City Officials Give FDLE E-Mail, Files
September 7, 2001
TAMPA - City officials have turned over thousands of e- mails, personnel files and code enforcement records to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to comply with a federal grand jury subpoena.
The grand jury is investigating top city housing official Steve LaBrake, his fiancee, Lynne McCarter, and their deal to build a luxury home in south Tampa with a builder who receives city contracts.
E-mails in the past year show city housing officials frequently deal with construction complaints about the city's affordable-housing program - everything from cabinets falling off walls to foundations cracking.
But the electronic correspondence in recent months revealed no discussion of LaBrake and McCarter's house project, their six-year romance or their dealings with builder Dean Ryan.
Though McCarter paid $121,000 for the lot in south Tampa, the construction contract with Ryan is for $105,000 - a figure appraisers say is well below market averages.
LaBrake has said he and McCarter are spending thousands more to finish the interior of the home, but he has provided no records to document those expenses.
As for the swirling controversy at city hall, internal e- mail of top housing officials from the past month didn't even discuss the ongoing joint state and federal investigation.
McCarter did send copies of house plans to her personal e- mail address from a city computer in November, when the couple were in the midst of planning the 4,200-square- foot home on Corona Street.
Their Corona Street neighbors, David and Ingrid Strickland, had told LaBrake during construction of the house that his fence was built six inches onto their property.
Strickland told reporters he complained about the fence to LaBrake and promptly received a letter from city code enforcement telling him the original portion of the fence needed repairs.
After news of the investigation surfaced, McCarter was cited by code officials Aug. 20 for having trash on the property and in the right of way at the house she is building with LaBrake.
An anonymous complaint was made in April about McCarter building a pool behind the home without a permit.
The city levied no punishment, even though McCarter didn't apply for the permits until late June.
McCarter works for LaBrake in the city's department of Business and Community Services. News of their relationship has spurred the Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County commissioners to ask for rewrites of ethics rules to prohibit such relationships between supervisors and subordinates.
Reporter Laura Kinsler can be reached at (813) 259-8303.
by Laura Kinsler, Copyright © 2001, Media General Inc.