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In the News:

2015 Media Coverage of the Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court


December 31, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Registration opens for annual Valentine's Day wedding in Largo botanical gardens

PINELLAS COUNTY - If an engagement ring was among your Christmas presents, the Pinellas Clerk of Courts has opened registration for the office's 10th annual Valentine's Day group wedding at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. Up to 50 couples are expected for the ceremony on Valentine's Day, which falls on a Sunday in 2016. More than 120 people tied the knot in 2015, including the event's first same-sex couple who could legally wed in Florida.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

December 29, 2015
SPB SaintPetersBlog: Ken Burke forms marijuana civil citation task force

PINELLAS COUNTY - Pinellas County Clerk of the Court Ken Burke appears to have taken an unexpected interest in a countywide effort to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense rather than criminal. During a Pinellas County Commission meeting this month, Burke briefly weighed in on the issue saying the proposition being discussed may not be consistent with other minor offenses considered a misdemeanor.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON SAINTPETERSBLOG.COM

December 26, 2015
Tampa Bay Reporter: Want to Get Married on Valentine's? Pinellas Clerk Has a Proposal

PINELLAS COUNTY - Couples who want to wed on Valentine's Day can register to be part the Pinellas County clerk of court's 10th annual group wedding. "Our Valentine's Day group wedding event grows with every year and we couldn't be happier to provide the community with such a beautiful and special celebration," Pinellas clerk of court Ken Burke said. Burke organizes the event.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBREPORTER.COM

December 23, 2015
SPB SaintPetersBlog: LGBT issues, recall procedures, nonpartisan elections slated for next Pinellas charter review meeting

PINELLAS COUNTY - It's looking like members of Pinellas County's charter review commission will welcome in the new year with a human rights discussion. On the January 6 meeting agenda is the matter of amending language to the topic's section (2.02) of the Pinellas County Charter - basically, the county's constitution – to say "gender and sexual orientation," rather than just "sex."
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON SAINTPETERSBLOG.COM

December 23, 2015
East Lake Blister: Couples Registration Now Open for Clerk's 10th Annual Valentine's Day Group Wedding at Florida Botanical Gardens

PINELLAS COUNTY - Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller, has announced that registration is now open for the Clerk's 10th Annual Valentine's Day Group Wedding. Up to fifty couples are expected to be joined together for one group wedding ceremony on Valentine's Day, Sunday, February 14, 2016 in the romantic and picturesque Wedding Garden of the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON EASTLAKEBLISTER.COM

December 2, 2015
Tampa Bay Reporter: Pinellas Clerk of Court Named Community Advocate of the Year

PINELLAS COUNTY - Ken Burke, clerk of the circuit court and comptroller in Pinellas County, was recognized by the Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office with the Community Advocate of the Year 2015 Sixth Judicial Circuit award. Burke was acknowledged for his admirable level of support for the guardian ad litem's program and mission.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBREPORTER.COM

October 20, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Clerk's Office honors Domestic Violence Awareness Month

PINELLAS COUNTY - October is recognized nationally as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the Pinellas County Clerk's office is once again dedicating several activities to help raise awareness of this serious and preventable crime. "It is a time to shed some much needed light on an issue that affects everyone, not just the victim," said Ken Burke, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

October 20, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: High profile case information easily accessible

PINELLAS COUNTY - The Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller has streamlined the process to access information on high profile cases such as the Terry Gene Bollea vs. Heather Clem, et al case. High profile case documents are hyperlinked and easily viewable in tiff format on the new site.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

October 6, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Inspector General working on reaccreditation

PINELLAS COUNTY - Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, Division of Inspector General is undergoing its second Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation assessment to retain its state level reaccreditation. The Pinellas County Inspector General became the first local government agency in the nation and first Florida Clerk of the Court and Comptroller's office to be awarded the status as an Accredited Office of Inspector General by the CFA on Feb. 3, 2010 and achieved the first reaccreditation on Feb. 21, 2013.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

