WebstaurantStore Expanding To Tampa, Will Have 300 Openings

The WebstaurantStore​, the world’s largest online restaurant supply store, is expanding to Tampa and will have 300 job openings.

By D’Ann Lawrence White, Patch Staff |

Sep 7, 2018 1:56 pm ET |Updated Sep 7, 2018 1:56 pm ET

TAMPA, FL — The WebstaurantStore, the world’s largest online restaurant supply store, is expanding to Tampa where it’s expected to have more than 300 job openings.

WebstaurantStore is an online restaurant supply company that provides more than 280,000 items – from equipment and appliances to food items and serving ware – direct to customers’ doors. Founded in 2004, WebstaurantStore is headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with warehouse locations in Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

The company announced it will open an office at the Woodland Corporate Center, 7702 Woodland Center Blvd., Suite 150, Tampa. The office park is east of the Veterans Expressway between Waters and Sligh avenues.

Within five years, WebstaurantStore expects to invest more than $1 million in its Tampa expansion and hire more than 300 employees in Tampa Bay.

“We are very excited to open our new location in Tampa,” said Dave Groff, president of WebstaurantStore. “As the largest and fastest-growing e-commerce company in our industry, we will have a lot of opportunities for new team members in the next few years. We look forward to finding those people in the Tampa Bay area.”

Webstaurant worked closely with the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., Enterprise Florida and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on its expansion plans.

The company’s new Tampa office will comprise two divisions – information technology and customer solutions – located at 7702 and 7802-50 Woodland Center Blvd.

WebstaurantStore has committed to 155 jobs with average salaries estimated above $75,000 in its IT division for positions such as database administration, software engineers, QA engineers, systems engineers, application security specialists, network security specialists and site reliability engineers.

The customer solutions division will include approximately 150 jobs that will provide customer support while also working with IT staff to develop technology that interfaces with customers. The starting salary in the customer solutions division will be $45,000.

“We are proud to see WebstaurantStore expand in Tampa and add more than 300 new jobs for hardworking Floridians. Their commitment to the state of Florida illustrates that our business-friendly policies are working and is a win for the families of Hillsborough County,” said Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Hillsborough County offers WebstaurantStore the highly skilled IT talent it needs for its next market expansion,” said Sandra Murman, chair of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. “We’re thrilled WebstaurantStore chose our community and look forward to supporting them as they establish their new office in Hillsborough County.”

According to the EDC, WebstaurantStore joins a growing list of companies that have chosen to expand in Hillsborough County recently, including Liftup, Validity and Frank Recruitment Group.

“WebstaurantStore was in search of a new pool of talent, and as a longstanding leader in IT services, Tampa was able to deliver,” said Alan F. List, chairman of the EDC. “We thank WebstaurantStore for bringing hundreds of high-wage jobs to Tampa and we look forward to helping them connect with the talented workforce they need to thrive here.”

WebstaurantStore’s “announcement proves that Florida’s strong workforce talent is a perfect fit for job creators. This is a big win for Hillsborough County families,” said Joe York, vice chairman of Enterprise Florida’s board of directors.

According to its jobs website, the company offers competitive compensation and a comprehensive benefits package including paid time off, medical/dental/vision insurance, wellness programs, gym membership reimbursement, paid maternity leave and a 401k with company match. Employees also enjoy regular food service industry training from top manufacturers and product experts.

Openings at the new Tampa office include:

Content Manager

Content Writer

Digital Media Writing Specialist

Development Database Administrator

Senior SQL Server Database Administrator

Front-End Developer

Graphic DesignerTampa, Fl

Senior SEO Analyst

UI/UX Designer

Logistics – Stock Order Support Liaison

Logistics Coordinator

Order Processing Analyst

Supply Chain – Logistics Liaison

Traffic Coordinator

Transportation Specialist

ColdFusion Software Engineer

Jr C# .NET Software Engineer

Mid Level C# .NET Software Engineer

QA Engineer

QA Manager

Senior Level C# .NET Software Engineer

Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)

Software Engineering Manager

Software Engineering Manager Trainee

Bilingual Customer Solutions Specialist

Customer Solutions Leadership Trainee

Customer Solutions Specialist




Tampa Bay CareerSource centers to formally split Saturday after months of controversy

Mark Puente

Zachary T. SampsonTimes staff writer

 Published: August 31, 2018


After working together for several years under one leader, the region’s two largest job placement centers will sever ties Saturday.

CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay in Hillsborough County shared staff and services in accounting, finance and human resources. Some employees also worked in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to help people find jobs.

Starting Saturday, each agency will operate on its own.

The split comes after a Tampa Bay Times’ investigation raised questions about whether the centers inflated their hiring numbers. The U.S. Department of Labor and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity launched investigations, which are ongoing.


“Each board needs to get itself in order,” CareerSource Pinellas board chair Jack Geller said. “Right now, it’s going to be easier to get us on the right track without having to worry about Hillsborough. We have enough issues to deal with.”

He predicted the two offices could still have some holdover issues to sort through next week but neither will leave the other “out in the cold.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, the vice chair of the Tampa Bay board, pushed for the split the Times began publishing its investigation. She questioned whether the agency was properly spending millions of dollars it receives from the federal government.


“We just have to bring the attention home to us, to Hillsborough, and it will probably be a year or two to get our house focused in that direction,” Murman said. “There’s going to be a stricter accountability of the dollars, and how they are applied to help people get jobs.”

CareerSource Tampa Bay board members ultimately voted for the split, and leaders on both sides of the bay worked together to strip the interwoven operations.

To make the separation happen, 133 employees out of 212 between both agencies received layoff notices this summer from CareerSource Pinellas, the employer of record for both centers. The letters said Hillsborough workers would lose their jobs on Aug. 31.

As of Wednesday, CareerSource Tampa Bay had made 92 of 120 planned hires, according to Murman. It was not immediately clear how many laid-off staffers had been rehired.

“There’s only a few jobs remaining at this point to be filled,” said Sean Butler, chair of CareerSource Tampa Bay.

Meanwhile, in Pinellas, interim director Jennifer Brackney said the jobs center will have 71 employees, after it rehired 13 people who received layoff notices earlier this year.

The local centers are part of a network of 24 CareerSource agencies across Florida. They are both publicly funded nonprofits overseen by separate boards, which include members from education, business, government and labor organizations.

Since January, CEO and president Edward Peachey was fired by both agencies, along with his top aide and several of her relatives. A number of board members were replaced, many of whom rarely attended meetings, and others who allowed Peachey to operate without oversight.

The Times found that the agencies claimed to have placed thousands of people into jobs who never sought their help. They paid out bonuses to staffers who recorded more placements and distributed millions of dollars in prepaid gift cards with little scrutiny of whether recipients needed the money. All the while, leaders bragged about their high job placement figures, becoming the darlings of the state job placement network.


Once each agency moves past the investigations and finds ways to improve, Geller said, it might make sense to again merge some operations — but in a much different way.

Murman said Peachey’s effect lingers.

“His influence on CareerSource because of the policies he put in place is going to be seen for, I think, some more time,” she said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be completely the end because people will remember, but I think it is a great first start.”





Restaurant supply company to create more than 300 jobs with Tampa expansion

By Kelsey Sunderland  – Digital Producer,

Tampa Bay Business Journal

Aug 23, 2018, 12:11pm

Online restaurant supply company WebstaurantStore Inc. has plans to expand with a new Tampa office and hundreds of jobs.

With the expansion will be more than 300 customer solutions and IT jobs, as well as $1 million in capital investments.

“Hillsborough County offers WebstaurantStore the highly-skilled IT talent it needs for its next market expansion,” said Sandy Murman, chair of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, in an announcement from Gov. Rick Scott‘s office.

The company’s new Tampa office will be comprised of two divisions, information technology and customer solutions, located at 7702 and 7802-50 Woodland Center Blvd., respectively.

