BELLEAIR BEACH -- The Personnel Committee of the Belleair Beach City Council met last Thursday in what was obviously an "insure Ernie Armistead's job" program.
The supposed reason for the main item on the agenda was to discuss an employment agreement for Armistead, the city's police chief.
Effectively, the meeting was a meeting of the City Council with all members present, plus Mayor Mike Kelly and Paul Marino, the city attorney.
Mary Jo Henderson, Donna Durante and Stan Sofer comprise the committee itself. Everyone else was present in this city where no elected official dares turn his or her back or not be present for any kind of meeting lest they find a dagger residing there.
It has also reached the point where at least one member of the City Council fears reprisals from the police because of his positions.
One citizen, Diane Ellison, spoke to the committee Thursday and related how her husband, Buck Owens, had been intimidated by someone who told him "to keep his nose out of" certain things. Ellison said the man, whom she did not identify, told Owens "I know where you live. I'm not through with you yet." He then cursed at Owens, she said.
Ellison put the committee (in effect the council, as all were present) that if her home or property suffered any vandalism she would hold the city responsible.
The meeting opened with Marino outlining the background of employment agreements which he said are common in cities. He said that although personnel can be fired at will, an employee could have a case if he or she is fired without cause. This applied to all positions, Marino indicated.
Then Kelly, who later had an angry exchange with a citizen at the meeting in which sharp words were uttered, asked Marino to give the reason why the subject was coming up at the meeing.
Marino seemed vague and needed further prompting.
"Remember," Kelly said, "the meeting we had?"
Marino still didn't seem to get the drift.
"The meeting," Kelly continued, "you and I and the chief had."
"Oh, oh, right. . .," Marino said, his memory apparently sufficiently jogged into recollection.
Kelly told how the chief asked for an employment contract because he felt he had been unwarrantedly a target of criticism.
In the end, the committee decided to have Marino draft employment agreements for all department heads. That would include City Clerk Nancy McCollum and Finance Director Myrna Reynolds in addition to Armistead.
The discussion brought up the idea of waiting until a possible referendum on keeping the police department is held. Another aspect was delaying until the city manager is aboard in March.
It was agreed that employment contracts would be good for key employees which brought the query from Frank Lombardi, "How about Buell?" Referring to the firing a year ago of Buell Vann, the public works director.
"Yeah, he should have had one," Henderson, the committee chairperson said in ho-hum fashion.
All the elements of cause and so forth recited by Marino earlier in the meeting was a writ that did not run for Vann, who got no protection in this regard from Marino a year ago when Kelly was railroading Vann out of the city where he had been employed for 24 years.
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