facing a tough challenge from House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who entered the race in mid-April. The most recent poll of the race shows Cruz with a slim advantage in the northwestern Hillsborough district, which covers much of Tampa.

SD 18 sits atop the Florida Democratic Party’s wish list this fall. Other than South Florida’s SD 36, where the party wasn’t able to recruit their first pick to challenge Republican Rep. Manny Diaz, SD 18 is the only district Democrats are after that voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago.

Young has landed several endorsements, most recently from the Florida Professional Firefighters, and she’s started revving up her ground game with canvassing drives. But her biggest advantage this cycle is in the money race.

As of Aug. 3, Young had more than $334,000 banked in her campaign account at the last reporting checkpoint. Her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, has nearly $1.18 million at the ready.

By comparison, Cruz had $169,500 in hard money and another $273,200 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC, as of July 20.

Neither Cruz nor Young faces a primary opponent. The pair will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

The fundraiser invitation is below.


Karen Skyers

LGBTA group endorses Karen Skyers for HD 61

The Hillsborough County LGBTA Democratic Caucus announced over the weekend that it was endorsing attorney Karen Skyers in the crowded Democratic primary to fill Tampa-based House District 61, which is open due to current Rep. Sean Shaw’s Attorney General bid.

“We are proud to support your efforts toward full equality for LGBTA Floridians and look forward to working with you toward that goal,” the caucus said.

The caucus’ mission is to “foster good will between gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied members of the Democratic Party and the community at large; continue to work with other GLBT and like-minded organizations united with a common purpose; seek individual freedom in the framework of a just society; and seek political freedom in the framework of meaningful participation by all citizens.”

The endorsement sees Skyers join some elite company — so far this cycle, only incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Valrico Democrat Andrew Learned, who is running for Florida’s 15th Congressional District have earned the caucus’ endorsement. The new backer adds to a list that already includes Shaw and Ruth’s List Florida, a Democratic Party-aligned group that supports female candidates for public office.

“I am thankful to the Hillsborough County LGBTA Caucus for their endorsement. Once again, we are reminded that #lovewins. I will champion for equality and laws that protect all of the people, not some of the people,” Skyers said.

Skyers is up against Dianne HartNorman Harris and Sharon Carter in the Democratic primary. The winner of that contest will be Shaw’s de facto replacement in the Tampa-based Democratic stronghold, though they will be nominally opposed by write-in candidate Valion Joyce in November.

Florida law allows all voters to participate in primary elections if all candidates are members of the same party, however Joyce’s entry into the race nullifies that rule. HD 61 is one of five state legislative districts this cycle that had its primary locked down by a write-in candidate.

As of Aug. 3, Skyers led in overall fundraising with more than $70,000 raised, though her $13,290 cash on hand puts her behind Hart, who was the second-place finisher in the 2016 Democratic primary for the seat, losing to Shaw by 101 votes.

She’s raised about $33,000 and kicked in $15,000 in candidate loans for an on-hand tally of nearly $31,000 on Aug. 3. Through the same date, Harris had raised $20,435 and had $3,067 at the ready while Carter had raised $5,345, half of it loans, and had $439 in her campaign account.

HD 61 covers downtown Tampa, Ybor City, and Seminole Heights. Democrats hold an overwhelming advantage at the polls.

Brandes up big in first SD 24 poll since Lindsay Cross tagged in

Knocking off St. Pete Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes was always a long shot, and the first measure of the race since Lindsay Cross subbed in for Carrie Pilon shows those slim chances dwindling further.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, Brandes has the support of nearly 39 percent of Senate District 24 voters, giving him a better than 2-to-1 lead over Cross, who was the pick for an even 19 percent of those polled. With 42 percent of voters undecided, there’s room for growth for both candidates.

