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Sunday December 17th 2017

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The Buzz 8/3/17


Law & Vengeance Presales for local attorney Mike Papantonio’s second book, “Law & Vengeance,” begin the first week of August. The legal thriller provides another peak into the legal world where Nick “Deke” Deketomis, his protégé Gina Romano and the Bergman/Deketomis law firm seek to expose the dangers of a malfunctioning gunsight and avenge the murder of their friend and law partner, Angus Moore.

Papantonio sat down with Inweekly to give some background into his latest novel.

“Taxpayers pay billions of dollars to government contractors every year. They believe that somebody’s watching over the shoulder of what those government contractors do,” he said. “In this particular book, what you had was a government contractor that was creating an item that caused people’s deaths. That happens a lot.”

Papantonio explained, “As a matter of fact, Abraham Lincoln, in the Civil War, had to address the problem because government contractors had gotten to the point where they were sending soldiers food that was contaminated with all types of viruses, shoes with cardboard soles and heels, and defective weapons. It was so bad that Abraham Lincoln had to come up with a law that says, ‘’We have to stop contractors from taking advantage of taxpayers.’ This book is important because I believe right now, taxpayers are more victimized by government contractors than they’ve ever been.”

In “Law & Vengeance,” Romano is severely injured in a bizarre car crash that kills her partner Angus Moore. She begs her boss, Deke Deketomis, to take over his lawsuit against Arbalest, the manufacturer of the deadly Sight-Clops that malfunctions in hot, humid weather. Seeking justice for her clients and vengeance for Angus, she battles a powerful weapons manufacturer, the gun rights lobby, psychopathic Chicago police, a hi-tech genius assassin, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Papantonio said his book is based on a real lawsuit. He said, “It gives the readers some understanding of the lack of oversight on government contractors. Every time they pick up the newspaper and read about a particular contractor, whether it’s Boeing, or McDonnell Douglas, or Smith and Wesson, agreeing to take all the contracts with the government, they really believe that government is looking over their shoulder. But the truth is, they’re not.”

The book gives readers insights into the strategies used to try lawsuits against powerful, mega corporations, particularly how depositions are handled.

“Most lawyers who handle complex cases understand that cases are won or lost in the very earliest stages of the trial-ready depositions,” he said. “In other words, a trial-ready deposition in complex cases is not simply asking questions. It’s as if you’re actually trying the case right there. Ultimately, that video deposition is going to be shown to a jury.”

In the book, Romano had her team move quickly into depositions. Papantonio said that he has used that strategy often.

“The strategy is to move quickly and outpace the other side with documents that are the most damaging documents, with conduct that shows that the intent of the corporation wasn’t just negligent, that it was a conscious disregard for safety, that it was reckless, that it was criminal,” he said.

“The trick in handling these depositions in the early stages is to completely take the air out of the other side,” Papantonio explained. “The rule of thumb is if you can’t do that in the first deposition, and the second, and the third deposition, if you can’t do that within the first three depositions, you’ve lost this case.”

The fictional Bergman/Deketomis law firm is located in the town of Spanish Trace, Florida that is based on Pensacola.

“I tried to take all the better qualities of Pensacola and point them out in Spanish Trace,” said Papantonio. “There’s this fascination with the Southern writer that is at an all-time high right now.”

Why?

“There’s a couple of things, I’ve heard it described that people want to return to the notion that everything is not 100 miles an hour, that there is time to talk to people, there is time to build a family life, there’s a time to build a spiritual life, there is time to build a life that doesn’t seem to exist in some of the bigger cities,” he explained.

Papantonio added, “I acquaint it to sometimes you will play music because it’s comfort music. Sometimes you’ll eat food because it’s comfort food. I think there’s an analogy here with people returning to the Southern novels.”

Sense of Hope In July, State Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola) attended the 2017 Emerging Leaders Program, sponsored by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

“Each state nominates a new legislator, and I was lucky enough to get the pick this year from Florida,” Rep. White said on “Pensacola Speaks,” the News Talk 1370 WCOA radio show hosted by Inweekly publisher Rick Outzen. “It’s fantastic, a wonderful week.”

The 2017 Emerging Leaders Program seeks to inspire state lawmakers to continued careers in public service. The state legislators are nominated by the Speaker of the House, President of the Senate or Minority Leader from their state. The nominees are those lawmakers who by their actions have demonstrated those qualities we associate with leadership—integrity, compassion, intelligence, vision, and common sense.

“It wasn’t a policy conference or networking,” said White. “You go with a mountain of reading on a wide variety of topics, and it’s all sorts of stuff from non-fiction to fiction. It’s in that college format of the Socratic dialogue, where the professor puts you on the spot. It really develops a really good discussion.”

Rep. White said he got to two key takeaways from the conference.