August 4, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: County makes minor tweaks to FY 2016 budget

CLEARWATER - A bit more money is coming for youth athletic programs in unincorporated Seminole, and two technology positions requested by the Clerk of the Court will receive funding in next year's Pinellas County budget. At a work session July 30, Commission Chair John Morroni requested that additional funds be added to the $70,000 allocated for youth sports in unincorporated Seminole.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

July 31, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Editorial: The importance of regaining driver's licenses

PINELLAS - The unexpected outpouring of support last weekend for a driver's license reinstatement day in St. Petersburg reaffirms the importance of having a valid license to get to work and more fully participate in community life. Thousands attended the event, which was aimed to attract people with suspended or revoked licenses because of unpaid traffic tickets and fines. Organizers sought to help negotiate payment terms with prosecutors and judges that will ultimately enable these residents to drive lawfully.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

July 25, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Driver's license reinstatement event draws crowds to church despite rains

ST PETERSBURG - Scores of people packed Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday as several others waited outside in the rain. They were seeking a fresh start, a chance at applying for a new job or simply the ability to drive their car again without fear of getting a ticket. The church served as the location for Driver's License Reinstatement Day, a collaboration of several agencies with the purpose of negotiating fees with people whose licenses have been suspended because of a failure to pay fines.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

July 24, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: No millage increases in proposed Pinellas County budget

CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard's preliminary budget contains no real surprises and, best of all, no millage rate increases. That's primarily due to participation by commissioners, constitutional officers and other stakeholders during the preparation process, Woodard said, after he presented his budget at the July 21 commission meeting.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

July 22, 2015
SPB SaintPetersBlog: Increases abound in Pinellas County's proposed 2016 budget

CLEARWATER - With an improving economy and new construction countywide, everyone gets a little more in the $2 billion Pinellas County budget for 2016. At exactly $2,029,414,630, the proposed spending plan for next fiscal year, officially submitted to County Commissioners on Tuesday, came in $67.5 million higher, a 3.4 percent jump from last year. Larger budgets are necessary to cover inflated costs of doing the county's business, said Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON SAINTPETERSBLOG.COM

July 18, 2015
TBO - The Tampa Tribune: Event let Pinellas people with warrants resolve cases without arrest

PINELLAS - Dozens of people took advantage of an event that allowed people with outstanding misdemeanor warrants to surrender without being arrested Saturday, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said. During Operation Safe Surrender, those with outstanding misdemeanor warrants could go to the Suncoast Safety Council, 455 31st St. N., St. Petersburg, and make arrangements with a judge to resolve their cases. Circuit Court Judge H. Andringa mitigated 67 warrants for 57 defendants, the sheriff's office said.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBO.COM

July 7, 2015
SPB SaintPetersBlog: Gov. Scott names Myriam Irizarry to the Pinellas County Court

PINELLAS - On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Myriam Irizarry as the newest judge of the Pinellas County Court. Irizarry, 60, of Palm Harbor, has served as chief deputy and general counsel to the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Pinellas County since 2003. From 1989-2003, she had been assistant director of the Clerk of Court Services Division in Pinellas County.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON SAINTPETERSBLOG.COM

July 6, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Pinellas clerk's chief deputy Myriam Irizarry appointed to county court bench

PINELLAS - Pinellas has a new county court judge. Gov. Rick Scott on Monday announced the appointment of Myriam Irizarry, who has served as chief deputy and general counsel to the Pinellas Clerk of the Circuit Court since 2003. She fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Walt Fullerton. Irizarry, 60, of Palm Harbor previously served as assistant director of the Clerk of Court Services Division in Pinellas from 1989 to 2003.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

June 30, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Editorial: Court clerks should be properly funded by state

PINELLAS - Florida lawmakers managed to find plenty of money in next year's budget for private sports academies and new shorelines for condos on the sun-soaked beaches, but court clerks who process traffic tickets and help domestic violence victims seek court-ordered protection? Not so much. It's all the product of an appropriations process that funds winners and losers based on patronage and connections, and the Legislature needs to fix the system for funding court clerks before it further cuts people off from critical services.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