Cross entered the race at the end of last month, a few weeks after the prior Democratic nominee, trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, withdrew from the contest due to the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

During her brief tenure in the race, Pilon worked up from a 9-point deficit in late May to within striking distance by early July. Cross will certainly see major gains in her poll numbers as Election Day approaches, though her poor showing in this inaugural measure is a bitter reminder that just because one candidate made headway by putting in some elbow grease, doesn’t mean another can swoop in and reap the benefits.

When it comes to name ID, she’s got a lot of work to do.

Brandes is a known quantity to 59 percent of SD 24 voters, and they find him favorable by a margin of 39-20. Cross, meanwhile, is known by just 27 percent of the district and those who offered their opinion gave her a somewhat lukewarm 21-16 favorability rating.

In addition to playing catchup on the name ID front, Cross needs to bring in some cold hard cash, pronto. Brandes, through Aug. 3, had nearly $863,000 in the bank between his campaign and political committee, Liberty Florida, and that’s after more than $807,000 in spending since the 2018 campaign cycle began.

As it stands, it’s unclear whether Cross is hunkering down to put in the work needed to put SD 24 in play.

According to her first campaign finance report, which to be fair only covered a partial week, she’s brought in just $3,000 in monetary contributions. One would expect Cross and her family, close friends, longtime co-workers and acquaintances to pitch in and jumpstart the campaign to build some buzz.

A typical candidate would have made the calls and had the checks ready for day 1 — Pilon did as much when she pulled together $100K for her inaugural reports.

The problem may be a bit deeper, however, as sources familiar with the Cross campaign say she is fresh off a European vacation and hasn’t quite returned to the day-to-day grind — If true, she better return from the clouds tout suite, or the conversation will quickly shift to the degree of electoral embarrassment she can expect come Election Day.

Of the cash she did bring in, two-thirds came from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, stretched-thin pot of money overseen by Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson. The other $1,000 came from self-employed property manager Sidney Smith Wilson.

Gibson’s fund also threw in another $25,000 to kickstart research efforts, as well as buy a campaign computer and cell phone. While fronting that cash would be a no-brainer for the ever-flush Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, it is a much more significant investment for the FDLCC, which had $400,000 in the bank at last check in.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Aug. 11-12 and received responses from 757 likely general election voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Neil Combee takes lead in CD 15 Republican primary, poll shows

Former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee isn’t leading by double digits, as indicated by a recent poll commissioned by his campaign, but he does have an outside the margins lead in the Republican primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, Combee has the support of nearly 36 percent of likely primary voters followed by Dover state Rep. Ross Spano at 30 percent. Another 22 percent of those polled are undecided, while the other three candidates vying for the GOP nom — Sean Harper, Danny Kushmer and Ed Shoemaker — poll in the low single digits.

The new results are the first time Combee has led in a public poll of the race. The last measure from St. Pete Polls, released July 9, showed Spano with a 32-20 percent lead over Combee, which itself was a breakaway for the one-time Attorney General candidate compared to a late May survey from the same pollster, when he led 29-23 percent.

Combee’s current 6-point lead mainly comes from running up the score among the two-thirds of Republicans who said they plan to vote in the primary but haven’t cast their ballot yet. Among the third who have already sent in their mail ballots, his lead over Spano tightens to 36-35 percent followed by Shoemaker at 9 percent, Kushmer at 7 percent and Harper at 3 percent.

Among the other subset, where there’s still two weeks left to duke it out, Combee leads Spano 37-26 with 28 percent undecided and none of the other three breaching 5 percent support.

Standouts in the date include Combee’s large lead among women, who prefer him over Spano by a margin of 36-27 percent. Among men, however, that 9-point gap is halved. Similarly, Combee holds a large lead among voters over 70, while Spano leads by 8 points among middle-aged voters and ties with Combee in the 30-49 crowd. Young Republicans, a very small subset in the poll, prefer Spano by a margin of 3-to-1.

