LARGO – After two weeks of not meeting, Largo’s commissioners gather tonight in an off-day meeting (they usually meet on Tuesday) to discuss charter changes.
But you can bet the phone lines have been red hot and the air is crackling with cell phone activity. If you think elected officials don’t talk to each other, guess again.
Reason why? There is a lot of hot political activity going on in Largo, the city that does not follow the rule of law.
In the sense of the mountain groaning and gasping and giving forth with a mouse, so the Charter Review Committee, a conglomeration of mostly pathetic individuals, labored for 14 months and came forth with not much.
Opportunities were lost to make significant changes that would have perhaps re-invigorated the city’s electorate, which so far prefers to stay home rather than bother with the folks who make the laws, set the fees, set the taxes, etc.
The committee came up with two ideas, mainly – one that the city elections would be switched from March to November, and, more importantly, that the city manager could be fired by a majority vote (four votes) of the commission.
One committee member, Shirley Craig, fully draped in the garments of conflict of interest, fought tooth and nail to keep the super-majority vote necessary on that issue.
No wonder. Her husband, Norton, popularly known as “Mac,” is an assistant city manager. Having fed at the public trough for a lifetime, Shirley Craig wants to keep it that way.
Even if Steve Stanton, the city manager, is fired under the present super-majority rubric (which, of course, puts the power in a minority), the theory is that Craig figures her husband has a shot at succeeding him.
She has undoubtedly been on the phone lobbying commission members who, ludicrously, have the power to undue any the charter review folks did and add anything they want before the whole thing is trundled off and presented to the voters in March.
Of course, the whole megillah was screwed up from the beginning. We have a situation where the charter is the creature of the commission – upside down in the realm of any standard formation of government formula.
During the life of the committee, several members filed memos with the chairman, Arnold Johnson. The public was never apprised of these, but that is not surprising. Johnson seemed to have little grasp on what he was doing and appeared to not know where he was at times.
He relied on Alan Zimmet, the city’s $2,000-plus a week part-time lawyer, who was there to see that Stanton’s interests were fully protected.
The charter committee could find its work totally meaningless (it comes close anyway) if the commissioners tinker with ideas to suit their collective fancy.
Two of them – Mary Black and Andy Guyette – both asserted back there at the beginning that, by golly, they intend to send to the people for decision whatever the charter committee came up with.
Black, in her typical way, has stuck to that principal. Guyette, still wet behind the ears, seems to have wavered.
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