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Kathryn Varn, Times Staff Writer

Kathryn Varn

Kathryn Varn covers public safety in north Pinellas County and news in the city of Largo. She is from the Jacksonville area and graduated from the University of Florida, where she studied journalism.

Phone: (727) 893-8913


Twitter: @kathrynvarn

  1. Largo commissioners raise ceiling on next year's property tax rate

    Local Government

    LARGO — The proposed budget included a recommendation for the property tax rate to remain the same, but city commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to increase the maximum rate in a move to give city officials more flexibility.

    The rate commissioners approved 6-0, with Mayor Woody Brown absent, is about $5.74 for every $1,000 of assessed taxable value. That number is the maximum rate the city will be allowed to levy next year, meaning commissioners could pass a rate lower than that but not higher. The rate, and the rest of the budget, still have to go through several more layers of approval before they're finalized for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1....

    City Manager Henry Schubert says the city needs to take a look at its operation.
  2. Old Coachman Road in Clearwater reopens after depression forms

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — A depression that formed Wednesday morning on Old Coachman Road is showing no indications of becoming a sinkhole.

    Pinellas County spokeswoman Libby Bolling said road crews have determined the foundation under the road is solid around the depression, which is located in the northbound lanes just south of NE Coachman Road near Northeast Coachman Park.

    "That basically rules out any sinkhole situation," she said....

    Police shut down Old Coachman Road south of NE Coachman Road in both directions in Clearwater on July 26, 2017, because of a depression in the roadway. [Clearwater Fire Rescue]
  3. Clearwater driver says he didn't know he was carrying people in sweltering trailer


    Alton Bradley saw his uncle on the news and couldn't believe the allegations against him.

    James Mathew Bradley Jr., who authorities have said is from Clearwater, is accused of driving a sweltering semitrailer truck that was discovered outside a San Antonio, Texas, Walmart with about 30 undocumented immigrants inside. Ten of them have died.

    That's not the man his family knows, Alton Bradley, son of James Bradley's oldest brother, told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday....

    James Bradley Jr.'s family and fiancee say he would never have knowingly hauled a trailer filled with immigrants.

[Facebook photo courtesy Alton Bradley]
  4. Police chase on sands of Clearwater Beach lands on Facebook Live

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — It was just another day on Clearwater Beach Thursday for Stephanie Ball and her 14-month-old son.

    Until they heard the sirens.

    Ball and her friend Emily Keene looked to their left and saw a black Jeep Cherokee barreling down the beach, followed by a swarm of Clearwater police cruisers.

    "We saw them just flying down," Keene, 27, said.

    The driver, whom police identified as 27-year-old Ryan Stiles, streamed the pursuit over Facebook Live, with the video showing him driving over beach chairs and drinking from a bottle of Canadian Mist whiskey. He made it all the way to Caladesi Island before he stopped, faced with a choice to continue into the water or surrender to police, Deputy Chief Donald Hall said at a news conference....

    Beach chairs lay in the sand after they were run over by a man driving a Jeep being pursued by Clearwater Police up Clearwater Beach Thursday afternoon 7/20/2017. - Clearwater Police have identified the Pinellas Park man who they said drove his car over beach chairs and umbrellas along Clearwater Beach and streamed it on Facebook Live Thursday afternoon 7/20/2017. Ryan Michael Stiles, 27, was stopped on the north end of Caladesi Island after driving up from Clearwater Beach, police said. During low tide, Caladesi Island is accessible from Clearwater Beach. No one was injured, but much of the less than 10-minute drive was captured on Facebook Live by the driver, according to police. They do not believe it was a joy ride, police said, adding that he stayed close to the dunes.
  5. Largo promotes Joseph Pennino to deputy fire chief

    Public Safety

    LARGO — The city has a new deputy fire chief after Dave Mixson left the post to take a job as chief and director of public safety of the South Pasadena Fire Department.

    Joseph Pennino has worked for Largo Fire Rescue since 2003 and has served in many roles, including lieutenant, assistant chief of training and division chief of operations, according to an announcement from Chief Shelby Willis....

    Largo Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Pennino
  6. Pinellas County approves settlement with Suncoast fire district

    Public Safety

    SEMINOLE — County commissioners on Tuesday approved a settlement with the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District, closing out a lawsuit filed last year by the district over millions of dollars of emergency medical services funding.

    The unanimous vote finalized the agreement the fire district's commission had already approved last week. It mainly guarantees county funding for at least two paramedic positions in the district going forward and makes certain district projects eligible for Penny for Pinellas dollars if voters renew the 1-cent sales tax in November....

  7. Pinellas Sheriff's north district station moving, but likely staying in Dunedin

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County officials are in negotiations to move the Sheriff's Office north district station from its downtown home of 20 years to a building about three miles north.

