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Local
Countdown to new county administrator

If the timeline holds, Citrus County will have a new county administrator by Sept. 5.

Oliver

Now that county commissioners have hired a search firm to conduct the nationwide hunt for Randy Oliver’s replacement, the wheels are moving closer to getting someone on deck before a new commission is on board after the November election.

Commissioners last week chose Georgia-based Slavin Management Consultants out of five total consultant applications. Slavin has agreed to do the job for not more than $24,000.

Kitchen Jr.

The board assented to Commission Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr.’s recommendation to go with Slavin. Kitchen said he chose Slavin after consulting with various government colleagues.

From now through May 24, each commissioner will develop a recruitment profile for Slavin, listing the attributes they want in a candidate.

Commissioner Scott Carnahan already expressed what he’s looking for: “a clone of Oliver” who rises to his expertise in finances.

Carnahan

After more than seven years on the job, Oliver in February submitted his resignation and gave the board no later than Nov. 29 to find a replacement.

Other timeline goals:

From May 24 to June 24, Slavin will screen candidates and discuss them individually with county commissioners.

On July 12, the board will interview the final candidates and make a selection.

From July 12 to July 26, the county will negotiate and approved a contract with the new administrator.

Sept. 5, the new administrator comes on board.


Local
Scenes of war on vintage vehicle ‘to make people think’

W.B. “Doc” Freer is a car guy, always tinkering, always thinking about his next project.

He and his “car guy” friends like to hang out in Freer’s garage and talk cars.

Freer is also a veteran, a U.S. Army combat medic who served in Vietnam, logging about 60 missions tending to his comrades injured on the battlefield.

A number of years ago, he had an idea.

He wanted to take a vintage car and turn it into a piece of art that would honor the American veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf wars.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

Korean War and MASH unit images adorn the passenger side of the roadster.

Recently, Freer finished his project: a patriotic roadster, an homage to those who served in battle.

Now he’s ready to take it on the road to display it at events, festivals, parades, etc.

His plan is to use it as a fundraiser to benefit veterans and other local community causes.

“This is a 1927 Ford T-Track Roadster,” he said from his Citrus Springs home. “It came from Troy, Michigan. These were used primarily as a race car – it has no doors, no roll-up windows.”

He and his friends put in a 1974 V-6 motor from a Ford Capri, and the undercarriage is from a 1966 Ford Econoline.

“It’s street legal, but it’s a very rough riding car,” Freer said, which is OK, because this car is not about the ride, but about the message.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

The interior of the Roadster incorporates several items from World War II-era flight controls as well as small artwork that celebrates the American soldier.

After going through hundreds of photos and artwork from the four wars, Freer chose what he considered the most iconic and meaningful and Ultra Graphics in Homosassa produced a wrap for the outside of the car, telling the story of war.

Starting from the nose of the car, Freer explained the story and the symbolism: “The front is the exact same as the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that was used to drop the bomb on Hiroshima (Japan) Aug. 6, 1945, which ended World War II,” Freer said.

The artwork is meant to visually transform the car into a B-29, flying through history, beginning with the skies over Japan.

The driver’s side is a view from the air of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawaii and the rear tire area shows a scene of the entrance at Arlington National Cemetery.

Continuing around to the back of the car is a funeral caisson carrying a casket at Arlington.

The trunk depicts the iconic raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.

The passenger side of the car, from the rear, starts with scenes from the Korean War: the South Korean flag, the Korean War Memorial and an Army ambulance from “MASH.”

“Then there’s my era, Vietnam,” Freer said. “I was drafted, and my graduating class from medical school at Fort Sam Houston, out of 185 of us, 180 of us went to Vietnam. We were a needed commodity, we were told.”

mattbeck / Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

Doc Freer will take this 1927 “T” Track Roadster “Courage Remembered” to various festivals and events with the hope of utilizing it as a fundraiser.

The scenes from the Vietnam War include a photo of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. and also a silhouette of a soldier walking on a road through the rice paddies.

It’s actually an optical illusion, Freer pointed out. If the image is turned upside down it becomes the silhouette of a Vietnamese woman carrying two burdens with a rod across her shoulders.

The last piece of art is a Gulf War scene of a Black Hawk helicopter flying over oil wells on fire.

Freer also pointed out the interior of the car with a row of four gauges that came from a 1949 B-29 that Freer got from a museum in California.

“The seats are authentic for that year bomber, and the fire extinguisher is a 1925 Pyrene, which was really hard to find,” Freer said.

Also inside the roadster’s “cockpit” is a sign that reads: “Never was so much owed to so many by so few.”