The company has committed to providing 155 IT jobs, focusing on database administration, software engineers, QA engineers, systems engineers, application security specialists, network security specialists, and site reliability engineers, all with average salaries estimated above $75,000.

The customer solutions division will include approximately 150 jobs with a starting salary of $45,000 that will provide customer support while working with IT staff to develop user-friendly technology.

WebstaurantStore, which was founded in 2004, provides items such as equipment, appliances, food items and serving ware directly to restaurant owners. Headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the company has warehouse locations in Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

“As the largest and fastest growing e-commerce company in our industry, we will have a lot of opportunities for new team members in the next few years,” said Dave Groff, president of WebstaurantStore. “We look forward to finding those people in the Tampa Bay area.”




What’s behind the spurt in Port Tampa Bay’s shipping container business

Richard Danielson


Published: August 23, 2018

Updated: August 24, 2018 at 06:57 AM

 TAMPA — Two years after the debut of its two giant gantry cranes, Port Tampa Bay is seeing a 59 percent increase in its shipping container business, though maybe not for the reasons those cranes would suggest.


The port counted more than 62,200 containers, both full and empty, during the first three quarters of its 2018 fiscal year. That’s up from about 39,200 for the same months in 2017 and puts the port on a pace to handle 87,000 containers over the course of the year. Port officials said this week that a 100,000-container year probably lies in the not-too-distant future.

The port has long desired to bolster container traffic, an under-performing sector in an operation known for its growing cruise and steady bulk cargo businesses.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, who sits on the port board, welcomed the increase.

“I think we’re finally inching our way up,” she said.

But while 59 percent is a big number, “inching” might be the right word.

For some perspective, Port Tampa Bay is in a position to post big percentage gains partly because it starts from a relatively low number of containers compared to other ports.

In 2017, Port Tampa Bay ranked 43rd among ports in the region covered by the North American Free Trade Agreement for the number of shipping containers it handled, according to the American Association of Port Authorities.

Higher on the list were Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico ports like No. 4 Savannah (4 million containers last year), No. 9 Houston (2.5 million), No. 11 Charleston, S.C. (2.2 million), as well as Port Everglades, Jacksonville and Miami (with 1 million each); and New Orleans, Mobile, Palm Beach and Gulfport, which ranged from 532,000 containers down to 216,000 containers.

At Port Tampa Bay, vice president of marketing and business development Wade Elliott says a combination of factors appears to be fueling the increase:

  • First, the Tampa Bay area is growing at a healthy pace, with a larger population that consumes more stuff. At the same time, two main global shipping companies that serve the port — Zim Integrated Shipping Services and Mediterranean Shipping Company, or MSC — are handling more containers themselves.
  • Exports from Mexico to Florida that once arrived by truck or rail now increasingly come over water. Two Florida-based companies, Linea Peninsularand TransGulf, are at the center of this activity.


  • The trucking industry is changing. Fuel costs have risen. The use of electronic logging devices prevents drivers from working more hours than regulations allow. Amazon and Walmart ship more and more. And there’s a massive shortage of drivers.


In some circumstances, Elliott said, it’s beginning to make more sense to ship a container directly to Tampa than to a bigger port, such as Savannah or Jacksonville, where it gets put on a truck to the bay area.

In the longer term, the port expects its $24 million cranes, which are more than 300 feet tall and have a reach of 174 feet, to play a role in further growing the container business.

The port currently gets container ships able to carry 4,000 to 4,500 containers, port CEO Paul Anderson, who was brought to Tampa from Jacksonville in part to work on building the container business, told the agency’s board. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, vessels with more than 10,000 containers can go through the new, larger locks.


The cranes put Tampa’s port in a position to handle ships with 8,500 containers. (And, yes, Elliott said, container ships that big can fit under the Sunshine Skyway and would not be too big for the shipping channel.)

In the past several weeks, port officials went to New York and Baltimore to meet with global ocean carriers who, Anderson said, “are very close to making some key decisions.”

