Judge dismisses charge against paramedic in tape-recording case

By Mark Andrews

WINTER PARK – A judge has dismissed a felony charge against a Winter Park paramedic who tape-recorded a meeting with city officials in May.

Joe Powell learned Wednesday he will not face a criminal charge for taping conversations in City Manager Tony Barrett’s office May 22. The meeting concerned the accidental spraying of a toxic chemical mislabeled as bug spray in the city’s fire stations two weeks earlier.

The spraying forced the evacuation of the stations and prompted firefighters to question whether city officials had acted quickly enough to ensure their safety.

Powell had said he wanted to record the meeting in case he had to leave for an emergency rescue call and so that he could share the information with firefighters and paramedics who weren’t there.

But while Powell was away on a call, city personnel chief Pat Moran seized his cassette recorder. City officials maintained that Powell had illegally recorded a private meeting, and they filed a police report. The Orange-Osceola state attorney’s office later charged Powell with illegally taping the meeting.

But Orange Circuit Judge Richard F. Conrad threw out the charge in an order signed Monday. Basing his decision on a 1985 Florida Supreme Court case, Conrad said the taping was not illegal because the parties “had no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

That was because the meeting in a public official’s office was attended by 16 to 20 people, some of whom went in and out of the room, and because the conversation could be heard in an adjoining room, Conrad wrote.

Powell, who has received a promotion to paramedic engineer since his August arrest, said he is relieved that the case is behind him.

“In the last six months, my family and the fire department have been through a lot of useless turmoil.

All of this didn’t need to happen. It was totally unnecessary,” he said. “All I can say is the system works.”

Barrett said late Wednesday that he had decided recently to ask the state attorney’s office not to prosecute the case.

“We told the state attorney we weren’t interested in pursuing the case,” the city manager said. “We felt like it was in the best interests of the city to put it all behind us.”

Powell and his attorney, Russell Troutman, said they have not decided whether to file a civil suit against the city because of Powell’s arrest.

The Orlando Sentinel
Thu. November 8, 1990

Suit faults dentist for girl’s death

Parents: Drugs were too much for child

By Elaine Bennett and Prakash Gandhi

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS – An 8-year-old girl who collapsed in August at a dentist’s office and died a day later had received excessive dosages of drugs and gas, the child’s parents claimed Tuesday in a lawsuit.

The suit flied in Seminole Circuit Court accuses dentist Dwight T. Barron of Altamonte Springs of negligence in the Aug. 17 death of Jennifer Crenshaw. Her parents, Barbara and Scott Crenshaw, are seeking more than $10,000 in damages.

Barbara Crenshaw of Altamonte Springs said she sued to highlight what she described as lax controls on use of anesthetics in dental offices.

“It is something people don’t imagine when they go to a dentist,” Crenshaw said. “You expect them to know what they are doing.”

Barron declined to comment Tuesday. One of his attorneys, Clay Parker, said Barron has “genuine anguish and concern” over Jennifer’s death and for her family, but denies any liability in the case.

Parker declined to comment on the parents’ allegations because that would be “trying the suit in the press.”

The results of the child’s autopsy have not been released.

A Seminole County sheriff’s detective has investigated the case for several months and is expected to finish his report soon. The state attorney’s office then will determine whether criminal violations were involved.

Jennifer, who was about to start second grade at Spring Lake Elementary School, went into convulsions Aug. 16 at Barron’s office on Douglas Avenue after being medicated for removal of eight baby teeth.

After several attempts by the dentist and nurse to revive the girl, she was taken to Florida Hospital Altamonte, then taken by helicopter to Florida Hospital Orlando, where she went into a coma.

Jennifer died the next morning.

According to the suit, the child received anesthetics in dosages unsafe for a child. In addition, one drug given to counteract an anesthetic was two years past its expiration date, the suit claimed.

Other allegations dealt with procedures in Barron’s office.

According to the suit, the office lacked full face masks to help deliver oxygen to patients or proper equipment to monitor the pulse and rate of oxygen going into Jennifer’s bloodstream.

Barron also had no written instructions for employees to follow during an emergency, the suit said.

Three of Barron’s dental assistants had not completed a course required by the American Dental Association on pain and anxiety in dentistry, and one assistant had no formal training in dentistry, the suit claims.

According to the suit, 38 minutes elapsed between the time Jennifer first showed signs of distress and when medical help was called.

No hearing on the lawsuit has been set, but the Crenshaws’ attorney, Russell Troutman predicted the case would go to trial in nine months.

Jennifer’s mother said she struggles to cope with her daughter’s death.

“I can’t imagine my life without her. She was very special,” Barbara Crenshaw said. “I think about her a million times a day.”

The Orlando Sentinel
Wed., March 21, 1990

Guetzloe’s slander suit gets thrown out of court

By Roger Roy

A judge Tuesday threw out a $1 million lawsuit by an Orange County Republican Party official against a rival GOP official who called him a neo-Nazi.