Freer said if he had a favorite scene it would be the images of World War II because his father was a World War II veteran. The keychain for the roadster has his and his dad’s military dog tags on it.

mattbeck / Photos by Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

This side of the Roadster incorporates the B-29 Enola Gay, left, and the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

“I also appreciate the pictures of Arlington because of the reverence of it being for all wars,” he said.

He added that word is already spreading about his roadster and he’s starting to get invitations to bring it to events.

On May 7 he’s bringing it to St. Augustine, where his daughter lives, to display it at a museum car show event.

“I just hope it will make people think,” he said, “think about the history of the wars we’ve been through as a nation. Hopefully, we won’t have to go through any more.”

For more information, email W.B. “Doc” Freer at wfreer@tampabay.rr.com or call 772-370-9374.


Crime_and_courts
Court rules Wildwood man incompetent to face allegations he threatened judges

Edward Juan Lynum, the Wildwood 46-year-old accused of threatening four judges while a Sumter County attorney, was found incompetent to stand trial on his felony threat charges.

Citrus County Circuit Court Judge Richard Howard made the ruling Tuesday, May 3, after Lynum’s lawyer, Charles Vaughn, and Assistant State Attorney Joseph Church said their respective psychologists determined Lynum wasn’t competent to stand trial.

Citrus County Sheriff's Office 

Lynum

“I have to base my ruling on what they have said,” the judge told Lynum, who appeared to court via a live video link from the county jail.

Howard ordered for Lynum to be housed at a state-run mental health facility to be restored to competency before he resumes facing eight counts of issuing threats.

Aug. 23 was scheduled as Lynum’s next court date.

“Sometimes it takes at least that long for the restoration to begin,” Howard said before asking Lynum if he was taking medication to ease his stressors.

“I have no stress,” Lynum replied. “I have no mental issues.”

It’s alleged Lynum threatened circuit court judges Mary Hatcher, Michelle Morley, Paul Militello and retired judge Daniel Merritt Sr. in social media postings from October 2019 to July 2020, in an attempt to change the ruling of his prior divorce case.

Authorities arrested Lynum Jan. 5, 2021, at a convenience store in his hometown, and the Florida Supreme Court revoked his license to practice law.

Lynum’s case was transferred to Citrus County after a judge granted a change of venue. If convicted as charged, Lynum faces a possible prison sentence of between 53 months and 80 years.

Vaughn filed a motion in October to have Howard detain Lynum so he could be evaluated because Lynum refused to be interviewed by Dr. Harry Krop, the psychologist Howard appointed in May to evaluate Lynum.

Howard granted Vaughn’s motion, and ordered authorities in November to apprehend Lynum while he was in court, released on bond. Krop later opined Lynum was incompetent.

“There was not an evaluation done by Dr. Krop; I refused everything,” Lynum told Howard on Tuesday. “It’s a fabrication and it’s been reported to the FBI, along with reports against you.”

Church said the prosecution’s court-appointed psychologist, Dr. Gregory Prichard, was unable to evaluate Lynum because Lynum hung up on their Zoom call.

Prichard was still able to make an opinion Lynum was incompetent after he reviewed Krop’s report and the evidence of Lynum’s case, Church said.

Beverly Hills man agrees to have judge sentence him up to 12 years to resolve cases

Beverly Hills 19-year-old Samuel William Martin pleaded no contest Tuesday to his three felony cases, accepting Howard’s offer for the judge to sentence him June 13 to a prison term of up to 12 years.

Citrus County Sheriff's Office 

Martin

Martin was first arrested July 29 on an aggravated battery charge for striking a woman’s leg with a vehicle in the parking lot of the Crystal River Dunkin Donuts, causing minor injuries.

Authorities arrested Martin, who was out on bond, Sept. 5 on sexual-battery and false-imprisonment charges for sexually abusing a woman he also kept from leaving.

Martin was also arrested Sept. 5 on separate charges of possessing child pornography, and lewd and lascivious battery of a girl between 12 and 16 years old.

Expert appointed, bond revoked for Crystal River man accused of inmate’s murder

Howard on Tuesday granted Vaughn’s request to have a forensic pathologist hired at up to $400 an hour to review the autopsy of Wayne Charles Washer, the Citrus County Detention Facility inmate Demare Tavis Barnes II is accused of fatally striking.

Howard also granted the prosecution’s motion to revoke Barnes’ bond for the Crystal River 34-year-old’s three remaining felony cases.

Citrus County Sheriff's Office 

Barnes II

Vaughn said the pathologist was needed to act as an independent medical examiner after questions were raised over Washer’s cause of death from December 2020, when Barnes allegedly struck Washer in his head while they were both inmates.

Washer was in custody awaiting the resolution of his assault-and-battery case from 2015.

Barnes has been jailed since his October 2020 arrest on charges of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, and attempted first-degree murder involving a discharged firearm.

It’s alleged Barnes opened fire early Oct. 4 at a man backing out from a parking spot at the Circle K gas station near North Citrus Avenue and West Dunklin Street, outside Crystal River.

During his incarceration, while several other inmates were fighting in a cellblock common area, Barnes allegedly struck Washer Dec. 5 in the head from behind with his fist, pitting Barnes against a second-degree murder charge.

Barnes was sentenced April 27 to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to two counts of battery for striking a pair a corrections officers March 21 at the county jail, according to court records.

Barnes is also facing an extortion charge for allegedly blackmailing a man in July by threatening to release his purported sex tape, unless he could pay up $3,000.

June 29 was set as Barnes’ next court hearing.


News_notes
Another candidate joins District 2 race
  • Updated

Paul Micheal Grogan, no party affiliation, of Inverness, pre-filed Monday for Citrus County Commission District 2. Republicans Diana Finegan and Stacey Worthington have previously pre-filed. Qualifying begins at noon, June 13, 2022, and ends at noon, June 17, 2022.


Local
Proposed Doctors' Free Clinic funding on hold until ownership settled

The purchase of a Doctor’s Free Clinic meant to provide free medical care for the poor and underinsured is being held up, not for lack of money, but a legal dilemma.

At issue is who will own the 8,000 square-foot clinic in Crystal River once the Citrus County Hospital Board buys it for the nonprofit health organization made up of local doctors. The clinic has eight examination rooms and costs $825,000.

The hospital board owns on behalf of the public, HCA Florida Citrus Hospital and its surrounding campus, and leases it to Hospital Corporation of America. The hospital board took the lease payments and uses it to help fund local charities that offer medical services or education. The board has donated to the College of Central Florida medical programs, Veterans Village assisted living facility, and numerous local charities.

The hospital board also agreed to fund the purchase of the Doctors’ Free Clinic.

But therein lies the problem.

Once purchased by the hospital board, the Doctors’ Free Clinic board members want the property turned over to the Doctors’ Free Clinic.

“My client (the Doctors’ Free Clinic) would vastly prefer to hold title to the clinic property as this would free them to make operational plans and future expansion plans without the added complication of another stakeholder controlling how the property is to be used,” wrote George Rahdert, of the St. Petersburg law firm of Rahdert & Mortimer, to the hospital board attorney Bill Grant.

“In the case of (county commission) ownership, my client wishes to avoid the political, disclosural, and decision making process of government, which we believe could unnecessarily complicate, delay and inhibit future plans and operations,” he said.

Attorney Clifford Shepard, who is an ethics consultant for the hospital board, said that the hospital board could give the clinic to the Doctors’ Free Clinic board, but that would eliminate any public ownership in the property. In the case of the Veterans Village’ the land upon which the assisted living facility will sit is owned by the Citrus County Commission and the commission will lease the land at a nominal fee.

Another option would be for the hospital board to own the property.

fredhiers / Fred Hiers / Chronicle Reporter 

Wallis

But that’s a problem, Sheppard told the four hospital board trustees during their board meeting last week.

That’s because Dr. Jeffrey Wallis is a trustee of the hospital board and also president of the Doctors’ Free Clinic board. Sheppard said that Florida laws don’t allow nonprofit board members to do business with themselves. That would put Wallis in the position of making decisions about the property that also affects the free clinic board and himself.

“You’re doing business with your own agency and you can’t,” Shepard told Wallis.

That would be avoided if the hospital board bought the clinic and immediately handed it over to the county commission, Sheppard said. But that’s something the clinic board doesn’t want.

Wallis could step down from the hospital board, which would solve the problem, Sheppard said, but Wallis told the other trustees he would rather not, given that he’s sat on the hospital board for many years and helped usher the hospital through the lease process.

The hospital board proposed one more option in which the College of Central Florida buy the clinic, lease it to the Doctors’ Free Clinic group and also use it as a teaching facility for its student nurses. The hospital board previously donated $1 million to the college and is preparing to donate as much as $10 million, depending on state matching grants for the college.

Regardless of who owns the clinic, all agreed it should revert back to the public if the Doctors’ Free Clinic organization stops providing its free medical services.

fredhiers / Fred Hiers Chronicle Reporter 

Fallows

Hospital board president Dr. Mark Fallows said that until this is settled, the trustees should not approve buying the building.

“The last thing we need is the appearance of impropriety,” Fallows said.

Clinic board member Dr. Brantley McNeal told Fallows during the hospital board’s April meeting that the Doctor’s Free Clinic must own the facility and “I simply couldn’t do it” if any governmental body owned it.

Meanwhile, Grant said that he would meet with Wallis and other lawyers involved and see if a compromise could be hammered out and brought back to the hospital board.


Pierson 

 


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