LARGO – Largo’s City Commission agreed Tuesday night to enter into a dispute resolution process with Pinellas County in a meeting that was enlivened by Commissioner Mary Black’s response to City Manager Steve Stanton’s written version of an incident between the two last week that was addressed to the mayor and city commission.
The discord between Largo and the county stems from an interlocal agreement among Largo, Pinellas Park and the county often referred to as 2000-63 which in part laid down procedures for annexations.
Largo claims the county has violated the agreement. There is an ongoing battle between the two jurisdictions and it is clear to many observers that County Administrator Steve Spratt’s aim is to gain dominance over Largo.
“He’s here to turn Pinellas County into another Miami-Dade,” one observer noted, pointing out that Spratt’s prior background was in Miami-Dade.
This latest scrimmage between Black and Stanton has ratcheted up the feud to a high, rolling boil.
Black indicated that although Stanton’s missive was addressed to and delivered to the mayor and commissioners last Thursday, she did not receive a copy. She requested a copy Monday and formulated a reply which she published at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Stanton had asserted that there can be no interference by anyone, including elected officials, with the city staff and pointed out that the charter clearly says that all such business must go through him.
Black said she had “hoped to overlook the entire episode, but after receiving and reading the allegations of the city manager, I feel compelled to respond in order to defend my integrity and restore my dignity.”
Black, reading from her statement which was addressed to the mayor and commission, recounted in detail the encounter she had with city officials, including Stanton, last week over her attempt to get a permit for the “Taste of Largo” sponsored by the Downtown Main Street Association.
Denying Stanton’s allegations of interference with city staff, Black said, “At no time did I direct the staff to accept my personal check or waive the permit fee.”
She said when she asked for an explanation of why she could not pay for a permit with a check she was told it was city policy. When Stanton eventually appeared and asserted the same thing, she asked to see the policy.
“After a brief moment, City Manager Stanton became visibly agitated, blurted out that it was not a city policy – it was his policy and that he would show me nothing,” Black said.
Black said that inasmuch as her “integrity has been greatly demeaned,” she wants the matter investigated under the provisions of the city Charter.
A scheduled presentation by Partners N Progress of a check for $72,500 to the city, denoting, if nothing else that PNP is doing well in its money raising efforts, was pulled from the agenda, no doubt because of a turn of events that took place over the weekend.
Partners N Progress helps support the operation of the Cultural Center through a variety of fund raising efforts. (The center costs the city $10,000 a week, perhaps the largest white elephant since the invention of that term.)
What happened is that a city employee who works with Partners N Progress apparently noted plenty of money being available and allegedly converted a quantity of it to her own use.
An announcement by the police department did not specify a sum that had been purloined, but other unofficial sources spoke of an amount of $10,000.
Arrested Monday after PNP notified the police of a problem last Friday was Maria A. Carroll, 58, on a charge of scheming to defraud PNP.
She allegedly made personal purchases on a credit card issued in the name of PNP and her that was intended for business purposes only. An investigation showed, the police report said, that she had paid for vacation trips as well as other purchases.
She was a city employee working as liaison with Partners N Progress and had access through her position as a Development Specialist for the Largo Cultural Center.
Fire Chief Jeff Bullock introduced four new firefighters who were sworn in. Bullock pointed out that the departments’ hiring policy now includes the shift district chiefs into the final interview and selection process.
The new firefighters, who also have medical skills, are Richard R. Behers 3rd, Edward A. Bader, Vincent E. Lopez and Mark S. Henderson.
Chief Lester Aradi has announced the promotion of three new sergeants – Mike Bruno, Ryan Dulski and Bill Shaw - who will be recognized at the City Commission meeting October 4, 2005.
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