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Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Steve Contorno

Steve Contorno is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times covering Hillsborough County. He previously worked for PolitiFact in the Times Washington, D.C. bureau. Prior to joining the Times, he covered Congress and Virginia politics for the Washington Examiner as well as state and local governments in Wisconsin for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. A native of the Chicago suburbs, Steve graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism and a minor in political science, and holds a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he covered the Illinois legislature for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Phone: (813) 226-3433

Email: scontorno@tampabay.com

The Contorno file: PolitiFact.com

Twitter: @scontorno

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  1. Tampa's bid for fifth Super Bowl means secret and expensive promises to NFL

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Before Tampa is officially named the host of the 2021 Super Bowl, local organizers have 90 days to convince NFL owners the city can meet certain conditions.

    What are they? That's top secret.

    The NFL won't make its demands public, a spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times. The organization in charge of submitting Tampa's bid won't, either.

    But according to past reports, the list is quite extensive. ...

  2. Hillsborough, Salvation Army consider a Seminole Heights homeless shelter

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County has a vacant building in Seminole Heights. The Salvation Army is weighing a move of its homeless shelter out of downtown.

    Might there be a match?

    Hillsborough officials have approached the Tampa branch of the Salvation Army about turning the old Emergency Operations Center on E Hanna Avenue into a homeless shelter.

    The conversations were described as preliminary, but both sides have expressed interest in a partnership....

  3. Four-term Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee to retire Sept. 30

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Sheriff David Gee said Friday he plans to retire on Sept. 30 after nearly four decades in law enforcement and 13 years as the low-key but well-regarded leader of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    "This decision has not been made lightly and was one of the most difficult decisions that I have made in my career," Gee said in an e-mail to his staff. He said he wants to devote "full attention and support" to family....

    2004: Republican candidate for Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee talks to supporters at the voting precinct at the Tampa Garden Center, with Joe Antinori, center, and Lisa Copeland, right. Gee had been going from precinct to precinct bringing water to his supporters. [Times files]
  4. Four-term Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee to retire Sept. 30

    Blog

    TAMPA — Sheriff David Gee announced Friday he plans to retire on Sept. 30 after nearly four decades in law enforcement and 13 years at the helm of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

    “This decision has not been made lightly and was one of the most difficult decisions that I have made in my career,” Gee said in an e-mail to his staff. He said he wants to devote “full attention and support” to family....

    Sheriff David Gee will soon retire after 13 years at the helm of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He will retire effective Sept. 30.
  5. MOSI to close most of its building, IMAX to save money before move to downtown Tampa

    Tourism

    TAMPA — The Museum of Science and Industry will close most of its building at the end of summer, a drastic step toward getting the museum's troubled finances under control as it prepares for a potential move downtown.

    The museum's original, 37-year-old structure will shutter, perhaps for good, after Aug. 13, museum leaders said Thursday. The IMAX Dome Theatre will shut down as well. Any exhibits that are not eliminated will move into the newer Kids in Charge wing of the building. The ropes course will remain open....

    The Museum of Science and Industry will be reduced from its 300,000-square-foot campus to just 40,000 square feet during summer.
  6. Ban on puppy sales approved in Hillsborough but not for existing stores

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — There won't be any new puppy stores opening in Hillsborough County, commissioners decided Wednesday in an attempt to crack down on puppy mills.

    However, three stores already operating here can remain open if they keep close tabs on their breeders and don't run afoul of state or federal law.

    That's the compromise commissioners worked out after months of tough deliberations on a proposal to ban the commercial sale of cats and dogs in Hillsborough County....

    Hillsborough County commissioners approved a ban on stores that sell puppies, but have allowed an exception for existing stores such as Puppies Tampa at 6031N Dale Mabry Highway even though it has recently come under investigation by the state for failing to maintain health records for its puppies. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  7. Puppy sale ban approved in Hillsborough County but with exemptions

    Blog

    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County Commissioners on Wednesday voted to prohibit any new puppy stores from opening in an effort to curb dogs from puppy mills from entering the county.

    Three stores already operating here can remain open if they abide by a new rules, also approved Wednesday, that will require them to keep tabs on their breeders.

    The decision was the culmination of weeks of back and forth and after dozens of speakers weighed in on whether to make an exception for the existing businesses -- divided by backers of the local puppy stores in powder blue shirts and animal advocates in red calling for a full ban on puppy sales....

  8. Arrest of puppy store owner adds uncertainty to Hillsborough's proposed ban on puppy sales

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — An ongoing debate in Hillsborough County over whether to ban commercial puppy sales took an unexpected turn this week when the owner of a local puppy store was arrested on charges of selling dogs without health permits.