June 29, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: State's court clerks slash services, personnel, to deal with budget cuts

PINELLAS - Starting next week, Pinellas County residents will have five fewer hours a week to pay traffic tickets, get a marriage license or request domestic violence injunctions. Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman says layoffs, furloughs and office-hour reductions are all on the table. In Pasco, Clerk of Courts Paula O'Neil has already laid off two employees. Clerks of courts throughout Florida say fewer office hours and layoffs are just two consequences from a budget dispute between their offices and state lawmakers.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

June 16, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: New service alerts Pinellas property owners to possible fraud

PINELLAS - Pinellas County property owners can now get alerts about possibly fraudulent activity involving deeds, affidavits or other official records. The Pinellas clerk of court office is the first in Florida and among the few in the nation to offer the new Property Fraud Alert system free of charge to those who sign up. "This is a wonderful tool," said Vanessa Castrogiovanni, the office's communications coordinator. "A lot of people don't really check filings in official records so if somebody is recording something under your name you are alerted right away."
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

June 9, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Clerk's Office offers portal to pay parking tickets online

PINELLAS - Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, recently announced that parking citations can now be paid online. The introduction of this new service provides the public a convenient and secure portal to pay their parking tickets with just the click of a button.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

June 8, 2015
East Lake Blister: Pinellas County Clerk Features New Option to Pay Parking Tickets Online

PINELLAS - The office of Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller is pleased to announce that parking citations can now be paid online. The introduction of this new service provides the public a convenient and secure portal to pay their parking tickets with just the click of a button.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON EASTLAKEBLISTER.COM

June 8, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Pinellas Sheriff to hike minimum wage to $12.50

PINELLAS - Following the Pinellas County Commission's lead, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is setting $12.50 as a minimum wage for his agency. The move will increase the pay for 20 non-sworn employees and cost Gualtieri's agency about $20,000 a year. That's on top of the pay increases approved last for 138 non-sworn workers who were making less than $12.50 an hour but received a raise after the County Commission approved funding to fix pay compression problems that had accumulated during the recession, when no one got raises.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

May 19, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Pinellas County continues budget hearings for FY 2016

CLEARWATER - Pinellas County began budget hearings May 7. So far, 20 agencies have made presentations during hearings on May 7 and 12. A final hearing is set for May 21. As of May 12, five requesting money from the General Fund have presented budgets higher than the target, creating a deficit of $566,250.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

May 4, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Pinellas Clerk offers Property Fraud Alert

CLEARWATER - The Pinellas County Clerk of the Court's office has officially launched a proactive subscription service that offers citizens peace of mind in the protection of their property's title. The Property Fraud Alert is a program initiated by Ken Burke, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, to help the public protect their property against fraud.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

April 28, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Pinellas receives a clean bill of financial health

CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Clerk of the Court Ken Burke reported to Pinellas County Commissioners April 21 that external auditors had finished their work and found no problems with the county's finances. "I’m pleased to report once again, that we received an unmodified opinion, which is the highest level you can receive on an audit," Burke said.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

April 22, 2015
Channel 8 WFLA: Pinellas County offering free property fraud alert program

PINELLAS COUNTY - The Pinellas County Clerk's office has officially launched a proactive subscription service that offers citizens peace of mind in the protection of their property's title. The Property Fraud Alert is a program initiated by Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, to help the public protect their property against fraud. Customers signing up for this free service will be notified immediately, either by phone or email, of any document recorded against their property in the Official Records of the Pinellas County Clerk's office where deeds, mortgages and other documents are recorded.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON WFLA.COM

April 19, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Pinellas Clerk's North County Branch receives perfect score

