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Sue Carlton, Times Columnist

Sue Carlton

Sue Carlton is a native Floridian from a longtime Southern family that her father always said consisted of thieves and cattle rustlers run out of Georgia. She grew up in Miami and joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1988. Over the years she has covered community news, politics, cops, government, and her all-time favorite, criminal courts. For nearly nine years she wrote about the kind of strange cases that only seem to happen here, about intriguing legal issues and courthouse politics. On that beat, she authored a lengthy narrative series on a trooper who killed his wife and co-authored a series on a suburban mother murdered by her teenage daughter and her friends. Sue was the deputy editor of the features section and was the Tampa city editor before she became a columnist in 2005. Three times a week, she writes about politics, outrages, observations, court cases of the day and whatever else comes up. She lives in Tampa with her husband and their very good dog.

Phone: (813) 226-3376 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 3376


  1. Carlton: Rape case politics? New state attorney has no regrets


    All's fair in love and war, the saying goes.

    But how about in politics, and some incendiary accusations of mishandled rape cases?

    In arguably the most interesting local race last year, Republican incumbent Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober was challenged by first-time candidate Andrew Warren, a Democrat. Word was the well-known Ober could not be beaten. Word was wrong.

    Warren called the current administration as outdated as a rotary phone. Ober pointed to a largely unknown former federal prosecutor's utter lack of state court experience. It was fair game, standard campaign stuff....

    Hillsborough State Atttorney Andrew Warren beat incumbent state attorney Mark Ober in a close election that included allegations of mishandled rape cases. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times
  2. Carlton: A moment of sanity when citizens finally said no


    If you were looking for some small sign of sanity in the world, here's one courtesy of the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

    This week, citizens stepped up in ways large and small — with a few bucks, with some seriously big money — to say that continuing to honor a monument to the Civil War at a public courthouse is not okay.

    Move it, please, like you said you would....

    The Confederate memorial statue outside the old Hillsborough courthouse is now boxed up in plywood to prevent vandalism. Private donors have ponied up money to have the statue relocated to a cemetery. [JIM DAMASKE  |  Times]
  3. Carlton: Don't choke future Hillsborough commissioners on a bone thrown to protestors


    Today the Hillsborough County Commission considers a small but symbolic action steeped in commission tradition. And not in such a good way.

    As a national firestorm rages on the state of race and hate in America, commissioners take up the idea of a ban on moving any more war memorials in the county. Such memorials honor battles and troops from the Spanish-American War to Afghanistan in cemeteries, parks and public spaces across the county....

    The Hillsborough County Commission voted last month to move the Memoria in Aeterna Confederate monument from the old county courthouse to a private family cemetery. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Carlton: They play politics while transportation goes nowhere


    Allow me a comparison between two very different issues that have come before our elected officials.

    Recently, certain Hillsborough County commissioners — faced with the decision to move a Confederate statue from a public courthouse to a more appropriate private family cemetery — actually brought up putting the question to voters in a referendum.

    Instead of, you know, doing the job they were elected to do and dealing straightforwardly with the honest-it's-all-about-history-and-not-slavery faction....

    Last year Sandy Murman called a public vote on transit “premature.”
  5. Carlton: Now we're bullying our transgender troops?


    The official bully of my elementary school was Curt. Curt's trademark torture was to grab another boy's forearm and twist it viciously until the skin burned red. He also enjoyed administering a swift smack to the back of an unsuspecting head.

    But one day Curt hit a kid who hit him back, hard, in front of all of us. Curt immediately turned and punched another boy in the face. Why? At that moment I think Curt wanted us looking at anything but Curt....

    President Donald Trump speaks to members of military during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  6. Carlton: One more chance to do the right thing and move Confederate monument


    "But the South detests and despises all, it matters not from whence they came, who, in any manner, encourages social equality with an ignorant and inferior race."

    — the words used more than a century ago in Tampa to dedicate a Confederate monument.

    Today, the Hillsborough County Commission gets a second chance to decide if this particularly ugly sentiment lingers on outside a bustling public building in downtown Tampa....

    Dayna Lazarus holds a protest sign in front of the Confederate monument located at 419 Pierce St. in downtown Tampa.  ALESSANDRA DA PRA   |   Times
  7. Carlton: Greco might run for mayor, but not that one


    Yes, I know the race to replace Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is a long 20 months away. In politics, practically forever.

    But around here, it's never too early to speculate when a particularly juicy tidbit happens our way. So here goes.

    Along with a former police chief, at least two City Council members, assorted former politicians, possibly an architect and at least one unnamed mystery member of the business community, how about a candidate named Dick Greco on the 2019 ballot?...

