LARGO -- Houdini would have been bursting with pride.
The old "now you see it, now you don't" along with the old dipsey-doodle prestidigitation allowed even more time to go by leaving the charter violations still unresolved.
It is to the benefit of some parties that the issue be delayed and confused because the gravamen of the case cannot be denied.
Thus the elements of legal defense -- first, deny; second, delay; third, confuse.
That is, total confusion, and a couple of commissioners who have no idea of what they are talking about.
The meeting ended with Mayor Bob Jackson listing plaints of past painful experience. He was included, unwarrantedly, in a memo produced by Steve Stanton, the city manager, that brought up a contribution Jackson had received a few years ago.
That memo was designed, apparently, to cloud and confuse the issue of Charter violations relative to March's election. It was self-serving and self-protecting and served its purpose because at the end of the meeting there was a pandemonium of confusion over it.
Jackson said the State Attorney investigating the illegal donations matter said Jackson's situation was not part of the investigation.
The State Attorney completed a second report that was available last Friday but was delivered to commissioners only moments before Tuesday night's meeting.
The dilatory tactics, of course, are obvious.
There was a consensus that the State Attorney's report be reviewed before the commission proceeded.
Of course, commission members are still not recognizing that the State Attorney investigation is totally separate from what action the commission can take under Section 2.07 of the Charter.
In other words, commission action does not depend on the State Attorney investigation.
There apparently were attempts to keep the charter violations and review of the agreement with the city attorney off the agenda.
Commissioner Mary Black, in an e-mail, last Friday, noted that her request that both items be on the agenda was not fulfilled.
It took three revisions of the agenda to finally come up with the one presented at Tuesday's meeting.
This falls into the category of suspect activities that include, in fairly recent times, the suppression of television re-broadcasts of the commission meetings when material sensitive to Stanton was the subject of such meetings.
Stanton clearly established himself in favor of protecting the two sitting commission members who are under fire for having violated the charter in respect to making donations to city political candidates.
To water down the accusations, he and Alan Zimmet, the part time city attorney who is paid about $2,000 a week, searched back in the records and came up with the names of Bob Jackson, Jean Halvorsen and Pat Gerard as having received contributions from city employees.
Their search took them back to 1997 where they found Halvorsen received money in 1997 and 2003, Jackson in 2003 and Gerard in 2002 and 2003.
However, the pertinent question now concerns elected officials who gave contributions illegally, the pending charge currently against the two sitting commissioners -- Gerard and Harriet Crozier -- who gave contributions for the election in March.
Also in the memo was the assertion that the giving of contributions by city employees was common past practice. By their own research, a span of eight years shows only a few violations.
Stanton and Zimmet also threw in the accusation, without any proof or substantiation, in their memo prepared for Tuesday's meeting that "Jackson may have participated" Commissioner Andrew Guyette's successful run for the commission in March.
Stanton, in a gratuitous commentary near the end of the memo (some observers have wondered why he has become so intimately involved in an issue that may not be directly under his purview), said that "I know there are many people who have enjoyed watching all the contention among the city commission, mayor and city manager.
He named no names and cited no instances to support this assertion about conflicts which, if anything, are of his own making.
In conclusion in the memo, Stanton and Zimmet recommend that the commission not pursue charges against the two commissioners.
Not surprising, given that Stanton absolutely needs Gerard and Crozier to keep his position as city manager intact.
The balancing act extends from keeping the accused pair safe to how the membership of the charter review committee is constructed.
In that memo on the violations, Stanton bemoaned that time had been wasted pursuing this matter of law, illustrating very clearly that the trend from the top is that Largo shall be a city of whimsy, not laws.
Under the present charter, Stanton has total and absolute control over all city employees. Many citizens feel that the city attorney should be under the commission, should be a full time city employee and should not have ties to a law firm to shuttle business to.
The memo prepared by Stanton on authorizing a lawyer for the commission, something Jackson has insisted on, accurately points out that the "city attorney may not be providing objective legal advice as a result of his involvement with potential city charter violations."
The city charter designates that the city attorney shall serve as legal adviser to the city manager, city commission and all city departments.
The perception has grown, however, and with good reason, that Zimmet has been under the total control of Stanton for Stanton's uses.
For example, when Black submitted a possible ordinance, instead of getting help from Zimmet as one would expect from an adviser, Zimmet tore her idea to pieces and trashed it with lawyer-like vehemence.
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