CLEARWATER - The North County Branch of the Pinellas County Clerk's office recently received a high honor from the U.S. Department of State Miami Passport Agency. An Acceptance Facility Oversight Program compliance visit was conducted and the branch earned a perfect score. The certificate honors exemplary service to the community and the U.S. Department of State, Passport Services, through the conscientious execution of passport applications, excellence in customer service and commitment to measures that ensure the integrity of the U.S. passport.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

April 16, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Pinellas Clerk releases annual financial report

CLEARWATER - The office of Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, recently released the Citizens' Guide to County Finances, also known as the Popular Annual Financial Report and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2014. The Citizens' Guide is an easy-to-read financial report designed to inform citizens where county revenues came from and where the money was spent.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

April 9, 2015
East Lake Blister: Pinellas Clerk's North County Branch Receives a Perfect Score on the Passport Acceptance Facility Review

PINELLAS - The North County Branch of the Pinellas County Clerk’s office received a high honor from the U.S. Department of State Miami Passport Agency. An Acceptance Facility Oversight Program compliance visit was conducted and the branch earned a perfect score. The certificate honors exemplary service to the community and the U.S. Department of State, Passport Services, through the conscientious execution of passport applications, excellence in customer service and commitment to measures that ensure the integrity of the U.S. passport.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON EASTLAKEBLISTER.COM

April 9, 2015
Suncoast News: Pinellas releases Citizens' Guide to County Finances

PINELLAS - Pinellas County residents interested in taking a look at their local government's financial well-being without having to pore through hundreds of pages of budgetary text can do so in a few clicks of the mouse. Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Ken Burke has released his 2015 Citizens' Guide to County Finances this week. The Citizens' Guide is designed to be an easy-to-read financial report that shows where county revenues came from and where money was spent. Essential information from the county's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is summarized in 24 digestible online pages and can be accessed by going to www.mypinellasclerk.org.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON SUNCOASTNEWS.COM

April 7, 2015
East Lake Blister: Pinellas Clerk Releases Popular Annual Financial Report and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended September 30, 2014

PINELLAS - The office of Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, released the Citizens' Guide to County Finances (Citizens' Guide), also known as the Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2014. The Citizens' Guide is an easy-to-read financial report designed to inform Pinellas County citizens where County revenues came from and where the money was spent. The Citizens' Guide presents a synopsis of the County’s financial health and is based on the CAFR.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON EASTLAKEBLISTER.COM

April 6, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Driving scofflaws offered one-day deal

TAMPA - Speeders and red light violators with delinquent tickets from Hillsborough County will have a designated day to pay them off and avoid late charges.The Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts will waive surcharges on any outstanding parking tickets or criminal fines and fees paid on April 18. The one-time amnesty is part of a statewide program called Operation Green Light aimed at boosting collections while helping constituents in tough times, said Doug Bakke, Chief Deputy at Clerk of the Circuit Court. The county will also reinstate the license of suspended drivers who settle their debts.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

March 28, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Bay Pines hosts Stand Down for Homeless Veterans

ST. PETERSBURG - The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System will host a Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event Saturday, April 11, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the courtyard located between buildings 2 and 37 at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, 10,000 Bay Pines Blvd. The event, to be held rain or shine, will feature a wide range of services available for homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

February 25, 2015
Suncoast News: Time running out to pay fines without collection fees

PINELLAS COUNTY - Still avoiding ponying up for that ticket or fine that’s overdue because of the added collection fees? Well, Pinellas County officials are willing to turn a blind eye to those, but only for a limited time. And that time's running out. County residents have until Saturday to visit any of three participating Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller locations to take part in Wipe It Clean in 2015. Outstanding fines and fees must be paid in full, but without the collection fees.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON SUNCOASTNEWS.COM

February 25, 2015
Channel 10 WTSP: Pinellas County waiving collection fees

PINELLAS COUNTY - From Feb. 24 to Feb. 28, the Pinellas County Clerk's Office will be waiving any unpaid collection fees on all different kinds of cases. Unpaid cases are sent to two collection agencies utilized by the clerk's office. For instance, if a person received a traffic ticket and didn't have the means to pay the associated fees, a 40% collection fee would be added to the case once 90 days lapsed from the date of issuance. The Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller's office is offering this program to help those individuals by waiving these additional fees.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON WTSP.COM