“We feel very confident that our efforts over the past four or five years — getting the cranes to give us the ability to handle vessels that we did not have before — put us in a really good position,” he said.

At the same time, he said the port also is looking to develop business from smaller vessels, such as the shippers who serve Mexico. They carry only a few hundred containers, but they come weekly, and port officials are seeing a diversification of their cargoes. Port officials have met with prospective shippers in Mexico City and are scheduled to welcome a delegation from Mexico in the next two weeks.

“We see this as a real strong growth opportunity,” Anderson said.



Pennsylvania restaurant supplier bringing 300 jobs to Tampa

Jimena TavelTimes staff writer


Published: August 23, 2018

Updated: August 23, 2018 at 04:33 PM

 TAMPA — An online distributor of supplies and equipment for restaurants worldwide chose Tampa for its new office, creating more than 300 jobs and bringing in $1 million in capital investment.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday that WebstaurantStore, Inc., which was founded in 2004 and is based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, opened its eighth warehouse on Woodland Center Boulevard in Carrollwood. It is now hiring.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done over the past seven-and-a-half years to cut taxes and create an environment that supports economic success,” Scott said in a news release. “These 300 new jobs will give Florida families more opportunities to find a great job.”

The company’s new office has two divisions — information technology and customer solutions. It will offer 155 jobs with average salaries estimated above $75,000 for IT positions, including database administration and software engineers. It will also hire about 150 customer support professionals with a starting salary of $45,000, according to a news release.

WebstaurantStore president Dave Groff in a release described his company as the largest and fastest growing e-commerce company in the industry.


Webstaurant is the latest company to expand into Tampa or Hillsborough County, following Liftup, Frank Recruitment Group, TransferWise, SLV Lighting and Willis Towers Watson.

Sandra Murman, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners chairwoman, said the county can offer the highly-skilled IT talent the e-commerce company needs.

“We thank Webstaurant for bringing hundreds of high wage jobs to Tampa and we look forward to helping them connect with the talented workforce they need to thrive here,” said in a news release Alan F. List, MD, the chairman of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and president and CEO of Moffitt Cancer Center.




Commissioners Approve Rezoning Of Former St. Stephen Church Property

By Sharon Still

July 1, 2018

Preliminary drawings and site plans for Fifty49 Bell Shoals call for two- and three-story buildings, but developer Bridgepoint Lifecare LLC reports that the plans for design are just in the beginning stages with nothing finalized.

After a unanimous 6-0 decision (Commissioner Hagan was not present during vote) to approve rezoning of the former St. Stephen Catholic Church located at 5049 Bell Shoals Rd., plans will move forward with the development of an ‘Aging-In-Place’ assisted living community currently dubbed Fifty49 Bell Shoals.

The development will soon enter the design and engineering phase, with construction targeted to begin sometime in the spring of 2019, according to the developer Bridgepoint Lifecare Group LLC.

Commissioner Stacy White, commissioner for District 4 commented, “We are woefully under inventoried with respect to ALF facilities in Hillsborough County.” Commissioner Sandra Murman seconded this, adding, “This is a needed facility for the community.”

The proposed 260-bed assisted living community will be unlike other facilities in the area. The ‘just like home’ model will embrace a neighborhood compatible design theme, with villa and patio homes configured into pocket clusters and mini-neighborhoods, featuring shared garden walkways, and courtyards.

The developer, Bridgepoint Lifecare Group, has made it a point throughout the rezoning process to express that this community will resemble a neighborhood, and not a typical institutional-like campus of large, block buildings.

Nearly 50 area residents showed up at the hearing in support of the new assisted living facility and many voiced their opinions in favor of the future development.

Lisa Huetteman, Valrico resident and supporter stated, “This development allows my parents to live in an independent-style unit that offers additional support as needed. The elder care community, with a neighborhood atmosphere, will certainly enhance Bell Shoals.”

Rita Joyce added, “When I am no longer able to care for myself, how comforting it will be to know I can stay in a local senior community among my friends and family who can visit.”

