Scratch Gang ponders Powerball winner mystery
ZEPHYRHILLS - The Scratch Gang that meets at Barb’s restaurant every weekday morning was stumped Tuesday on the identity of the $590 million Powerball winner who purchased a ticket at the Publix in Zephyr Commons. Since the late 1930s, Scratch members have had their finger on the pulse of this east Pasco community, but even they didn’t have a clue on this small town mystery. “We know who didn’t win it, all of us are still here,” said Scratch member Ken Gray, a retired police officer. As of Tuesday, the Powerball winner had not been identified. The winner has 60 days to claim the lump-sum cash option, estimated at about $376.9 million, at the Florida Lottery’s office in Tallahassee. Under Florida law, lottery winners in the state cannot remain anonymous; their names and city of residence must be made publicly available to anyone who asks, according to the state’s lottery website.About 14 Scratch members attended Tuesday’s 7 a.m. breakfast meeting, including Police Chief David Shears and Fire Chief Verne Riggal. Scratch began as an informal gathering of business people in the community. In the days before state Sunshine laws, it was said that some public decisions were initially made at the ” meetings. Since then, it’s not the unofficial seat of power that it used to be, but it is still considered a good source of community scuttlebutt and inside information. The meeting gets its name from a game played since its beginnings. Each person picks a secret number between one and 20. A card with each number printed on it is circulated to all the players, and they each in turn scratch off one number that is not their own. At the end, the one whose number is the last one left pays for everyone’s coffee. On Tuesday, the discussion alternated between bawdy jokes, friendly insults, community history and current events but always returned to the lottery. Jim Pittman, a local financial adviser, admitted that even if he knew who it was, professional ethics would not allow him to say. His cellphone rang, and someone among the group said “There’s the call” as Pittman left the table. On Monday, an ABC Action News reporter interviewed the group, and on Tuesday, Scratch members were still greeting friends with quips about being the winner. Nelson Ryman, a retired mobile home salesman, offered a reporter a photo of himself and Shears, claiming they won the jackpot together. Several group members agreed that Scratch member Billy Bob Coleman, a retired city water supervisor, had the winning ticket on Monday, the Scratch ticket that gave him the privilege of picking up the coffee tab. Coleman won again on Tuesday.