    The county is in the process of working out a lease agreement with the owner of a former Wells Fargo bank branch on Bayshore Boulevard south of Curlew Road to move the station from its current location in the former Dunedin Police Department at 737 Louden Ave....

    The current Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Dunedin substation. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office substation in Dunedin is moving from this its current location downtown to a former Wells Fargo building at Alt. 19 and Curlew Road. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times

  8. Mother of slain girl, 13, says she sneaked out but 'never stayed gone'


    RIVERVIEW — Janessa Shannon had sneaked out of her mother's Bradenton home before. So Michelle Mosley wasn't happy when she found out her 13-year-old daughter had done it again, winding up at a boy's house.

    As punishment, Janessa was returned to her father's home in Riverview a day early, Mosley said Sunday. It was the last time she would see her daughter.

    The father, Nahshon Shannon, grounded her that night. He checked on Janessa the following day, he said, and found no one in her bedroom at his home at 11219 Cocoa Beach Drive. He reported her disappearance to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on July 3, a Monday....

    Photo of the Triple Creek Nature Preserve in Riverview where Hillsborough Sheriff detectives say the badly decomposed body of missing 13 year old Janessa Shannon was found. Janessa's body was discovered on July 12, 2017 and detectives along with the Hillsborough Medical Examiners Office determined it was the body of the missing teen on July 14. [Sunday July 16, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  9. Pinellas sheriff's sergeant resigned in wake of sexual misconduct claims

    Public Safety

    LARGO — The relationships between former Pinellas County sheriff's Sgt. Michael Gibson and the young deputies he helped train started out professional.

    They yielded to casual friendships, some text messages here and chatter at work there.

    Then, he crossed a line, according to an internal investigation.

    The recently released report shows that Gibson, a 14-year veteran of the agency, was accused of sexually harassing two female deputies and engaging in inappropriate relationships with two more while he was married. ...

    Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the policy exists to prevent these kinds of problems.
  10. Pinellas Suncoast fire district commissioners vote to settle lawsuit with county

    Local Government

    SEMINOLE — Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners unanimously approved an agreement to settle a lawsuit the district filed against Pinellas County over millions of dollars of emergency medical services funding.

    The independent fire district that covers a cluster of coastal communities won't get back the $5.2 million officials feel they were owed. Instead, the settlement commissioners approved on Tuesday guaranteed money from the county going forward and set the tone for a working relationship between the two governments....

    Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners meet Tuesday at Station 28 in unincorporated Oakhurst to discuss a proposed settlement with Pinellas County.
  11. Pinellas Suncoast fire district commission settles lawsuit against Pinellas County


    SEMINOLE — Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved settling its 2016 lawsuit against Pinellas County over millions of dollars of emergency medical services funding.

    The district didn’t get the $5.2 million officials felt they were owed after a series of funding cuts over several years. Instead, the agreement both sides hammered out in mediation will fund new positions for the district....

    Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners meet Tuesday morning at Fire Station 28 in Oakhurst for a special meeting to discuss a proposed settlement agreement on a lawsuit against Pinellas County.
  12. Pinellas Suncoast fire district to vote on settling lawsuit

    Local Government

    SEMINOLE — Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners are set to vote Tuesday on a proposed settlement agreement of a lawsuit against Pinellas County over millions of dollars in emergency medical services funding.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: For the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District, unknowns abound as the chief says goodbye...

  13. For the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District, unknowns abound as the chief says goodbye

    Local Government

    INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Now is a turning point for the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District.

    District officials are on the brink of settling a lawsuit over millions of dollars in emergency medical services funding.

    They're also fighting a lawsuit that alleges the district used "ambiguous, deceptive and misleading" ballot language to convince voters to approve a new property tax. ...

    Salvatore D’Angelo cutlines here should be 5 lines deep.
  14. Pinellas deputy fired for social media boast: 'Nothing like almost shooting someone'

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri fired a patrol deputy on Thursday after a photo surfaced that shows him boasting about almost shooting someone.

    The photo, posted Sunday on the visual messaging app Snapchat, shows deputy Austen Callus, 23, with the caption: "Nothing like almost shooting someone to set your head right lol. God I gate people with knives." The word "gate" appears to be a misspelling of "hate."...

    A Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy is under investigation after a photo that shows him boasting about almost shooting someone made the rounds on social media. Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Spencer Gross on Thursday confirmed deputy Austen Callus' employment and said the agency is "aware of the social media post." [Facebook'
  15. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cellphone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cellphone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned from the agency at the end of February after investigators found the photos, which include images comparing black people to animals, derogatory memes about the Women's March on Washington and photos he took of his genitals while working on duty at the agency shooting range. ...

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]