Betty Cocchiola noted, “The new community will be attractive with a garden environment and scenic appeal, and will look and feel like a neighborhood community, and not a commercial institution.”




Hillsborough to regulate massage parlors in crackdown on prostitution

Christopher O’Donnell

 Published: August 15, 2018

Updated: August 15, 2018 at 03:19 PM

 TAMPA – Hillsborough County has followed the city of Tampa in cracking down on illicit services like prostitution by moving to regulate massage parlors and bathhouses.

County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a law restricting the operations of massage and bathhouse businesses, a move they said would help combat human trafficking.

If Tampa’s experience is any guide, the county may need manpower to enforce the new ordinance. Since the city passed its law in January, just one businesses has applied for a permit among the 21 the city advised to do so.

The county’s new law requires massage and bathhouse businesses to conduct background checks on all employees and keep a record of all customers for up to two years.

Workers who give massages or baths must wear scrubs or similar modest medical uniforms and the businesses cannot operate between midnight and 5 a.m.

Bathhouses will be prohibited from setting aside individual cubicles or areas for private massages or baths. The genitals of customers must be covered by towels or bathing wear when in the presence of a masseuse.

The law also places responsibility on workers to report any unlawful activity and on landlords to ensure the businesses they lease to have proper permits.

“It’s really going to protect our citizens,” said Commission Chairman Sandy Murman. “A lot of activity of human trafficking comes from these bathhouses.”

Tampa’s law was passed at the urging of citizens group Clean Up Kennedy, which lobbied for a crackdown on a cluster of massage parlors that it said were creating a blight along W Kennedy Boulevard.

The Tampa Police Department is investigating whether one massage parlor, the Lucky Penny Spa Massage on Gandy Boulevard, violated the new law. A woman was arrested there as part of an undercover operation, accused of agreeing to perform a sex act for money during a massage.

The business’s failure to secure a permit has been referred to the city attorney for review.

It may be a good sign that businesses aren’t lining up to apply for the new permits, said Tampa police spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

“What that tells us, along with undercover visits, is it’s possible that a lot of businesses are saying, ‘Forget it. We’re not in the business anymore,'” Hegarty said.

Hillsborough’s new ordinance will be enforced by the county’s code enforcement department and focuses on penalizing owners and landlords rather than workers, said Assistant County Attorney Paul Johnston.

This approach will help potential victims of human trafficking, Johnston said. The Human Trafficking Resource Center ranked Florida, the third most-populous state, at No. 2 for human trafficking activity.

“You got a woman who was conned into coming here,” Johnston said. “She doesn’t speak the language and she gets charged with a crime for doing what her bosses told her to.”

Code enforcement can levy fines of up to $1,000 per violation for each day a violation occurs.

No members of the public spoke for or against the new county law, which will take effect after it is transmitted to the state and after the county sets permit fees to cover the cost of enforcement.


Hillsborough opioid lawsuit: We’re not going to arrest our way out of it

By: Chip Osowski

Posted: Aug 14, 2018 05:52 PM EDT

Updated: Aug 14, 2018 06:36 PM EDT

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – Hillsborough County is taking aim at drug dealers, but it’s not what you think.

On Tuesday morning, county leaders including Sheriff Chad Chronister, Fire Chief Dennis Jones and County Commissioner Sandra Murman, announced a law suit against 14 large opioid manufacturers.

Among those named in the suit: Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and Walgreens Corporation.

Commissioner Murman says the opioid addiction problem is one that defies socio-economic boundaries and also affects citizens of all ages.  

“It affects our seniors, adolescents, children, families, our stakeholders, everybody,” said Murman. “This is a community-wide effort that really needs to take place to fight this terrible addiction, this terrible crisis.”

Chronister says this is more complex than cuffing the corner drug pusher.

“This is not an epidemic that we’re going to arrest our way out of,” said Chronister.  “It is going to take treatment, prevention, education and obviously enforcement.”

County leaders hope the lawsuit sends a strong message to drug manufacturers that their practices are not going unnoticed.

