LARGO -- The suspension of Diane Bruner, Largo's city clerk, drew fire from several prominent citizens at Tuesday night's regular commission meeting.
Diane Bruner, the clerk, was suspended from her job for a week for complying with the Sunshine Law and the Public Records Law.
She gave out information relating to the City Commission meeting of June 22, 2004 in which the commission discussed at length the prohibition in the city charter of elected officials giving contributions to political candidates in the city.
Those accused of violating that prohibition -- Harriet Crozier, Pat Gerard and Pat Burke (who did not seek re-election) -- told the State Attorney's Office that they had no knowledge of the prohibition which ostensibly demonstrates a condition of being memory challenged or truth challenged.
In opening a second investigation, the State Attorney probe requested the information on the June 22 meeting.
Bruner was suspended because she did not streak into the city manager's office and promptly report the request for the June 22 data.
That in itself is a demonstration of the tight control and micro management that Steve Stanton, the city manager, exercises in the city. No bird tweets or no leaf falls from a tree without his knowledge.
Jim Hannon, Curtis Holmes, John Atanasio and Bruce McManus all strongly criticized the action taken against Bruner. They are all prominently involved in city affairs (Hannon and Atanasio are on city boards).
It was pointed out that Bruner was merely doing her job. Both Holmes and McManus made the point as to whether there is a list of those who might request public information that requires the clerk immediately to notify the city manager.
Underlying the severe problems the city is now facing is the appearance that the city operates on one set of rules for some and another set for others. For example, a city worker was fired because he had to take care of his mother when he was supposed to be on duty last September.
In contrast to that, another worker (with connections to a prominent figure in the city) violated the city charter in respect to contributions to political candidates but has gone unpunished.
The bifurcated city policy on whether it is a government of laws or one of whimsy is seen most clearly in the lack of action by the commission in respect to violations of the charter by elected officials.
While Mayor Bob Jackson Tuesday night said he thought the criminal investigation process should be complete before the commission acts, the charter clearly says (Section 2.07) that any elected official who "violates any prohibition contained in the charter" shall be removed.
Two sitting commissioners violated the prohibition contained in Section 9.02 of the charter.
Clearly, the commission needs no other process to act on its own initiative in respect to Section 2.07. There is a growing sentiment in the city that the violation by the sitting commissioners -- Pat Gerard and Harriet Crozier -- is being swept under the rug.
Commissioner Mary Black has pointed out that Stanton and Alan Zimmet, the city attorney who gets $2,000 a week for his part time work, seem to work together to derail her efforts to get at a resolution of the charter violations.
Many observers feel that Largo, already the laughing stock of Pinellas County, will be known as the city that runs on whimsy and favoritism and wonder why the moral authority of the mayor is not being exercised.
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