LARGO – Commissioner Pat Gerard got half a loaf from her colleagues on the Largo City Commission Tuesday night in an attempt to turn the old library building into her private play pen.
The persistent battle to turn the building into an arts center continued. Last spring, the advocates of same mustered up a claque that wore out commission ears with its pleas.
One item on the agenda, pressed and pushed by Gerard who has already formed a group to look into the old library building’s use, was to form a committee to look into such use.
The commission agreed to that after a lot of wrangling.
Tied to it, as Gerard continued her efforts to smuggle pet projects into law, was an attempt to put a youth art program in the building.
The commission wisely turned that down, but still, commission members fumbled around with the idea of putting the “do-gooder” program somewhere, showing their eagerness to get in on the birth of another white elephant, matching the disastrous Cultural Center which is costing taxpayers more than $10,600 a week.
In another matter, the commission approved, 5-1, what is actually the “Steve Stanton enrichment program for loyal underlings.” A proposed employment agreement with top ranked staff would give any such employee who was fired six months severance pay.
Stanton fully expects to be fired in the spring and has said so. This agreement would reward any of his loyal staff who might be swept out by a new broom.
One pertinent question – “Why would the city pay anyone it wanted to get rid of that kind of money?”
Of course, the whole procedure was gussied up by Stanton and Zimmet with the old dipsey-doodle, now you see it now you don’t stuff with all kinds of extraneous legal mumbo jumbo about “gross misconduct.”
On her ideas for the old library building, Gerard has a crystal clear, blatant and outrageous conflict of interest, which was noted in boisterous terms by the normally even tempered John Atanasio, an observer at all commission meetings for years.
Alan Zimmet, whose opinions and rulings are as predictable as dark follows dusk, said there was no conflict and used clever lawyer words to back that up.
Another legal maven (albeit unlicensed, as far as anyone knows), Andy Guyette, ruled it wasn’t a conflict but opposed the idea and wanted to wait until the committee report is made next spring.
Let’s look at the law –
“Chapter 112.314 (3)(a) No county, municipal, or other local public officer shall vote in an official capacity upon any measure which would inure to his or her special private gain or loss; which he or she knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of any principal by whom he or she is retained or to the parent organization or subsidiary of a corporate principal by which he or she is retained . . .”
Of course, the program Gerard is pushing benefits her. She is a vice president of Family Resources, the sponsor of the program. It benefits her in terms of accomplishment in her job. There is no question of pocketing funds, but it does redound to her benefit in terms of “getting the job done” for her employer.
But conflicts in Largo are nothing new. The city is rife with nepotism and cronyism and, as demonstrated, in the flouting of election laws earlier this year has demonstrated that it does not follow the rule of law.
The whole conflict issue was mindful of the statement years ago by a member of the Maryland General Assembly who announced, in terms of a bill that would benefit the establishment he operated, that “this doesn’t conflict with any interest I have.”
The program Gerard was pushing (and she gave a boo-hoo speech seeking support) gives Largo taxpayers an opportunity to spend their money on people who don’t live in Largo, who pay nothing for the services and put the burden on Largo taxpayers for upkeep, maintenance and who knows what else.
Taxpayers are wondering why they should be burdened with this uplifting program for humanity that amounts to no more than a hobby horse for Gerard and the agency for whom she works. Some asked, “Is Largo supposed to be the support of the downtrodden and particularly when they are not even from our city?”
This apparently was done as a private deal between Gerard and City Manager Steve Stanton. The discussion of the program revealed that Gerard’s colleagues on the commission were bewildered and all at sea. It was all new to them.
Before anything happens in that building there is the question of $3 million in renovation. No one talks about that.
Others have importuned the commission for space in the old building among them Schiller University, Mayor Bob Jackon’s idea for a charter school and the wonderful opportunity with St. Petersburg College that was spurned and even worse resulted in insulting its president, Carl Kutler.
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