eye on Pinellas County: October 2005

eye on Pinellas County

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

You don't send me flowers anymore: Is Sembler trying to buy off Tampa's ABC Action News too?

Robin Guess is a hard-hitting investigative reporter for ABC Action News in Tampa Florida. Like Richard Leiby of the Washington Post she immediately saw news worthiness in a civil suit brought on by the ambassador to Italy (who is from the Tampa Bay area) to reclaim his discarded penis pump from a former employee who claims he had been severely abused in a program once run by the ambassador. So she and ABC Action News did a story on the affair.

Now this was devastating news for the Semblers because it started a bufooning snowball. Their hometown newspaper, The St. Petersburg Times (which is in Sembler's pockets), had decided against doing a story. But with Robin Guess airing the story to millions of Bay area viewers The Times was forced to report too. And of course something this bizarre, this unusual concerning Florida's most powerful politician had to make front page news in The Times. These local reports did not go unnoticed by a national-level newspaper--The Washington Post. And while Tampa's ABC News and The Times were generous to the ambassador calling the pump a "medical device" as he alleges it is, the Post was not so intimidated by Tampa Bay's Republican Party machine. Since Sembler's own attorney had called it a "penile pump" in a court document, The Post rightfully called it a penis pump. And once The Post ran its story, Ana Marie Cox, Washington's premiere gossip columnist (who also goes by the name Wonkette) jumped upon it under the heading PumpGate and the story is now all over the international Internet.

So you see what a thorn Robin Guess had become to Mel Sembler. Worse still for Sembler, Robin promised to follow PumpGate through the courts. What do you think Big Mel Sembler did? Early on Lenny Englander, Mel's attorney, had threatened that the Semblers were going to drag anybody into their lawsuit who had colluded with Bradbury. Apparently ABC Action News had not gotten the word. You don't mess with Tammany Hall South--Tampa Bay's powerful Republican Party machine. Almost immediately Mel had Robin Guess subpoenaed and sent her through a grueling deposition to find out what she knew. Sembler's forces had already had a judge illegally gag Bradbury and he had the Sheriff and the states attorney looking for ways to jail Bradbury. And now he had a reporter under the microscope to see, perhaps, if there was anything he could nail her on.

But Papa Joe is not really a bad man. He likes to help people. Robin Guess donates time to a worthy charity--The Academy Prep Foundation. The stated mission of Academy Prep is, "To promote the educational, social, and ethical development of middle school students who qualify for need-based scholarships and have the ability and desire both to succeed in a rigorous academic program and to become positive, productive members of society." If you look at the foundation's annual report for 2003 - 2004 and search separately on "Sembler" and on "Robin Guess" you will see that The Sembler Company gave at least $5,000 in cumulative gifts which includes $2,000+ as a Table Top sponsor.

We're reminded of another era, another time when some politicians were truly mean spirited. A time when this newspaper editor in Cicero or Peoria Illinois wrote an unflattering piece on Al Capone. Capone sent over a couple of his thugs who beat the editor severely. And then good ole' Al stepped in and paid the man's medical bills!

One would like to dismiss this Academy Prep thing as a mere coincidence, but then Melvin Sembler has made his bones in life by making small monetary contributions in return for hopes of greater wealth and power. Furthermore, the Semblers' have a poor record in dealing with minorities as documented here. Since Academy Press is geared towards helping inner-city black kids it's difficult to imagine the Semblers supporting this worthy charity without having some ulterior motive.

Anyway ABC Action News has removed both its video segment and the printed transcript from its web page. And ABC Action News has not reported on any PumpGate court proceedings since Ms. Guess vowed to see the matter through the courts. ABC has not reported on the cronyism of Judge Logan or on Judge Rondolino's failure to order the Sembler's to be evaluated by Bradbury's independent medical examiner after he had order Bradbury to be evaluated by the Sembler's medical examiner--even though it is not Bradbury who is claiming (at least for now) any medical sufferings. ABC did not even report that the Semblers appear to have misrepresented themselves stating they were not available for depositions when actually they were. Nor did ABC report that in the midst of all this the ambassador conspired with Congress Bill Young to get federal taxpayers to hand over $50 million to repair the causeway out to Sembler's home on Treasure Island, or that the duo conspired to purchase a $113 million monument to themselves in Rome. The Washington Post broke this story. Why hasn't ABC News Tampa carried it--after all he is a local boy?