February 22, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Clerk of the Court waives collection fees

CLEARWATER - The Clerk's office has dedicated one week towards the end of February to help you start the New Year on a clean slate. The Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller will waive collection fees from Tuesday, Feb. 24, through Saturday, Feb. 28. Anyone with a ticket or court fine in collections can visit any of the following locations during regular office hours to avoid paying the collection fee.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

February 17, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Commission OKs design services agreement - Work will provide information needed for courts consolidation project

CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Commissioners unanimously approved an agreement for design services with Mason Blau and Associates Inc. in Clearwater Feb. 10 for a courts consolidation project. Cost of the design package is not to exceed $2.88 million, which will be paid for from the Capital Improvement Program infrastructure sales tax, more commonly referred to as Penny for Pinellas. Commissioners gave staff approval to negotiate with Mason Blau, the No. 1 ranked firm, on a price to develop design criteria packages for the consolidation on Dec. 10, 2013. The work consists of compiling information relative to the design and construction requirements of design-build delivery methods, according to a staff report.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

February 14, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Valentine's Day Group Wedding includes same-sex couples for first time

CLEARWATER - Fifty-eight couples, including Nancy Jimenez (center-left, in black) and Annette Cortes (center-right, in white), were married during the 9th Annual Valentine's Day Group Wedding on Saturday at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. Four additional couples renewed their vows. At 17, Jimenez and Cortes, both of St. Petersburg, had their first kiss. After many years apart, they met again four years ago and have been together since. Pinellas Clerk of Court Ken Burke presided over the ceremony in the first year same-sex couples could participate.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

February 14, 2015
Channel 9 WAFB: FL couples hold mass Valentine's wedding ceremony

LARGO - Valentine's Day was extra special for dozens of Florida sweethearts. Sixty-eight couples tied the knot Saturday in one huge wedding ceremony at Florida Botanical Gardens. The annual valentine group wedding is organized by the Pinellas County court clerk and open to the public. For the first time this year, same-sex couples were included in the event. "You know what, I think it's great, because it shows a great camaraderie, the diversity, and it's just an all-around great, euphoric feeling," bride Latoya Simpson said.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON WAFB.COM

February 14, 2015
Channel 10 WTSP: Dozens wed in mass ceremony in Pinellas

PINELLAS COUNTY - A big congratulations to the dozens of happy couples who tied the knot in Pinellas county on Valentine's Day. A Valentine's Day mass wedding ceremony took place in the beautiful wedding garden of the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. It was an extra special day for some couples who have been together for years but were not allowed to wed under Florida law -- until now. The event was put together by the Pinellas County Clerk of Court. The couples were treated to a poem, serenaded by an a-cappella group and got their fill of wedding cake and refreshments. As you can imagine -- nothing but smiles and a happy tears.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON WTSP.COM

February 14, 2015
Channel 8 WFLA: Pinellas County couples choose group wedding

LARGO - More than 120 people tied the knot in a group wedding in Largo Saturday. For the ninth year the Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller hosted the free event at the Florida Botanical Gardens. For the first time, same-sex couples could legally marry. "When you love somebody so much and you have the opportunity to say 'I do' be equal. It's just amazing," Annette Cortes said. Cortes and Nancy Jimenez have known each other for 36 years. As soon as gay marriage became legal in Florida, they knew they wanted to sign on the dotted line. "I'm just so happy I never thought that in my life I would get this opportunity that my all my brothers had," Jimenez said.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON WFLA.COM