“Each Manufacturing Defendant knew that its misrepresentations of the risks and benefits of opioids were not supported by, or were directly contrary to, the scientific evidence,” the suit alleges. “Once the Manufacturing Defendants created the mass market for prescription opioids, Distributor Defendants flooded it.”

Hans Lutz is the program director at Turning Point in Tampa. He’s seen a growing number of clients who are addicted to prescription pills.

“I’ve seen an epidemic in the past 15 years.  A lot, a lot [of clients.]  A ton of people seeking treatment for opioid addiction,” he said.

Nicole Paulson was one of them. She went to a doctor more than a decade ago with back pain. It was a visit to a clinic that changed her life, and not in a good way.

“I remember the doctor holding up my X-rays to his staff and saying, ‘She can get whatever she wants.  Look at these,'” said Paulson, who was prescribed a cocktail of prescription medication.

“Six or seven oxycodone a day, 30 milligrams. A day.  And that’s not including the oxycontin. I was prescribed three of those.”

Paulson is recovering and hopes her story can help others avoid the path she wandered down. She says the pill popping wiped away years of her life.  It saddens her to think about what she could’ve been doing in her early 20s.

“Years that I should have been in college, you know, growing as a person, developing, instead they were spent abusing pills.”

She says she was never given all the information about the pills that were prescribed to her.

“Knowing that these substances were addictive. Oxycodone and then saying that they weren’t, it’s a lie,” said Paulson. “They lied.”

Lutz is hopeful the lawsuit will send a message, but he isn’t holding his breath.

“I don’t think it’s going to stop the drug companies from doing what they’re doing. I don’t think it’s going to stop addicts who want to use. I don’t think it’s going to stop them from doing what they want to do,” said Lutz. “I do think something needs to be done.”

News Channel 8 emailed several of the companies named in the lawsuit.  A representative from Teva Pharmaceuticals said she couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. released the following statement:

Opioid abuse and addiction are serious public health issues. We are committed to being part of the ongoing dialogue and to doing our part to find ways to address this crisis.

Our actions in the marketing and promotion of these medicines were appropriate and responsible. The labels for our prescription opioid pain medicines provide information about their risks and benefits, and the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated. In fact, our medications have some of the lowest rates of abuse among this class of medications.


Opioid makers slapped with lawsuit from Hillsborough Co.

By: Jennifer Holton, FOX 13 News

  • POSTED: AUG 14 2018 05:44PM EDT



TAMPA (FOX 13) – Whether its big tobacco, big oil, or big pharmaceutical companies, Attorney Mike Moore isn’t afraid of a fight.

He says drug makers have caused as much damage to Florida as BP’s oil spill and says those companies should pay.

“Just like BP paid to clean up the oil spill, we want these companies to clean up the pill spill,” Moore said.

Moore, who sued big tobacco in the 90s, is representing Hillsborough County in its lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies.

The lawsuit alleges the drug companies misrepresented the risks of opioids, which they marketed for chronic pain.

“There is not one valid, scientific study that supports the use of opioid treatment for long-term chronic pain,” said Sandra Murman, the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman.

County commissioners announced the lawsuit Tuesday, saying drug companies are directly responsible for creating a deadly epidemic.

Dr. Kelly Devers says the evidence is in the morgue. She does the autopsies at the Hillsborough County Medical Examiners Office.

“It’s gotten worse every year, the death rate has climbed,” Devers said. “We used to have an overdose when I first started, maybe once or twice a week, and now we have folks coming in who are deceased from drug overdoses, sometimes three or four a day.”

She says they come from all walks of life.

“They’re professionals, some of them are homeless,” she said. “Some of them are college students. Some of them are graduating from high school and working in construction or other jobs.”

Since 2012, the county has seen over 1,072 opioid overdose deaths, a 24 percent increase over the previous five years.

Sheriff Chad Chronister says the supply needs to be dried up.