Spano’s slippage in the polls can likely be partially attributed to the “mild cardiac event” he suffered late last month — the health scare followed an intense workout and the campaign said at the time that the 52-year-old lawmaker was “expected to make a full and complete recovery.”

Still, that kept him grounded from campaigning for at least a week during the critical leadup to primary Election Day, and but according to a new interview with Florida Daily, Spano is back on the campaign trail. He also had some positive words for President Donald Trump, who carried CD 15 by 10 points two years ago, saying the Commander in Chief has exceeded his expectations since taking over as President and expressing support for some of Trump’s cornerstone politicies.

“People want a wall built,” Spano said. “They want to be safe in their communities. They want to know that certainly criminal illegal aliens that they are picked up by local authorities that they are turned over to the federal government to be deported. That is an important thing.”

Combee’s lead appears to have grown during Spano’s downtime, which came just a few days after Combee released his first TV ad touting his connections to Trump — he resigned from House District 39 last year to accept a presidential appointment at the USDA.

But, as of Monday, Federal Communications Commission filings don’t list any media buys to back up Combee’s ad and it’s unclear when or if he plans to get it on the air. Spano, the fundraising leader on the Republican side, announced his first 30-second spot on Friday and already has media buys in place throughout the district, making him the first of the five GOP contenders to truly hit the airwaves.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County.

Though the seat had been considered a Republican lock, the retirement of current U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross combined with strong fundraising from Democratic candidates caused the political handicappers at the Cook Political Report to shift their assessment from of the seat from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican.”

CD 15 is still rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

The winner of the Republican primary will face whomever emerges from the three-way contest for the Democratic nomination between former Citrus Commission general counsel Kristin Carlson of Lakeland, Navy veteran Andrew Learned of Valrico and aviation instructor and retired police detective Ray Pena of Lakeland.

Carlson leads the overall field in fundraising and started hitting TV on July 26. Learned has nearly matched her in fundraising, though he’s been in the race a good deal longer. He announced a TV ad on Aug. 6, though no media buy has been made by his campaign according to FCC records.

Both primary elections are Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 and polled 360 registered Republicans who said they planned to vote in the CD 15 primary election. The results has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

What if Melissa Howard still wins?

Revelations that Republican state House candidate Melissa Howard may have flown to Ohio for a picture with a fake college diploma quickly turned her from a strong political contender to the subject of national ridicule.

But amid guffaws at the audacity of this alleged deception, party leaders are quietly wondering, what if Howard still wins her election?

Before a scandal erupted about whether she falsified a degree from Miami University, sources close to Howard’s campaign say she held a 20-point lead in the Republican primary over Sarasota lawyer Tommy Gregory.

That may be generous, but Howard is the Manatee County candidate and about three quarters of House District 73 voters reside there; Gregory lives with the other 25 percent  in Sarasota County. She’s chapter president of the Gulf Coast Republican Women Federated; he’s a political neophyte (though one with a National Rifle Association endorsement).

Of course, the calculus of this race surely changed when Miami University general counsel Robin Parker insinuated Howard lied about graduating from the university and cast doubt on a picture of the candidate’s degree, apparently taken during a special trip by Howard to Ohio for the purpose of clearing her name.

Since then, Howard shut off her Twitter profile and Facebook page. Her husband had a cardiac event. One prominent Republican (make that two) called on Howard to drop out of the race. But to date, Howard campaign consultant Anthony Pedicini has labeled the story “fake news.” This morning, he told Florida Politics he had no update.

While Howard today is laying low, caring for her husband and licking her wounds, absentee ballots shipped to voters in mid-July. As of this morning, 8,964 Manatee County Republican voters already mailed in their ballots and 9,585 Sarasota County Republicans had done the same.

It’s unclear right now how many of those live in District 73, but only about 20,000 people voted in the Republican primary here in 2016. It’s fair to say a substantial number of voters made their choice before news this weekend set the race on fire.

If Gregory truly trailed Howard by 20 points pre-scandal, can he make up the distance?

