To: The Editor
Subject: A Valentine Day reply to the Mayor
An early morning communiqué by Mayor-Commissioner Ockunzzi merits a reply.
In his Valentine message of February 14 at 6:22 a.m. sent to the press and distributed to others, his message is more interested in proclaiming his innocence and distorting the facts than admitting his mistakes.
The handling of the former City manager tenure and departure is a case in point.
The concerns that I brought to the commission are documented in "Al Grieshaber-for the record" posted in my Web page CommissionerCoppen.blogspot.com on January 23, 2007, and documented all along.
It is my duty to Indian Rocks Beach as an elected official to seek the recovery of our tax monies and just as important, to tell our residents the truth about what really happened that lead to the incorrect payment for relocation.
The August calendar of Grieshaber shows that on August 15 he held a phone conference with Salzman and Helinger (the lawyer for A. Parker Willis, the Whitehurst Indian Shores developer) at 10:30 a.m. It also shows a 2 p.m. meeting with the Mayor. Later that day, the former city manager sent his e-mail to Marty Schless claiming "I have checked with the City Attorney and he has authorized the check to be made payable to me" which Salzman denies.
Marty Schless admits that he made a mistake in issuing the check without consulting the City Attorney. The crucial questions are: if Salzman indeed did not give the authorization, then who authorized the check? And if Grieshaber misrepresented the facts and there was no such authorization, wouldn't this be fraud by the former city manager?
In a private conversation with City Attorney Andy Salzman ahead of the commission meeting of February 13, I asked him why, since he was copied in by Grieshaber in the August 15 e-mail that claimed Andy had authorized the relocation payment, then did he not immediately upon receipt, correct Grieshaber, copy the same recipients of the erroneous e-mail and remove himself from the position of authorizing the payment? Andy assured me that he did not see that e-mail or gave any such approval.
I asked during the commission meeting of February 13 why such a mild request letter to recoup a fraction of our monies was sent instead of initiating criminal action if no one authorized the check as Grieshaber said? Salzman said that might have been considered extortion and elected to hold it. Because fraud is a criminal matter, particularly since taxpayers' money is involved, I urged the Commission to also pursue that route so that this matter could to be investigated by the appropriate authorities.
I stand by what I have reported, and the questions I raised.
Jose Coppen, City Commissioner