    Dick “Dickie” Greco isn’t ruling out a mayoral run.
  8. Carlton: Fix Hillsborough's embarrassing vote to keep Confederate statue at the courthouse


    So, what was most embarrassing about the Hillsborough County Commission's 4-3 vote against moving a Confederate statue from outside the old county courthouse — a monument to a shameful time in history and the owning of human beings?

    So many choices.

    Maybe it was the citizens who showed up and spoke passionately about enslaved ancestors and about growing up in the battle for civil rights, words that did not appear to faze Commissioners Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Sandy Murman and Stacy White. All of them are up for election, by the way....

    The statue was dedicated in 1911 to the honor of Confederate soldiers and sailors.
  9. Carlton: Downtown's new 'Water Street' district? As Tampa as devil crab

    Economic Development

    Tampa, a place busy reinventing itself, is not exactly known for its streets. At least not in a good way.

    The road called Dale Mabry has long been multiple lanes of traffic hell stretching city to suburb. There's Horrible Hillsborough Avenue, the used car lots of Florida Avenue, the persistent prostitutes of Nebraska Avenue. Our streets are perpetually under construction, excuse me, "improvement." In short, except maybe beautiful Bayshore Boulevard curving along the water and old brick streets that have somehow survived "progress," pretty much no one thinks of Tampa and says: Great streets!...

    Strategic Property Partners announced the name of its new development: Water Street Tampa. This rendering shows the Tampa skyline with SPP's future buildings in place. [Photos courtesy of SPP]
  10. Carlton: Don't let Tampa's success ruin the show at the Straz


    When you're talking about Tampa's downtown, growth is good. Cranes bobbing, parks reborn, streets bustling, buildings rising, all good. Growth is great!

    But a side effect of growth that threatens to mess with one of the city's best assets? Not good.

    The problem is parking, or the lack thereof. City officials will tell you there are plenty of spaces — just not, you know, close to where you want to go....

    David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. (Times archives)
  11. Carlton: Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee says retirement spurred by "a little bit of everything.''

    Public Safety

    Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee sits across the table at La Tropicana, a coffee-and-Cuban toast spot in Ybor City favored by politicians and police. He's in crisp dress uniform, chest and arms covered with impressive stars and badges for a speech he will give later at MacDill Air Force Base. It will be one of his last as sheriff.

    The waitress moves in, balancing steaming cafe con leche on a tray, stops, gives him the once-over. "You're even better looking in person," she says. And it is interesting to see a man who has run law enforcement in the county for the past 13 years — with a $405 million budget and more than 4,000 employees — blush....

    After 13 years as Hillsborough County sheriff, David Gee will retire on Sept. 30. The reason behind his decision is “a little bit of everything,” Gee said.
  12. After politicians fight for him, Mr. Al's back at Tampa City Hall

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — It took heated discussions at two City Council meetings and the threat of losing contracts worth millions, but Monday morning, Mr. Al returned to his post at Old City Hall.

    "I'm glad to be back," said Al-Hassan Mans-Kamara from behind the security desk between the elevators, where he has watched over the building for the last six years. "They're nice people, very nice people."...

    Yvonne Yolie Capin was unhappy about the loss of “Mr. Al.”
  13. Sue Carlton: Mr. Al, Tampa City Council has your back

    Human Interest

    If you work in an office, maybe you know someone like Mr. Al.

    He's there when you come in, at a desk in the lobby, keeping a log, saying hello, remembering your name. And he's there when you're done for the day, telling you to have a nice evening.

    For years at Tampa's historic Old City Hall — the quaint, Disneyish building where the City Council meets — that was Al-Hassan Mans-Kamara, Mr. Al or just Al, at his post in the lobby by the elevator. He gave directions and knew faces. He read agendas before meetings for potential crowds and controversy. He looked out for council members. And they knew he had their back....

    The former Tampa City Hall is seen in 2015. Times 2015
  14. Carlton: A little less swagger, Mr. Mayor?


    In the dispute-gone-national over a bad joke uttered by Tampa's mayor, it is instructive to recall the nickname bestowed upon him by the local military.

    "Swagger" was the fighter pilot call sign given Bob Buckhorn by folks at MacDill Air Force Base, on a patch for his flight suit, even — and yes, he had a flight suit. Clearly, it is a name he enjoys.

    In fact, swagger has been front and center in his years as mayor. "Tampa's got its swagger back," Buckhorn declared early on, and swagger remains evident as he pushes his city forward in the final years of his second term....

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during the International Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center Wednesday, June 25, 2016. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

  15. Carlton: Guess what happened to the guy who tried to walk instead of drive around here?


    Six months ago, Kyle Simon ditched his car and pretty much walked where he needed to go. And he did this here, in one of the most dangerous places in America to be a pedestrian.

    Can you see where this story is going?

    First, some background. Simon, 33, has lived in cities where you can get along fine without wheels, places with better public transportation and bike-friendly streets. But when he resettled in his native Tampa, he figured he'd need a vehicle....