Doug Guetzloe, a leader of the group’s conservative wing, in August sued Deborah Kirkwood, vice chairman of the party’s executive committee. The two have been at odds in a bitter feud over control of the local party.

Guetzloe’s lawsuit said Kirkwood maliciously damaged his reputation when she told a newspaper reporter in June that Guetzloe “is a neo-Nazi.”

Kirkwood said the remark, which was printed in The Orlando Sentinel, was directed at Guetzloe’s political tactics and not at Guetzloe personally.

In his ruling, Orange Circuit Judge Bernard Muszynski said he dismissed the lawsuit because Kirkwood was stating an opinion and not a fact.

“The court finds as a matter of law Kirkwood’s statement comes under the ‘fair comment’ privilege within the rough and tumble world of political rhetoric,” Muszynski said in a written ruling.

Muszynski’s ruling said his decision was based on previous court findings that held that “expressions of ‘pure opinion’ are absolutely protected under the First Amendment. This is true … however pernicious an opinion may seem.”

Thomas Feeney, Guetzloe’s attorney, said he will appeal Muszynski’s ruling. Feeney said calling Guetzloe a neo-Nazi should not fall under constitutional protection.

“Because of the complexity of the constitutional issues in this case, we fully expect that it will end up at least at the level of the district appellate court,” Feeney said.

But Russell Troutman, Kirkwood’s attorney, said Kirkwood was stating an opinion.

“For example, if I said you were a thief, that would be an opinion,” Troutman said. “On the other hand, if I said that you stole $7 on a particular date, that would be a fact.”

Both attorneys also said they will ask Muszynski for a clarification of his ruling. Muszynski had first inadvertently issued a written order in Guetzloe’s favor, then issued the order in favor of Kirkwood, they said. The lawyers said the judge’s office apparently made an “administrative error” in the initial ruling.

The Orlando Sentinel
Wed., November 8, 1989

Parents get $750,000 in boy’s death

By Dan Tracy

A $750,000 out-of-court settlement has been approved by an Orlando judge for the parents of a 5-year-old boy killed in 1982 when he was run over by a garbage truck.

“The money is not designed to compensate for the child, but to compensate them for their grief,” said lawyer Russell Troutman, who represented the parents, Richard Ferber and Salli Rubio.

The agreement was approved Thursday.

It was reached Wednesday just before the case was to go to trial in Orange Circuit Court.

Ferber and Rubio were suing the garbage pickup company, Central Service Corp. of Orlando, and the driver.

Troutman said he had intended to ask the jury for $1.3 million.

Two insurance companies, one from Illinois and the other from Massachusetts, will make the payment.

The money will be sent to an Orlando banker, who will distribute it on order of Judge William Gridley, who presided over the ease. The parents are divorced and cannot agree on how the money should be divided, Troutman said.

Robert Ferber, 5, was living with his father on Azalea Drive near the Orlando Naval Training Center the day of the accident, Dec. 28, 1982.

According to court documents, Troutman, and Harry Anderson, who represented Central Service, the youngster went outside to ride his bicycle.

A large Central Service truck driven by Willie Davis was on the street. The boy rode his bike in front of the vehicle, which was stopped for a pickup.

Davis, who had left the cab to dump some cans, got back into the truck without seeing the boy. He drove forward and ran over the youngster.

The Orlando Sentinel
Sat., June 22,1985

$8.5 million Florida Power refund asked

Associated Press Dispatch

TALLAHASSEE – An investigator hired by Florida’s Public Service Commission today recommended that the PSC order the Florida Power Corp. to refund $8.5 million to its customers to settle alleged overcharges made in 1973-74.

Russell Troutman, former president of the Florida Bar and the American Bar Association, told the PSC that Florida Power failed to exercise reasonable care in investigating an alleged fuel oil “daisy chain”. It has been charged that several oil distributors artificially inflated the price of fuel oil in numerous transactions before the oil reached Florida Power.

Troutman told the PSC that the Arab oil embargo in 1973-74 created a near-panic atmosphere at Florida Power, which is based in St. Petersburg, and that that attitude contributed to the overcharges. The firm serves 32 counties in Northwest and Central West Florida.

Troutman said Florida Power should have had some indication that the prices is paid for No. 2 and No. 6 fuel oil had been artificially inflated and should have made a reasonable effort to investigate the possible overcharges.

“Florida Power failed to investigate an alleged illegal daisy chain.”

“The Florida Power Corp. should assume the responsibility of recovering for the consumers that sum of money found by you as an overcharge brought about particularly by poor management by Florida Power,” Troutman told the PSC.

“They (Florida Power) should assume the burden of recovering the money,” he said.

Troutman presented the commission a 72-page report which was the result of a four-month investigation he began after agreeing to probe the alleged overcharges for the PSC.

Trautman told the PSC that additional information may be developed and that if so he will make further reports.

Last month two former Florida Power executives and five Texas oilmen were indicted. The indictment accused them of conspiring to manipulate the prices of fuel oil sold to Florida Power to reap excessive profits.

Sentinel Star
Thu., October 26, 1978

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