“One, I left with a better understanding of a lot of my colleagues in the legislature,” he said. “You know, sometimes I just scratch my head and think, ‘Why do you care so much about that issue? Why do you think that really matters?’ I left seeing things from other people’s eyes.”

White added, “With that comes better policy. Whether I think they’re right or I think I’m right, I can make the case in a way that would affect them.”

The second takeaway involved optimism about the future.

“I left with a sense of hope,” he said. “There were some amazing people. It’s that feeling where you want to pinch yourself and look around like, ‘Why am I in this room?’ There were some people there with just amazing backgrounds doing important work.”

Rep. White continued, “We can just come together and talk about problems in a way where you drop your R or D label, take off the partisan jersey you’re wearing, and just try to solve problems. I left with hope for our country, hope for our system of government.”

SCI Renderings On July 24, Quint Studer unveiled renderings for the SunTrust building that he and his wife Rishy purchased last month and which will become the home of the Studer Community Institute.

“Like anything, these are conceptual drawings just like when we first did the Brew-Thru,” Studer told Inweekly. “We’re excited, and we think the exterior of the building and its plaza area will add a dimension to the community.”

He said that they will submit the plans to the City of Pensacola and see look forward to getting their input.

“We certainly think today with the changes in technology, what you can do, the community education we can put in that area, that it’s a perfect place to start looking at what other cities have been doing for a long time, it sort of makes the buildings come alive.”

The Cost of Losing In May and June, Mayor Ashton Hayward paid Beggs & Lane $95,846 to represent him and his administration on a variety of issues.

Mayor Hayward lost his appeal concerning the Pitts Slip lease. He paid Beggs & Lane $30,936.86 for the period of 1/30/17-6/13/17. He had already paid out $69,812.68, which brought the cost of the appeal alone to $100,749. The mayor has decided to appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court so taxpayers can expect more invoices in the future.

Hayward also lost the lawsuit concerning the constitutionality of the Bayview Cross. In May and June, he paid the law firm $49,032.10 to handle the case. From June 2016 through April 2017, the mayor had already paid out $80,442. The total amount spent as of June 20: $129,474. The tab remains open on this issue, too. Mayor Hayward has appealed the decision.

The total Mayor Hayward paid–without City Council approval–to lose these two cases $230,223. This does not include the money Hayward spent on the Pitts Slip lawsuit prior to the appeal and the pending reimbursement of the winning plaintiffs’ legal fees.

Tourism Grants Visit Pensacola has established a grant process to help local events with marketing dollars and ensure proper use of TDT funding.

The grant application, which can be found on the visitpensacola.org site is set in place to help local events with marketing dollars and to ensure proper use of TDT funds. This call is specific to events happening on or before Dec. 31, 2017.

The TDC guides the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners in the administering of funds collected from a local option tourist development tax. The funds are designated to promote Escambia County as a preferred visitor destination with an emphasis on the shoulder season of late August through May.

Visit Pensacola allocates funds from its annual budget to a grant program for local groups and organizations that coordinate events or visitor experiences with a demonstrated history of visitor impact or significant potential to draw visitors to the area.

Steve Hayes, president of Visit Pensacola, said in a press release, “Ideally, the funds allocated by Visit Pensacola will eventually return through an increase in lodging sales and the tourist development tax generated from those sales. As well as an increase in spending throughout the community. We are looking forward to the second round of grant applications to support events in our area.”

The number and extent of these grants will be dependent upon the availability of designated funds and specific allocations. Funding is intended to support marketing and promotional efforts in key markets targeted by Visit Pensacola. A seven-member grant committee will evaluate the grants on Monday, Aug. 21, at 2 p.m. in the Visit Pensacola Information Center conference room.

For more information or to apply for a grant, please visit, visitpensacola.org/page/grants/. For questions or guidance on application specifics, there will be a grant workshop held on Friday, Aug. 11, 3 p.m. at the Pensacola Information Center with all applications being due on Aug. 18.

Blue Angels Blend A Pensacola coffee company has been granted the first ever food and beverage license by the Department of the Navy for Blue Angels® Blend coffee.

“We’re very excited,” said Ed Lemox, founder of De Luna Coffee International, a coffee roasting and distribution company. “This will allow us to offer our coffee on Navy bases, including commissaries, exchanges and museums, and will help increase our business and spread the names of Pensacola and the Blue Angels® worldwide.”

The Navy will receive a percentage of all Blue Angels® Blend sales, which, by statute, will go to support Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.

“The Blue Angels® and Pensacola go together, so it seemed like a natural fit,” said Lemox. Other blends celebrate such Pensacola icons as Graffiti Bridge, the Pensacola Beach sign, the Pensacola Beach Ball, Palafox Place and the Five Flags, among others. “We like to share some of Pensacola’s history and unique character with locals and tourists alike.”