LARGO -- Largo's Charter Review Committee survived the blustering of one of its members at its meeting July 20 and heard some pointed and helpful ideas from experienced hands in city government.
Perhaps most to the point were the proposals set forth by Charlie Harper, a former commissioner, who laid out changes that would restore balance to the city government, now overweighed with too much power in the city manager's hands.
Harper's ideas came before those at the meeting had to tolerate and suffer through what seemed to be avid cross examination by R.B. Butler, a committee member who is a popinjay of the first water.
All the fulminating and impertinent questioning by Butler added confusion rather than enlightenment to the process where the rubric of political correctness allows the antics of blowhards.
Warren Andrews, a former mayor, echoed some of Harper's points, chief among them the idea that the city attorney should be under the jurisdiction of the commission not the city manager.
Andrews said the symbiotic relationship of the two was proving unhealthy.
There was no question raised about the competence of Alan Zimmet, the city attorney, who was present at the meeting, but there is no question that his role in the city, playing official legal voice to the manager, has thrown balance in the city out kilter.
Harper's suggestions were right to the point. Among them -- have the city attorney and city clerk report to the commission; a simple majority vote to decide any measure before the commission; agendas for commission meetings to be prepared by the mayor, subject to change by the commission; the city manager shall report directly to the mayor for such items as expense, travel, vacation, and other time away from city duties; the commission shall have the power to appoint and fund a special auditor or investigator for the purpose of city business.
Harper said, "These items in the charter will help to ensure a balanced government and serve to protect a new manager or mayor and safeguard established city employees."
He said he thought it might be more useful for the committee to be looking at charters of Coral Springs, Clearwater and Pembroke Pines as more akin to the size of Largo, rather than those of Apopka and Belleair Bluffs.
On pay for elected officials, Harper recommended that the mayor be paid at 40 percent that of a Pinellas County commissioner and that city commissioners get 25 percent.
He also pushed for residency rules that would require the city manager to live within city limits as well as assistant city managers.
In Harper's plan, a discharged city employee would be able to take an appeal to the City Commission after going through the appeal process with the City Personnel Advisory Board. The commission would agree to hear such appeals on a simple majority vote.
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