    The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services arrested Michael Robert Lamprea, 35, the owner of Tampa Puppies, after an inspection Wednesday allegedly found the store didn't have the required veterinary records that ensure customers are buying healthy dogs. ...

    Puppies Tampa on N Dale Mabry Highway has been selling animals without health permits, according to the state.
  9. Hillsborough freezes hiring, considers new taxes after lawmakers okay tax cut referendum

    State Roundup

    TAMPA — The same day Florida lawmakers agreed to put a property tax cut on the 2018 ballot, Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill told staff to freeze all hiring immediately.

    In a May 2 memo obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, Merrill told his top lieutenants not to fill openings or promote internally "to allow greater flexibility and options" in upcoming budgets.

    The fast fallout in Hillsborough from the property tax decision could be a sign of things to come statewide as cities and counties grapple with the prospect of losing millions every year in property tax revenue....

    Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill
  10. Hillsborough County enacts hiring freeze after Tallahassee moves property tax cut

    Blog

    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill has enacted a hiring freeze for government departments, effective May 2.

    That's the same day the Legislature gave the greenlight to a 2018 voter referendum that would increase the homestead exemption by another $25,000, which would effectively cut local property taxes. The hit to Hillsborough's coffers would be roughly $30 million a year....

    Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill has instituted a hiring freeze for government positions.
  11. The Legislature is making the Rays' stadium search harder

    Blog

    Well into its search for a new ballpark, the Tampa Bay Rays are finding that the era of easy public money is over.

    Not only is the Legislature opposed to using state money for stadiums and arenas, but lawmakers are increasingly hostile to using any type of public support — even if local taxpayers agree to it.

    "Any sort of legislation that can prevent this sort of corporate welfare, I'm 100 percent supportive of it," said Rep. Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican, who sponsored a House bill this year that would have prohibited sports teams to building or renovating stadiums on public land....

    Is anyone out there?
  12. 'The days of big deals are over': Rays stadium search in post-subsidy Legislature

    Blog

    Well into its search for a new ballpark, the Tampa Bay Rays are finding that the era of easy public money is over.

    Not only is the Legislature opposed to using state money for stadiums and arenas, but lawmakers are increasingly hostile to using any type of public support — even if local taxpayers agree to it.

    "Any sort of legislation that can prevent this sort of corporate welfare, I'm 100 percent supportive of it," said Rep. Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican, who sponsored a House bill this year that would have prohibited sports teams to building or renovating stadiums on public land....

    Lobbyist Ron Book reacts as he talks with Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, outside of the Senate in 2013. A bill sponsored by Braynon to give the Miami Dolphins a taxpayer supported stadium upgrade died on the final day of session.
  13. The Dead Deal Era: Tampa Bay Rays find few allies in Legislature

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Well into its search for a new ballpark, the Tampa Bay Rays are finding that the era of easy public money is over.

    Not only is the Legislature opposed to using state money for stadiums and arenas, but lawmakers are increasingly hostile to using any type of public support — even if local taxpayers agree to it.

    "Any sort of legislation that can prevent this sort of corporate welfare, I'm 100 percent supportive of it," said Rep. Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican, who sponsored a House bill this year that would have prohibited sports teams from building or renovating stadiums on public land....

    Tropicana Field [JAMES BORCHUCK | Tampa Bay Times]
  14. While kids slept in offices, foster beds went empty

    News

    TAMPA — The plight of foster children forced to sleep on air mattresses in offices last summer led to outrage and the state ordering additional oversight of Eckerd Kids, the agency that runs child welfare in Hillsborough County.

    But even as social workers were preparing the make-do accommodation, records show that between 10 and 21 foster beds went unused at the Lake Magdalene group foster home, a county-owned facility in Carrollwood....

    A staffer watches over children outside of a dorm at Hillsborough County’s emergency shelter for foster kids and other children at Lake Magdalene in Tampa. Hillsborough officials have offered to let Eckerd Kids use two empty cottages on the Lake Magdalene campus but so far they remain unfilled despite a shortage of homes to place kids.  [Times (2009)]
  15. Gov. Rick Scott to consider bill that would seal millions of criminal records

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — More than 2.7 million criminal records will be sealed and the arrest records of hundreds of thousands of people will be concealed under a bill heading to Gov. Rick Scott's desk.

    An open records advocacy group is sounding the alarm and calling for Scott to veto the bill, warning it could hide the backgrounds of dangerous people.

    The bill, if signed, would automatically administratively seal court records of nearly anyone who is found not guilty or is acquitted during a trial or has the charges dropped or dismissed. Charging documents could still be obtained from the courthouse where the charges were filed, but the charges won't show up in a background check through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. ...

    An FDLE analysis estimates 2.7 million criminal records will be immediately sealed if a bill is approved, meaning they won’t show up on background checks conducted on the FDLE’s website.