LARGO -- Speculation like a prairie fire is sweeping Largo while city officials keep the lid on amid stories swirling that make much noise but provide little in the way of facts.
The county's only daily newspaper has run a couple of tales up the flag pole but they go nowhere -- full of noise and wondering but nothing in the way of what is actually going on.
Whatever happened in late December -- around December 27 or 28 -- has been clamped under a lid of secrecy. Officials are hiding behind a Florida statute that allows a possibly innocent person to be thrown under a cloud of suspicion, but protects an accuser with a veil of total irresponsibility.
In its knack for creating bad law, the Florida Legislature came up with Florida Statue 119, part of which has been applied in Largo.
That is F.S. 119.07(6)(u) which says, "Where the alleged victim chooses not to file a complaint and requests that records of the complaint remain confidential, all records relating to an allegation of employment discrimination are confidential and exempt from the provisions (of disclosure)."
Of course, that language is nonsensical. Largo officials are using this provision of the law to prevent public disclosure of the involvement of Commissioner Charlie Harper relating to an unknown complainant along with an unknown allegation, with City Clerk Diane Bruner and Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert thrown in, the latter two who may or may not be tied into the Harper mystery.
By the terms of the very statute behind which the story or stories is or are hidden there is something involving "employment discrimination" (whatever that means) that must remain confidential and of which there is a record.
Read the language of the law that is pertinent to this sittuation, according to city officials. In the first instance it says that if the complainant chooses "not to file a complaint" the "records of the complaint" must remain confidential.
So, if no complaint is filed, how can there be records that must be kept confidential?
On the face of it, the whole thing is an absurdity. But when government wants to hide something that the taxpayers are shelling out money for, officials will find a way.
This is what is known -- Harper has said that no wrongdoing was found after the city investigated rumors that he made inappropriate remarks to one or more city employees.
Whoever is the complainant has succeeded in smearing Harper while conveniently and pusinallimously hiding behind a provision of the law. Many observers are calling this grossly unfair.
This is also known -- On December 28, Schubert issued a notice that from that date on he was assuming the duties of Bruner, the city clerk, regarding the March election.
Is there a connection between the Harper business and the action in regard to Bruner?
No one knows. And because secrecy creates more problems than it solves, mindless and factless speculation have brought at least two city officials under a cloud.
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