Warren Andrews used to be the mayor of Largo. He is still around and, thankfully, at last report, hale and hearty.
He is like a voice crying in the wilderness. What he cries is akin to the bard’s lament of “something rotten in Denmark.”
In this case, Andrews’ lament suggests another piece of evidence that there is something rotten in Largo.
It was established during last year that Largo will not go by the rule of law. It is a government of make it up as you go along, with a city lawyer who can, seemingly, justify anything that his master wants.
Largo is rampant with nepotism, cronyism, blatant conflicts of interest – in short, pretty sleazy stuff.
Maybe things will change in March when the city election is held.
There could be new faces. At this point, Ernie Bach looks like an odds-on favorite to fill Pat Gerard’s seat. Gerard, heavy laden with an ethics investigation going on and an unpleasant odor from last March’s election, is seeking to unseat Mayor Bob Jackson. Such a prospect is unlikely.
Bach, a veteran Largo activist and former commissioner, should not have too much trouble with an inexperienced opponent who is a one-tune candidate.
Gigi Arntzen, who has been a long-time background player, is challenging Jean Halvorsen. Halvorsen is experienced, knows the city and its needs inside out and probably doesn’t face much of a threat.
But, like all good politicians, Jackson and Bach included, Halvorsen does not take an election race lightly. Those three are steady, reliable and probably what Largo needs.
Now – back to Warren Andrews. Pardon the instructive sail around the lagoon. We are trying to educate people here, and every opportunity will undoubtedly have its rewards.
Listen to Andrews’ plaint – “Several years ago, while serving as financial officer for Mary Laurance I submitted a monthly report one day late which, under the Election Code, calls for a fine of $50 for municipal elections, and was so notified by the city clerk, Diane Bruner.”
But then comes the fit hitting the shan.
“The next day I was told by Miss Bruner that since this was a general election, the fine would be $500 instead. When I challenged Miss Bruner, she admitted she made the change on the word of Gigi Arntzen (bingo!), who at the time was working for Laurance’s opponent.”
Andrews pressed his case. Took several actions because he contended what Bruner had done was not lawful.
Finally, Andrews says, “I went to Steve Stanton, the city manager, who seemed to support Commissioner Laurance’s opponent. He surprisingly feigned ignorance regarding the difference between general and municipal elections.”
Evidently Stanton was relying on the opinion of his boy Alan Zimmet, the city’s lawyer, because Andrews says Stanton told him firmly that Zimmet said Largo’s elections are general elections.
Maybe so. Zimmet finds many interesting things in the law when it redounds to the benefit of what his boss wants. But then, that is what lawyers do, right?
Andrews maintains that there are eight provisions in the Florida Constitution and Statutes proving that Largo’s elections can never be general elections.
What prompted Andrews recitation of this history?
He thinks that the city’s lawyer should be under the jurisdiction of the City Commission, not the manager.
“How can the commission or the citizens of Largo ever be confident in decisions coming from the joint office of the manager and lawyer?” he asks.
Though there was an opportunity to make this change in the recent exercise over the city Charter nothing was done. The status quo remains ante.
Warren Andrews, in office, out of office, as a citizen, has a reputation for honesty, integrity, decency.
Sad to say, such cannot be said for others.
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