It’s worth noting the current Representative in the district, Joe Gruters, barely won his primary two years ago despite serving as chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota and as co-chair of Donald Trump’s ultimately successful presidential campaign.

Gruters, now a candidate for state Senate, serves as Howard’s campaign treasurer — at least for the moment.

There is mounting pressure for Howard to drop out of the race. And one Sarasota leader suggests that if Howard were already the nominee, this embarrassing scandal may have prompted the party to pull its support in the general election, as Democrats did two years ago when a sex scandal destroyed candidate Ed James’ promising state House campaign in District 72.

If Howard dropped out now, votes cast for her in the Republican primary would not count, and Gregory would become the nominee. Considering Trump won this district by more than 25 percent in 2016, Gregory likely sails into office from there.

But would the same be true of Howard at this point?

General Election Woes

The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary will advance to face Democrat Liv Coleman in November. Local Democrats always proclaimed promise in Coleman, a University of Tampa political science professor who moved to east Manatee in 2015, though pundits paid little heed to the race.

Coleman as of Aug. 3 reported more than $35,000 in donations, and with no primary she has spent less than $10,000.

By comparison Gregory raised more than $103,000. Howard raised $55,000 and chipped in $100,000 of her own money. Both Republicans have spent upward of $70,000 on the primary election alone.

Can Coleman stand up against that? Gulf Coast Democrats believe she can, and remain high off Sarasota Democrat Margaret Good’s stunning upset in neighboring District 72 in a February special election.

Coleman declined to comment on Howard’s circumstances over the past few days, but one can only imagine Democrats in this deep red district rubbing their hands together imagining Howard winning her primary despite the scandal.

Would national dollars flow in to flip the seat the same as happened for Good? In February, Democrats beat the son of a congressman. In November, could they seize a seat now held by Trump’s top Sunshine State campaigner?

Well, maybe not. One Sarasota elected official, a Republican, noted Howard just might win in November despite an expected barrage of bad press.

Considering Gruters, still Sarasota’s party chairman, has stood by Howard so far, he might stop Republican leaders from shunning her should she emerge as the party nominee.

And Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who briefly considered running for this seat but stepped aside for Howard, was still defending her political protégé on Facebook as the scandal worsened yesterday.

But the Sarasota leader suggesting Howard could still win in November says that may be the start of the region’s problems. This type of scandal could make Howard an utterly ineffective lawmaker, a pariah in a collegial body where relationships determine influence.

Howard may succeed despite her campaign nadir Saturday. But if that happens, the victory may be hollow, a void that may be easily filled with voter’s remorse.

Ed Turanchik won’t attend private candidate forums

Tampa mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik pledged not to participate in any private candidate forums closed to the media and is asking his opponents to do the same.

“I don’t think it’s right to have the candidate field all together in a forum that’s private, giving answers to people who have a very specific interest, and it’s not open to the public or it’s not open to the press,” Turanchik told Florida Politics. “It’s a really bad idea.”

Turanchik, a Tampa lawyer, said the issue didn’t come up the last time he ran for mayor eight years ago.

But this year, he took notice after receiving invitations to two separate forums that would be closed to the public and where journalists were not allowed to cover what commitments candidates made to private audiences.

The first invitation came from an economic development organization, Turanchik said, but when he raised concerns about the format, the group changed course and opened the event.

But he said he received a second invite from a major law firm to speak at a panel that would only be attended by professionals and clients invited by the firm. That invitation he declined.

Turanchik did not name the event sponsor and said the problem he has isn’t so much with organizers.

“I don’t blame them for asking,” he said. “It’s the answer they got back from candidates that is disappointing.”

Florida Politics emailed the other candidates already filed to run for mayor whether they would participate in private forums. That list includes: Jane Castor, Harry Cohen, Sam Brian Gibbons, Michael Anthony Hazard, LaVaughn R. King, Topher Morrison, David A. Straz, Jr. and Mike Suarez.