February 14, 2015
Fox 13 News: Valentine's day wedding

SEE THE VIDEO CREATED BY FOX 13 HERE ON MYFOXTAMPABAY.COM

February 11, 2015
Clearwater Gazette: To love and cherish

CLEARWATER - Valentine's Day - it's synonymous with romance and kisses, hugs and embraces, flowers and celebrations of love. This year, it means far more to many who'll make their unions official at the Ninth Annual Valentine's Day Group Wedding at The Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. The gathering has become a county tradition. "Sixty-three couples have registered this year," said Vanessa Castrogiovanni, communications coordinator for the office of Ken Burke, Pinellas' clerk of the circuit court and comptroller. "We normally close the registration when we have 50 couples registered. However, we have made some exceptions because of the many people interested in participating this year. While registration is technically closed, we do have a wait list."
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON CLEARWATERGAZETTE.COM

February 8, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Self-help center offers online scheduling

CLEARWATER - The Clerk of the Circuit Court's self-help center now allows the public to conveniently schedule attorney consultations online. With this new feature, anyone can schedule their attorney consultations by visiting www.mypinellasclerk.org. "Our self-help center has become an invaluable resource for our community and this new online scheduling feature aims to further facilitate the process of helping customers navigating the legal system on their own," said Ken Burke, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller. "It is very rewarding to be able to continue enhancing our services offered to the public as they seek help with their legal matters."
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

February 6, 2015
TBO - The Tampa Tribune: About a third of Hillsborough's January marriages were same-sex couples

TAMPA - The crush of same-sex couples at marriage license counters across the state one month ago Friday was just that: near overwhelming numbers the first day, with smaller numbers since. Over the past month, nearly 1,000 marriage licenses were issued through the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court's Office, about a third to same-sex couples. The same ratio was evident in Pinellas County; in Pasco, about a quarter of the marriage licenses issued in the last month went to same-sex couples, according to numbers compiled by clerks' offices in those counties. Hillsborough courthouse records show that about 90 same-sex couples pulled licenses on Jan. 6, many of whom were married in a mass ceremony that afternoon in a county park across the street from the clerk's office.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBO.COM

January 27, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Registration ends Jan. 30 for Valentine's wedding

CLEARWATER - Registration for the Pinellas County Clerk of the Court's ninth annual Valentine's Day Group Wedding ends Jan. 30. Up to 50 couples are expected to be joined together for one group wedding ceremony on Valentine's Day, Saturday, Feb. 14, in the romantic and picturesque Wedding Garden of the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. As of Jan. 14, More than 30 couples had already reserved their place as of Jan. 14 to take part in the group wedding. More are expected to sign up by Friday.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

January 22, 2015
Suncoast News: Mass Valentine's Day wedding ceremony deadline approaching

CLEARWATER - Pinellas County couples interested in having their big day on the most romantic day of the year need to act fast. The deadline to register for the Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller's ninth Valentine's Day Group Wedding is Jan. 30. Each year about 50 couples are joined in holy matrimony on Feb. 14 in the Wedding Garden of the Florida Botanical Gardens, in Largo. The office of Clerk Ken Burke said in a press release that over 30 couples had registered as of last week. The event is organized by Burke, and couples will be treated to a poem written by Myriam Irizarry, chief deputy director and general counsel at the Clerk's Office.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON SUNCOASTNEWS.COM

January 13, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Pinellas commissioners favor "living wage" proposal for county employees

CLEARWATER - Pinellas County commissioners took the first step Tuesday toward setting a "living wage" for county employees. Responding to a request by Commissioner Ken Welch, the board directed county Administrator Mark Woodard and the county attorney's office to come up with a plan to set the minimum wage at $12.50 an hour for the nearly 1,900 employees who work under Woodard. The board also took Welch's suggestion to invite the other so-called "appointing authorities" in the county's Unified Personnel System to participate. Among them are the county's Business Technology Services office and the Office of Human Rights, as well as the county tax collector, supervisor of elections, clerk of court and property appraiser.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

January 13, 2015
TBO: Pinellas leaders favor "living wage" for lowest-paid workers

