LARGO – Pat Gerard began her tenure as Largo’s mayor with a nasty and bitter exchange with a citizen at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting.
She got off to a faltering and rocky start when she overlooked opening items which got giggles and laughs from the women on the commission.
This ditzy performance came after an invocation from Commissioner Harriet Crozier which was preceded by some sort of Pollyanna poem.
But the heat came when Curtis Holmes came to the microphone for citizen comments. He attempted to invoke the rule of having 10 minutes (instead of the usual three minutes) available for his comments because he represented a group.
Gerard put the kibosh on this as she asked if members of the group were present. Holmes pointed out that this was once talked of as a rule but was never adopted.
From there, it went downhill. Gerard turned Holmes’s appearance into a colloquy and ignored her own rule that she enunciated at the beginning of citizen comments when she asked that there be no personal attacks.
Of course, Holmes was not engaging in anything personal. He wanted to discuss the Florida Ethics Commission failing to follow through on assessing a penalty on Gerard for her conflict of interest in voting last October.
All of this is a matter of government interest, is fully on the record and is a matter of public record and interest. Gerard, instead, took it personally. It is Holmes, after all, who properly filed the complaint about her conflict of interest with the ethics commission.
Her face showing the kind of terror exhibited by one on the gallows facing the rope, she invoked what she apparently thinks is her power and in effect told Holmes to stop his comments and ordered him to sit down.
“Sit down right now,” Gerard said tersely in a shaky voice.
“Are you going to arrest me now?” Holmes asked. Then he said, “This is not done. We shall see.”
Strangely, the county’s only daily newspaper has not yet accurately reported the outcome of the Florida Ethics Commission’s disposition of the Gerard conflict of interest case in which the investigator found probable cause.
Instead, reportorial efforts have been spent on trying to discredit Fred Thomas, a contributor to former Mayor Bob Jackson’s campaign and an enemy of Gerard’s.
Inquiries were out recently from the Big Paper as to whether Thomas correctly voted in the Largo election two-plus weeks ago. Unfortunately, news columns of the BP are used when the ax is whetted to attempt to discredit people.
The latest skirmish in the Largo-county war is shaping up with a county attempt to try to weaken provisions of Ordinance 00-63.
This measure was adopted by referendum in 2000 and set out an agreement among the county and certain municipalities as to the further annexation of areas of the county by cities.
Among the provisions, Largo gave up claim to areas in the eastern part of the county that later went to St. Petersburg in the burgeoning Feather Sound area.
Every attempt Largo has made to annex territory to the east under the provisions of 00-63 has been stymied or attempted to be blocked by the county. Both entities are in court now over some issues.
Now a joint committee made up of the Countywide Planning Authority (read Board of County Commissioners) and the Pinellas Planning Council to discuss the five year review of 00-63.
What is afoot is an attempt to exclude the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport from the planning service area of Largo, which had been granted under the ordinance.
One astute observer said the attempt would fizzle had Jackson been retained in office and indicated that Gerard was in effect being “strong armed” by county interests because she is seen as weak.
An early version of Tuesday’s agenda listed “recognition of former Mayor Robert E. Jackson and former Commissioner Jean Halvorsen.” Both were defeated in the March 7 election.
A revised agenda dropped Jackson and listed only Halvorsen. Jackson said he was “not interested in attending this early.” It could be that the heat has not yet gone out of the election. Jackson bemoaned this week that “I thought elections could be won by running cleanly. So I was totally surprised by this one.”
A friend noted that it is the low road this wins elections these days.
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