None responded to emails sent this weekend.

With a law firm specifically, Turanchik said he fears neighborhood voters will be upset at the possibility candidates could meet en masse with developers and potentially make promises on potential projects.

But in the future, there could similarly be problems at neighborhood-sponsored events where candidates make commitments to secure votes there.

He said he doesn’t object to ticketed events. “These events can be expensive to do,” he said.

“If this event was open to the press, I would go,” he said of the coming forum. “As long as the public has a view to what’s going on.”

HD 70 candidate Vito Sheeley fined for sloppy financial records

State House candidate Vito Sheeley this month got slapped with a fine from the Division of Elections for sloppy financial reporting.

The St. Petersburg Democrat blamed the issue on a transition to a new campaign treasurer but doesn’t believe the hiccup will deter his attempt to defeat incumbent state Rep. Wengay Newton this month in state House District 70.

“I was going through a situation where a new treasurer wasn’t up to date on what to file,” Sheeley told Florida Politics. “We needed to get through that, got help on that end, and once the information was updated and ready to go, that was that.”

On Aug. 1, Bureau of Election Records Chief Kristi Reid Willis sent a letter outlining that records due to the state on July 13 did not get filed until July 30. Sheeley was fined $748.45, a levy he must pay from personal funds and not his campaign account.

A report filed with the state shows Sheeley appointed a new treasurer, Sharon Janis, on July 26.

Newton said voters should take note of the oversight.

“Somebody wants to represent you in Tallahassee with $88.7 billion in taxpayer resources and money,” Newton said, “but he can’t even keep a campaign account straight.”

Newton also noted Sheeley earned previous scolds from state elections officers. Warning letters from the state note he failed to file reports or waivers on time in May, June and July. In some cases he was told in writing the oversight would be ignored because he didn’t raise resources, but files later showed he did raise money in the corresponding time frames.

All that results in a lack of transparency for voters who want to see the source of campaign donations, Newton said.

But Sheeley said the major campaign donation issue voters care about isn’t financial paperwork but where candidates get their money, and on that front Newton should face harsher judgment.

“The incumbent is the one who claimed to be a Democrat and who blames not being successful in representing the district on Republicans, but he continues to take money from Republicans,” Sheeley said on Newton.

Newton surprised many when he supported Republican Rick Baker in the last race for St. Petersburg Mayor, a decision that still draws Democratic dings.

Of course, Newton points to other parts of Sheeley’s financial reports to suggest the race is primarily a vendetta. Sheeley earned more than $23,000 working for Democratic Mayor Rick Kriseman’s successful race to keep the seat.

“He’s telling everybody he’s doing this because it’s the right thing to do, but he’s a hired gun,” Newton said.

Newton has raised about $64,000, compared to more than $22,000 raised by Sheeley. Keisha Bell, a third Democrat running for the seat, has raised more than $11,000.

The race will be decided in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary. Because every candidate is a member of the same political party, all voters will be able to vote in the primary.

Ross Spano vows to protect ‘American Dream’ in first CD 15 ad

Dover state Rep. Ross Spano has started running his first TV ad in the race for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, pitching himself as a candidate who will fight to keep the American Dream “alive and well.”

The ad, titled “American Dream,” sees the Hillsborough County Republican touch on that concept before rattling off a litany of outside attacks against it.

“My dad taught me that if you work hard, honor God and treat people right, you can succeed. That’s our American Dream,” Spano says in the ad.

Then a record scratch hits and the ad flashes between images of some of the most disliked politicians, pundits and groups among Republican circles: U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a man who appears to be a member of the “Antifa” movement and comedian Kathy Griffin.

“But now career politicians, special interests and liberals are working to kill that dream, attacking our rights and increasingly our values. I’ll fight back for you in Congress, so the American Dream is alive and well for the next generation,” Spano says.