CLEARWATER - Hoping to ease the burden of poverty, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch on Tuesday proposed increasing the minimum wage for county employees to $12.50 an hour, the so-called "living wage." Welch asked County Administrator Mark Woodard at the commission's meeting on Tuesday to see what needs to be done to increase the wages of the county's lowest-paid employees. He said it would affect about 38 of the county's approximately 1,800 employees. Welch's proposal comes as the city of St. Petersburg instituted a $12.50 minimum wage as of Jan. 1 for all full-time employees and part-time employees with at least five years of service. "The county has focused on poverty reduction the last couple of years," Welch said. "It's a good step for the county; it actually walks the talk."
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBO.COM

January 12, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers-Beacon, Leader, Bee: Register for Valentine's Day group wedding

TAMPA BAY - Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court and comptroller, has opened registration for the Clerk's ninth annual Valentine's Day Group Wedding. Up to 50 couples are expected to be joined together for one group wedding ceremony on Valentine's Day, Saturday, Feb. 14, in the romantic and picturesque Wedding Garden of the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. "This event has become a county tradition and it is an honor to provide this beautiful service in such a timeless and scenic garden," Burke said. A single ceremony will unite all couples in attendance.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBNWEEKLY.COM

January 6, 2015
ABC Action News: Same-sex marriages break Tampa Bay records

TAMPA BAY - A wave of same-sex couples applied for – and finally received – their marriage licenses Tuesday, then followed up the historic day in Florida with a celebration. The final tally set records in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties for the number of people getting a marriage license in a single day. In Hillsborough, the number of people getting a marriage license rose 1000 percent. There were 159 handed out and 106 ceremonies. The vast majority were to same-sex couples. Pinellas had 67 same-sex couples receive their marriage licenses. Pasco County had 22 same-sex marriage license's issued.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON ABCACTIONNEWS.COM

January 6, 2015
SaintPetersBlog: Same-sex couples in St. Pete tie the knot

TAMPA BAY - "Holy shit, we're married!" Those were the first words out of Jennifer Hasbrook's mouth after she married her partner, Kelly Peterson. The couple was among some of the first to marry in Pinellas County Tuesday as the state's ban on same-sex marriage was officially lifted across the state. Jennifer and Kelly weren't the first couple in St. Pete to tie the knot, though. Andrea DeFelippo and Erin Bell took that honor. The ceremony was short, but sweet, and a few tears were shed. After their nuptials the couple posed for pictures and answered questions. "It feels great," they said almost in unison. DeFlippo and Bell have been together four years, but just got engaged last week.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON SAINTPETERSBLOG.COM

January 6, 2015
Tampa Bay Newspapers: Same-sex couples around Tampa Bay line up to get married and make history

TAMPA BAY - Wedding bells began ringing Tuesday morning at Tampa Bay area courthouses as hundreds of gay couples turned out early for their first chance to be married in Florida. By 8 a.m. in Tampa, the line outside the Hillsborough clerk's office stretched down the sidewalk. Inside, Room 140, where marriage licenses are issued, had never been so busy - not even for Valentine's Day, longtime employees said. Couples - some of whom had been waiting for hours - crowded into chairs in the small waiting area to do their paperwork, crossing out "husband" to write "wife #2" or "wife" to write "husband #2."
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

January 5, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: 3 things to know about same-sex marriage in Florida today

TAMPA BAY - As of Tuesday, gay couples will be permitted to get married in Florida. Here are three things to know: Want to get married? Florida law requires a three-day wait between when a couple applies for a marriage license and when they can have a wedding ceremony. Couples who complete a four-hour marital counseling course can skip the waiting period and save money on a license. The courses can be taken in person or online. Same sex couples who complete the counseling course in advance could get married Tuesday, after the federal court stay expires. Deputy clerks can perform marriage ceremonies at the clerk's office.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

January 5, 2015
Channel 8 WFLA: Same-sex marriages set to start Tuesday in Tampa Bay

