LARGO -- The president of the Largo Civic Association leveled a blast at the Largo city administration for its suggested cuts in a budget that they say has to be reduced by $1.6 million.
Ernie Bach, a former member of the commission, said that the city administration had suggested reductions in the very things that would arouse the public against the elected commissioners, particularly those who voted for a reduced millage rate. Mayor Bob Jackson, joined by Commissioners Mary Black, Andy Guyette and Jean Halvorsen, voted to support Black's motion to put the millage rate at the rolled back rate -- 4.2758 -- rather than the 4.75 that City Manager Steve Stanton recommended. Commissioner Pat Gerard, Gay Gentry and Harriet Crozier want Largo taxpayers to pay about 14 percent more in taxes.
The administration has zeroed in on job cuts, including police, which always arouses the public, Bach said.
"Cuts can be made in other ways," he said. "In fact, the money could be taken from the surplus." Cutting jobs while shipping money out of town to benefit homeless is a hobby horse of Commissioner Pat Gerard. In fact, while Gerard recuses herself on votes involving these subjects that are related to the way she makes her living, she does participate in the discussion, and this is wrong according to most observers.
Bach also said he was surprised that the commission was ignoring its own rules. The commission voted a raise for the manager on a 4-3 vote and insisted on that although city rules say that five votes are necessary to give the manager a raise. The raise controversy went on for weeks, with the "Stanton gang" -- Gerard and fellow commissioners Gay Gentry and Harriet Crozier -- holding out, along with newcomer Guyette, for the raise. The "Stanton gang" are the three votes on the commission that Stanton has in his pocket assuring him of his job. It takes five votes to dismiss him, there seems to be no argument about that.
Largo has become known as the city where the charter is ignored as in the March election, where cronyism rules the day, where there is nepotism, and in the latest example, ignoring city rules on the manager's raise.
Bach said the Largo Civic Association has been aroused by the shennanigans that go on in the city and is looking for a change in city government. The group can count something like 2,000 members which could be a decisive factor in a city where apathy rules and turnouts at election time are sparse.
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