“This is not an epidemic that we’re going to arrest our way out of. it is going to take treatment, prevention, education, and obviously enforcement,” he said.

Right now, the county doesn’t have a dollar amount on the lawsuit. Moore hopes it’s enough to impact the problem.



Commissioner Sandy Murman Quoted in:

Lawsuit Aims To Make Opioid Companies Pay For The ‘Pill Spill’


Attorney Mike Moore says they want opioid manufacturers and distributors to pay to clean up the “pill spill.”


Hillsborough County has joined the state of Florida in suing 14 opioid manufacturers and distributors, including Purdue Pharma – the maker of Oxycontin.

The lawsuit filed by Hillsborough County Tuesday says the makers of certain painkillers contributed to the opioid crisis by aggressively marketing opioids to doctors and patients as safe and effective for chronic pain, and downplaying the risk of addiction.

From the 108-page lawsuit: “Each Manufacturing Defendant knew that its misrepresentation of the risk and benefits of opioids were not supported by, or were directly contrary to, scientific evidence.”

It also says opioids are the most prescribed class of drugs, generating $11 billion in revenue for drug companies in 2014 alone.

In 2015, Hillsborough County had a prescribing rate of 65.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Attorney Mike Moore also represents several other cities and counties in similar suits across the country. He led the legal fight against tobacco companies and is now a nationally recognized leader in lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.

Moore said litigation is a tool to make sure taxpayers don’t foot the bill for the opioid crisis.

“Just like BP paid to clean up the oil spill, we want these companies to pay to clean up the ‘pill spill’,” Moore said.

Purdue Pharma, one of the named defendants in the suit, has a statement on their website about the opioid crisis, which includes this:

We are acutely aware of the public health risks opioid analgesics can create, even when taken as prescribed. And we are deeply concerned about the toll the opioid crisis is having on individuals and communities across the nation, and as a company now led by a physician, we believe the country needs a new approach to prescribing opioids.


This approach includes supporting patient access to multi-modal pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatment options; ensuring opioids are only used when alternative treatment options are inadequate; and adopting public policies aimed at reducing addiction, abuse, diversion, and overdose related to opioids.

Sandra Murman, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners Chairman, said the county will be presenting an action plan in the next 30 days. That plan will be dependent on funds won from the lawsuit.

“Without this lawsuit and the potential recoveries, we cannot get the vast numbers of people into treatment that need treatment,” Murman said.

Hillsborough County spent more than $35 million in the last five years for behavioral health-related services, averaging $7 million a year. Since 2012, according to the medical examiner, there have been more than 1,072 opioid overdose deaths in the county, a 24 percent increase over the last five years, with the highest number of overdose deaths in 2017.

Murman also said more babies are born addicted to opioids in Hillsborough County than anywhere else in Florida.

“That is a direct result of the fraudulent marketing of these drugs and the excessive amounts of these drug shipped into this county by these defendants,” Murman said.

A limited number of short-term detox beds and long-term residential treatment have made fighting the opioid crisis on the backend difficult.

“The place that has the most detox beds is really in our jail,” Murman said.

But as Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister points out, “This is not an epidemic we are going to arrest our way out of. It’s going to take treatment, prevention, education and enforcement.”

Murman estimates that every dollar spent on treatment will save $4 in health care and $7 in law enforcement expenditures.

“We do not expect the taxpayers of Hillsborough County to foot the bill for paying for the solution to this problem,” she said.

Instead, funds from the lawsuit – which does not ask for a specific amount of money and instead will likely come as a mass, multi-state settlement similar to the BP oil spill settlement in 2016 – will be used to cover the cost of expanding services to treat and prevent addiction.

“We’re trying to use this as a tool to make these people provide some money so you can have prevention and education in this community, so you can have treatment, so you can have emergency response, so you have more drug courts,” Moore said. So you can try to save more lives and make a difference here. That’s what this lawsuit is about.”

In May, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a similar lawsuit by the state, filed in a state court in Pasco County, blaming the companies for creating the crisis, which kills about 15 Floridians a day.

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