ST PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) - At the Clerk of Court Office in St. Petersburg, they're preparing for a crowd on the first day that office and others will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. "We may have two and three ceremonies happening at the same time," said Myriam Irizarry, chief deputy and general counsel for the Pinellas County Clerk of Court. The clerk's office in Pinellas has already changed forms to say spouse "A" and "B" instead of husband and wife, and has prepped a check-in system to organize the line they are expecting when workers open the doors at 8 a.m. The executive director of Equality Florida said while they are looking forward to a "day of celebration," they are staffing to deal with any problems.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON WFLA.COM

January 5, 2015
TBO: Florida's clerks ramp up for first day of same-sex marriage

TAMPA - Circuit court clerk offices across Florida ramped up their record-keeping routine Monday expecting gay couples to take immediate advantage of court rulings that open the door for them to marry starting today. Crowds or not, the Tampa area offices are ready to crank out extra marriage licenses and, in most cases, to conduct civil ceremonies. If there is a big crowd in Tampa, Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank has arranged for a group wedding ceremony at noon in nearby Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park downtown. Otherwise, she'll just do the ceremony in Room 140 at the courthouse on Pierce Street.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TBO.COM

January 2, 2015
Bay News 9: With gay marriage ruling, counties begin preparations

ST. PETERSBURG - A federal judge cleared the way for same-sex marriages to begin in all 67 counties in Florida on Tuesday. U.S. Judge Robert Hinkle issued a ruling Thursday that clarifies his ruling on the issue. He said clerks have a "legal duty" to issue the licenses, but he did not order them to do it. A stay on the ruling was set to end at midnight Jan. 5, and Hinkle said he would not extend the stay. That means on Jan. 6 counties can begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON BAYNEWS9.COM

January 2, 2015
Bay News 9: Same-sex couple plans wedding in light of judge's ruling

ST. PETERSBURG - Bob Wallace and his fiance JoJo Wallace have been together for three years now. Photos around their living room capture a couple in love, including shots from a birthday party and a ski trip to Colorado. The pair even has a very special painting from a vacation this past summer. "It's a shutter from the 9th Ward in New Orleans," Bob said. "And we met the artist and he said well let me put you in the window and he did." The two men are silhouettes in the painting, and in their everyday life, they are so in sync they finish each other's sentences. In fact, they did just that when telling Bay News 9 about their engagement in October.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON BAYNEWS9.COM

January 2, 2015
The Washington Post: Federal judge removes another hurdle to same-sex marriage in Florida

TAMPA BAY - A federal district court judge in Florida set the stage Thursday for same-sex marriages to take place across the Sunshine State on Jan. 6. Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled in August that provisions of Florida law prohibiting same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states violated the Constitution. But Hinkle immediately delayed the enforcement of his own ruling long enough to allow the state officials who are the defendants in the suit to seek longer delays from federal appellate courts, including from the U.S. Supreme Court.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON WASHINGTONPOST.COM

January 1, 2015
Tampa Bay Times: Judge Hinkle says all 67 counties may issue marriage licenses to gay couples

Florida - Clerks of court across Florida should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples next week, a federal judge ordered on New Year's Day, warning recalcitrant officials they could face legal consequences if they refuse. The decision, by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of Tallahassee, ends weeks of speculation and legal maneuvering as clerks throughout the state waited to hear whether gay marriage would become legal statewide, or restricted to Washington County in the Panhandle. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a written statement Thursday afternoon saying that her office, which has defended the state's same-sex marriage ban, would not "stand in the way as clerks of court determine how to proceed."
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON TAMPABAY.COM

January 1, 2015
ABC Action News: Judge: Clerks have duty to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Miami (AP) - A federal judge says that Florida's county court clerks have a legal duty to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but he has stopped short of ordering them to do so. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a ruling Thursday in Tallahassee federal court responding to requests to clarify his previous order that Florida's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. He stayed that order, but the stay is scheduled to expire at the end of the day Monday.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON ABCACTIONNEWS.COM

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