The time has come for the Largo City Commission to demonstrate that it is a fully empowered, autonomous body in charge of the government of its city.
This must happen in order for the commission to shake off the image it has rightfully earned - that it is a mere adjunct of the city manager's function, meeting to ratify what already has been decided.
Example after example exists of the administration - the total creature of Steve Stanton, the manager - bringing matters to the commission and the members of the commission like blind mice automatically eating the cheese.
It is akin to this - in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And thus it is - the commission has remained blind to what is going on in city hall itself; and being blind the commission is totally at the beck and call of the manager.
When there are screw ups, and there have been these aplenty, the manager earnestly "takes responsibility" and vows that there will be no repeats. This has, over time, become a meaningless refrain.
Two ideas are emerging from this vantage point.
Given the discrepancies just in the past few months emanating from the administration, the argument for an independent internal auditor is stronger than ever.
And more pointed, and of greater magnitude is the idea that the commission must launch an investigation - a thorough and complete probe - into the allegations raised by atrick Bennett, most recently the city's risk manager who was fired in November.
Bennett's firing itself screams for an investigation. Here is a man who received high marks on his job performance evaluation one day and was fired the next day. The firing seemed to fit classic shoot from the hip behavior by Stanton.
Bennett has come before the City Commission twice and made serious allegations in a public forum.
There has been no - repeat NO - reaction so far from the city administration or the commission.
In short, Bennett has charged that the city's part time lawyer, Alan Zimmet, who is paid more than $2,000 a week, is the beneficiary of a conflict of interest that sends thousands of dollars to him and his law firm.
That, folks, is a serious charge. It needs to be explored.
And the commission has full power to do so. Section 2.10 of the Charter lays it out in simple and plain language - "The City Commission may make investigations into the affairs of the city and conduct of any city department or office, and for this purpose may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and require the production of evidence. Any person who fails or refuses to obey a lawful order issued in the exercise of these powers by the city commission shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars ($200.00) or by imprisonment for not more than thirty (30) days or both."
One suggestion has been made, early on, that should an investigation be held that it be done by someone from the city's Human Relations office and that Mac Craig, an assistant city manager, supervise proceedings.
What a howler that is! The quintessential example of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Craig's only interest in life is to continue to feed at the public trough as he has done all his life and to do anything offensive to his boss, Stanton, would end that life in Largo abruptly.
No. The commission needs to have its own counsel, bring Stanton, Zimmet, Kim Adams and all the rest before it to give testimony under oath - with guarantees of protection against retaliation.
As to the independent internal auditor, the commission is likewise fully empowered to hire such a person under the rubric of Section 2.09 of the Charter.
No - repeat NO - referendum is required, contrary to what was suggested by one member of the commission (whose primary aim is to protect in the entanglement of nepotism the city job a spouse holds).
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