Companies That Call On The Do Not Call List

This story was part of a submission that won 2014 Third-place Business Writing, Class B, Florida Press Club.

One of the business owners decided to harass me on the phone and online after this story.

July 17, 2013

Tampa Bay companies dominate top Do Not Call complaints

By Charles Schelle,

MANATEE — Four of the top five companies in the state that logged the highest complaints for violating the Do Not Call list are based in Tampa Bay, and the state is aggressively pursuing violators.

Telemarketing is a regulated business in Florida that requires the company and each salesperson to be licensed, and companies have restrictions on when and with whom they can do business, said Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which handles the state’s free Do Not Call list.

“If you’re on the Do Not Call list, companies are not allowed to call unless you’ve done business with them within 18 months,” Gillespie said. Even if your name is not on the list, businesses cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., she said.

The Herald requested the five companies in the state that have the most Do Not Call complaints in the last fiscal year from the Department of Agriculture, and the majority are based in Tampa Bay:

1. Travel Link Corp., 5700 Memorial Highway, Suite 221, Tampa

2. Evo Security, 1940 Harrison St., Hollywood

3. Mortgage Investors Corporation, 6090 Central Ave., St. Petersburg

4. Morgan Air Conditioning, 14807 N. 12 St., Lutz 5. Harrell Home Services, Inc, 6015 Benjamin Road, Suite 324, Tampa Continue reading Companies That Call On The Do Not Call List


Incarcerated Veterans Care for Veterans Cemetery

Award Winner: 2008 First-place state government story in Division E for MDDC Press Association

Prisoners called to aid fallen soldiers

Sykesville inmates tapped to maintain veterans’ cemetery

By Charles Schelle

Posted 12/17/08

(Enlarge) Central Laundry Facility residents Sylvester Woodland, Timothy Brown and Ernest Belcher work together to install new section markers at the Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery as part of a pilot program between the cemetery and the Department of Corrections. All the inmates chosen for the duty are, themselves, veterans. (Photo by Phil Grout)

David Fisher, 42, looked across Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery and pointed to two hills.

“My uncle is buried right up there over that hill and one of my best friends is buried right there,” said the Army veteran — who these days is incarcerated at the Central Laundry Facility minimum security jail in Sykesville.

“I put flowers on his grave the other day,” he added.

Fisher, originally from East Baltimore, is one of several workers at the Central Laundry Facility who are honorably discharged veterans now incarcerated.

And since September, he and others have been maintaining Garrison Forest Cemetery in Owings Mills as a means to honor their fellow servicemen, friends and family; and as a way to find meaningful work when they’re released.

Continue reading Incarcerated Veterans Care for Veterans Cemetery

Major League Soccer Pre-Season Series

2014 Third-place Travel Writing, Class A-B, Florida Press Club, “Major League Soccer chooses IMG Academy as pre-season hub” series

While checking emails of public officials, I stumbled upon some information about a mega sports-tourism initiative in Manatee County. After FOIAs and interviews, I was able to get an exclusive, beating national outlets, that Major League Soccer would choose IMG Academy as its East Coast hub for the pre-season. This was a similar approach to how teams use Tucson, Ariz., as a West Coast hub.

MLS could never develop a true spring training set-up like baseball just because how soccer teams train. So, even while IMG received the hub designation, they would still train in other cities before and after their stop in Bradenton. The concept evolved in the second year with a pre-season tournament.

The award is in one of the toughest categories to win in a Florida press contest—tourism. And that it competed against entries in Class A (Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald, et. al), demonstrated that judges saw something worthwhile.

Here are each of the stories in the series:

Continue reading Major League Soccer Pre-Season Series

A Night of Competitive Air Guitar in D.C.

Photo by Matt Roth

Looking into the eyes of 47-year-old Lance “The Shred” Kasten, it is apparent that the sheer enjoyment and ridiculousness of competitive air guitar is more than just a night out with the boys.

The Shred appeared drained after a grueling tie against Chris “Sanjar The Destroyer” Paxton in May’s U.S. Air Guitar regional competition at the 9:30 Club, in Washington.

The two will return to duke it out and settle the score with each other and with other air guitarists from around the country at the National U.S. Air Guitar Championships, Friday, Aug. 7 at 8 p.m. at the 9:30 Club.

Yet, The Shred’s concern and emotions didn’t rest with his glory. It was with his fellow air guitarists in a brotherhood of sorts.

“Somebody’s heart was going to be broken there,” said the Washington, D.C., native in the 9:30 Club balcony greenroom. His attention quickly turned to Sanjar.

“I’m so proud of this guy right here, man,” he said, pointing to Sanjar resting on a in disbelief. “Last year he was a mediocre air guitar player and he brought it on, man.”

And that respect and bond, said Dan “Bjorn Turoque” Crane of New York, is what makes the competitions of playing nothing so great.

“We are the outsiders. We are the dorks,” he said. “We are the losers that could not really learn how to play a real instrument, and now we have air guitar, and for many of us, it saved our life.”
Continue reading A Night of Competitive Air Guitar in D.C.

Long Bar Pointe Watchdog Reporting

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2014 Second-place Lucy Morgan Award for InDepth Reporting, Class B, Florida Press Club, “Long Bar Pointe” series

In May 2013, I was assigned to take a look at a massive coastal development being proposed. It initially was a county government story but the editors thought I should take a look at it because it involved commercial, retail and residential construction.

It wasn’t just a rezoning request anymore. The initial story, which was out before any major competing outlet had anything, turned out to be quite the journey during that summer.

I learned a lot about what Floridians valued on that stretch of Sarasota Bay. The coastline is not built up with major waterfront high rises on this stretch. For as much as it can be, folks call this a piece of Old Florida. And it included neighboring Cortez Key, which is Florida’s oldest continuing working fishing village. I learned much more about seagrass and what it does than I ever thought I would. (And its differentiation from seaweed.)

On the flip side, you have a very powerful co-developer with connections to the governor. That developer, Carlos Beruff, formally announced on Feb. 29, 2016, that he is running for the U.S. Senate.

Florida is also a state where private property rights are held in high regard, and they had a special case to make because they had rights that extended into the water. The development team wanted to offer something that cannot be found in Manatee and Sarasota counties. They wanted to have a one-of-a-kind project with a promise of jobs, tourism, meeting space, and services. The drawings were beautiful, it looked like an amazing development, but was it compatible? Could they even get the permits to do things like dredge a canal and make an inland marina or boat basin—depending whose term you use?

All of this came to a head to a public hearing on Aug. 6, 2013. The hearing ended in the early hours of Aug. 7, 2013. More than 1,000 people turned out to give their thoughts–both sides. It was so big, the county had to book the convention center to hold the meeting. By that time, all of your local outlets covered the issue.

The development is now in the court system as the developers lost a court case against Manatee County and is now appealing the decision. Long Bar Pointe, as the development project, is now called Aqua.

Here is a rundown of the links to the coverage:

 Read more from these stories below:

Continue reading Long Bar Pointe Watchdog Reporting