The Spano campaign said the ad launch is backed up by a digital buy and a TV buy that’ll put it on the airwaves throughout CD 15, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Lake and Polk counties. Federal Communications Commission filings indicate the initial media buy runs through Aug. 19.

Spano is one of five Republicans running for CD 15, which is open this cycle due to the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

He faces former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee, Lakeland contractor Sean Harper, Brandon agribusinessman Danny Kushmer and Lakeland mental health practitioner Ed Shoemaker in the Aug. 28 primary election.

A new poll from SCG shows Combee with a double-digit lead among primary voters, however a St. Pete Polls survey released early last month showed Spano, the fundraising leader on the GOP side, up big in the five-way race.

Spano’s campaign mentioned his polling position in the ad announcement, saying “as early voting begins in most of the District next week, a succession of three publicly commissioned polls all show Spano with a lead over the rest of the Republican candidates in the field.”

The winner of the Republican nomination will go up against one of three Democrats: Kristen Carlson, Andrew Learned or Ray Pena.

CD 15 voted plus-10 for Donald Trump two years ago and had been considered a safe Republican seat until Ross’ retirement announcement and the subsequent fundraising successes of the Democratic candidates in the race.

That led the political handicappers of at the Cook Political Report to shift their assessment of the race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.” Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, still lists the district as “likely Republican.”

Spano’s ad is below:

More stormy weather for Jim Van Fleet, ‘bartering’ legal bills on WTSP suit

After a stalled effort to sue his employer, former 10Weather WTSP meteorologist Jim Van Fleet faces another legal storm, attempting to “barter” payment of his legal bills.

Van Fleet, 43, served as chief at WTSP-Channel 10 in St. Petersburg from 2011-2016. He currently works as the chief meteorologist for Royal Caribbean International.

In 2016, Van Fleet sued WTSP, accusing the station of planting false rumors of drug use and other misbehavior, which he called a “conspiracy to oust him from his job.” Tampa-based Solomon Law attorneys Stanford Solomon and Gabriel Pinilla represented him — billing Van Fleet at $500/hour.

According to a July 30 lawsuit filed by Solomon Law in Hillsborough County, Van Fleet told the firm that he couldn’t afford to pay them quickly — first promising $500 a month, then lowering it to $300 — because Royal Caribbean paid him $55,000 less per year than what he made at WTSP.

Now living in Miami, Van Fleet claimed rents are higher there than in the Tampa Bay area.

However, according to the court records, Solomon points out that there were some months when Van Fleet didn’t pay a dime.

Documents attached to the filing show Van Fleet urged Solomon to accept “in-kind payments” in lieu of cash.

For example, Van Fleet suggested he could help the firm grow its client base — and counteract negative online reviews — by publicly endorsing the firm, in exchange for an 80 percent reduction of his balance.

Van Fleet also claimed people would naturally think Solomon helped him win a big settlement, despite neither winning nor losing his case against WTSP. Records show Van Fleet dismissed the case on Sept. 20, 2017. He also offered to help repay his debt by becoming an expert witness — for free — on meteorological issues.

Stanford Solomon rejected each suggestion: “I just want you to pay the outstanding g [sic] invoices as you keep promising to do. I am not interested in barter.”

In an April 2018 email, Van Fleet then offered to pay Solomon back at the reduced rate of $300/month.

“I paid $1,000 last month and quite surprisingly got a very nasty email in return,” he wrote. “I shouldn’t have been surprised though given all the reviews and feedback regarding Sandy and warning to stay far away.”

In 2015, Van Fleet’s landlord sued him and girlfriend Kenlie Reed in Pinellas County for unpaid rent.

According to an online docket for Van Fleet’s divorce case, ex-wife Gillian Van Fleet is still trying to get him to make court-ordered payments. The couple split in 2010.

Solomon Law says the weatherman owes $57,931 in legal fees, plus 12 percent annual interest. It is seeking payment.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons