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Benderson refuses to pay for dredging his rowing park

Sarasota County threatened with lawsuit for Benderson’s failure to pay up 01/2015 By Jon Susce Dredging was the foundational construction activity needed to develop the world class Nathan Benderson Rowing Park. Without professional dredging services provided by Dredge America, Randy Benderson’s rowing facility wouldn’t even exist. So how does Benderson show his appreciation? He refuses to make good his promise to pay for the services rendered by Dredge America. Benderson has refused to pay Dredge America for services rendered despite the fact that for the past 15 years Dredge America has successfully completed over 200 professional hydraulic dredging projects throughout the entire U.S. and has earned the reputation as

Posted in Breaking News, News, Politics, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics

Marbut hustles for more public funding

Robert Marbut

01/2015 By Jon Susce jsusce @ Self-proclaimed “Homeless Expert” Robert Marbut has brought his 21st century version of “The Music Man” to the Volusia County/ Daytona Beach area. Marbut was last seen being chased out of Sarasota by neighborhood activists and merchants. They discovered that Marbut had no trombones, only false statistics and empty promises. Now Marbut has brought his scam to the Volusia/Daytona Beach area. He’s still playing the same tune as he marches into downtown Daytona Beach where he can be found hawking a proposal to residents and business owners that promises to alleviate the serious problems of the chronically homeless and widespread substance abuse. MARBUT’S DAYTONA

Posted in Breaking News, News, Politics, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics, State News, State Politics

Benderson hires locally prominent litigator, mediator

Randy Benderson

January 2015 By Jon Susce jsusce @ Randy Benderson finally understands he has a legal dilemma after three and one half years of legal maneuvering regarding the lawsuit brought by Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. against developers Benderson and Henry Rodriguez alleging they conspired with Sarasota County to defraud Culverhouse out of millions of dollars. DUBENSKY DENIES BENDERSON’S MOTION TO DISMISS A month ago, while sitting next to his attorney, Ed Vogler,  Benderson was highly embarrassed as Judge Peter Dubensky turned down NINE motions by Vogler to dismiss Culverhouse’s suit against him. Benderson subsequently dumped Vogler. In order to get on an equal legal playing field with the Culverhouse legal team led by Steven Hutton, who is one of the most respected  legal

Posted in Breaking News, Opinion, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida’s Sheldon Roden

Sheldon Roden

12/2014 By DAVID GAULMAN In 1999 local actor, singer, director, and playwright Nate Jacobs founded the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, with a vision of great things to come. The WBTT has inspired many young African American singers and actors to follow their dreams. Sarasota native, Sheldon Roden is one of them. The 28-year old singer and songwriter was discovered by Jacobs while Roden was singing at a friends funeral. “After years of encouragement from both Jacobs and my mom I accepted an offer for my very first show which was in 2009,” Roden said. Since then Roden has been the lead in the production of Marvin Gaye: The

Posted in Entertainment

Phil Helmuth takes over Booker Nation

Phil Helmuth

12/2014 DAVID GAULMAN After some much needed rest and relaxation, Phil Helmuth returns to the bench as he takes over the Booker High tornadoes as their new head coach this season. “It was nice to have some time off then sit behind Gary Clark, to see the game from a different angle as an assistant,” Helmuth said. After 17 years as the head coach and 10 years as the athletic director at Sarasota Christian, Helmuth looks to add another chapter to his polished coaching résumé. “I’m excited, I look at the situation with a little disbelief,” Helmuth said. “I would have never pictured this situation a few years ago, but

Posted in Sports

Murder and conspiracy, or death by natural causes? The case of Cohen

Steve and Murray Cohen

From left: Steve Cohen with his father, Murray Cohen. 12/2014 By Suzi Harkola In late December, 2002, Murray Cohen married Maria Amurrio in Bolivia and brought her to his home on Siesta Key. Three weeks later, he was dead. Authorities ruled it a heart attack, as the 71-year-old had a history of heart problems. His son, Steven Esdale was skeptical. “She killed him for his million dollar-plus estate,” he asserts, and has spent the past 12 years trying to find someone, anyone, who will listen to his version of the truth of what happened that fateful afternoon. The saga for the home remodeling and renovations pro has taken its toll

Posted in Breaking News, National News, National Politics, News, Politics, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics, State News, State Politics

SRQ, Ogles, Barbetta and Benderson promote political corruption

Joe Barbetta

Joe Barbetta Jacob Ogles 12/2014 By Jon Susce jsusce @ In one of the most blatant examples of how Randy Benderson has corrupted the local political process and the major media in the area is a recent article in SRQ Magazine by Jacob Ogles. In the article, Ogles writes about how Mary Kenealy was responsible for putting together the major gala that opened up Randy Benderson’s Mall on University Boulevard and Interstate 75. What Ogles failed to mention is that Kenealy is the wife of Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta, who on numerous occasions has voted for giving millions of dollars of public money to various Benderson projects throughout

Posted in Breaking News, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics

Robinson funneled campaign contributions from Tallahassee based PACS to Caraguilo

Paul Caragiulo

Bridget Ziegler Paul Caragiulo 12/2014 By Jon Susce jsusce @ On 7/31/14 The Sarasota Phoenix wrote that a recent flyer put out promoting the candidacy of Sarasota City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo for Sarasota County Commission was paid for by a PAC called Citizens Against Taxation, which is managed  by Sarasota County political operative Eric Robinson. This is the same managed by local political operative Eric Robinson that funneled 45,000 into the campaign of recently elected Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler. Citizens Against Taxation recently was the recipient of two contributions from two Tallahassee based PAC called Florida Innovation Fund and Committee for Justice totally $42,000. Robinson stated that

Posted in Politics, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics, State News, State Politics

Lakewood Ranch residents find no refuge in BOCC

Carol Whitmore

12/2014 By Jon Rehill Sarasota Phoenix Correspondent Lakewood Ranch residents showed up at Thursday’s Manatee County Commission land use meeting with all of the expectations of finding relief from what they consider egregious development. They came expecting their county representatives to convey to the rest of the commission that seven-story buildings and bumper to bumper traffic is not what they moved here for. What they got was a familiar sentiment: get used to it, because there’s plenty more where that came from. The community’s residents have come here from all over the country, with reason to believe they moved into a leisure community with all of the amenities of a well-structured

Posted in Breaking News, Environment, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics

Vengroff purchase airport hotel, converts to housing homeless

Sarasota Florida Airport Hotel

Harvey Vengroff 12/2014 By Suzi Harkola Sarasota Phoenix Correspondent In just one more reason that Sarasotans can be grateful that Harvey Vengroff changed his mind about moving to Belize, he recently purchased the Airport Hotel, a 117-room run-down (by visitor comments) lodging facility at 4900 Tamiami Trail, with the goal of cleaning it up and converting the rooms to studio apartments with stoves and refrigerators to serve the needs of the area’s homeless families. Apart from providing affordable housing for Sarasotans, Vengroff is working with local charities, including Women’s Resources, Harvest House, the Salvation Army and the Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Suncoast Inc., to find renters who have

Posted in Business, Regional / Local News

Former Cardinal Mooney standout Blakeney taking over basketball prep scene

Antonio Blakeney

Antonio Blakeney 12/2014 By DAVID GAULMAN Sarasota Phoenix Correspondent Blakeney has captivated the nation recently with his highlight tapes and posturizing dunks, putting him on the national map. Sarasota is known for its talented basketball players, but Antonio Blakeney may go own as the best. The former Cardinal Mooney standout who transferred to Oak Ridge high school in Orlando still trains here and is a product of the 941. The 6-4 170 pound guard is ranked the number 16th player in the 247sports class of  2015 and is thought of as the best scoring guard in that class. In two seasons at Mooney, Blakeney averaged 24.8 points per game while

Posted in Sports

Iain Webb and Sarasota Ballet

Iain Webb

Sarasota Ballet Artistic Director Iain Webb. Photo courtesy of Sarasota Ballet. By DAVID GAULMAN Sarasota Phoenix Correspondent In 1987 the Sarasota Ballet was founded by Jean Allenby-Weidner with the goal of becoming a full resident ballet company. That goal was achieved in 1990, then in 2007 with new director Iain Webb in place expectations went through the roof. “When I started the foundation was weak, and it took awhile to get it going” Webb said. “I was asked to give a long term commitment, and that I did.” Webb’s background and experience brought a dynamic and exposure to the Sarasota Ballet it needed, giving the organization national and international recognition.

Posted in Entertainment

Under the surface at Warm Mineral Springs

Warm Mineral Springs

Warm Mineral Springs located in North Port. Photos courtesy of Ignoring the reality and the truth 12/2014 By Juliette Jones, PhD FriendsofWarmMineralSprings @ Many people care about the preservation and future of Warm Mineral Springs as a “natural wonder” but wonder what is going on, and are eager to get the springs re-opened so that their neighborhood rentals can once again turn a profit; or would just like to get back into the waters, relax and enjoy life. You can’t really blame anyone for their viewpoints. After all people moved here, or visit here to enjoy nature and the gift of the once healing waters; not to fight political

Posted in Environment, Opinion, Regional / Local News

Dubensky rules against Benderson

Judge Peter Dubensky

12/2014 By Jon Susce jsusce @ Judge Peter Dubensky Randy Benderson As one of Florida’s major multi-million dollar developers Randy Benderson sat in a local court room last Thursday, Judge Peter Dubensky denied nine motions by Benderson’s attorney Ed Vogler that sought an end to Hugh Culverhouse Jr.’s allegations that Benderson, Henry Rodriquez and Sarasota County officials conspired to increase Benderson and Rodriquez’s financial gain with public funding while attempting to remove Culverhouse from the EEZ Project in Osprey. Less than a week after the opening of Bender son’s $300 million UTC mall on the University Boulevard, Interstate 75 corridor, Benderson sat stunned as Dubensky denied one after another

Posted in Breaking News, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics

Geminid Meteor Shower To Peak December 13th -14th

Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid Meteor shower is promising to be the best show this year. 120 meteors per hour. Best viewing times are 11 pm until sunrise. According to, The Geminids, which peak during mid-December each year, are considered to be one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers. The Geminids did not start out that way. The Geminids first began appearing in the mid-1800s. However, the first showers were not noteworthy with only 10 – 20 meteors seen per hour. Since that time, the Geminids have grown to become one of the most major showers of the year. During its peak, 120 Geminid meteors can be seen per hour. The Geminids are

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