LARGO - In the wake of the mysterious accusations by a member of the Largo City Commission against an unnamed person, the element of proper procedure and the penalties for its violation have been raised.
At the May 22 commission meeting, Commissioner Rodney Woods asserted that he had been threatened by an unnamed person who met with him at city hall and said "he was a messenger for the powers that be," and that there was unhappiness with Woods and he was "given a week to resign."
Woods went on to say that this unnamed person had been tracking him and that he, Woods, "was going to be discredited."
"There are statutes against this," Woods said, saying that threats against public officials are against the law.
The person whom Woods has in mind will not be named in the Gazette reporting until a police report is published. It is defamation per se to accuse someone of a crime.
Had Woods named the person from the dais during the official public meeting of the City Commission, the name could be used under what is termed "privilege," that is, it occurred during official public business.
But apparently Woods gave the name out later, after the meeting, and those who have published the name are in peril of being sued.
Actually, it turns out that Woods went to the Largo Police Department on May 21 - the day before the meeting when he told his story - and directed that the matter be investigated.
In doing this, Woods apparently violated Section 2.07 of the city Charter which says - "Prohibitions. (b) Interference with administration. Except for the purpose of inquiries and investigation, the City Commission and its members shall deal with the city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the City Manager solely through the City Manager, and neither the City Commission nor its members shall give orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately."
Charlie Harper, a former member of the commission who probably knows the details of the Charter better than anyone else (current commission members are sadly lacking in this knowledge as is demonstrated in meetings week after week), alertly pointed out the violation and went on to cite the penalty for violating the provision.
Police officials said that Woods directed them to investigate his allegations. Police checked with Assistant City Manager Mac Craig before proceeding.
According to Harper, Woods should have approached Craig first.
Harper said the penalty for violating the rule is set forth in Section 2.08 of the Charter, which says this -
"Vacancies, forfeitures of office, filling of vacancies.
"(b) Forfeitures of office. A member of the City Commission shall be removed from office and forfeit same if said member -
"(2) Violated any express prohibition of this Charter."
That's all pretty plain and not open to much argument, thus it appears that Woods's seat on the commission will come open immediately, long before its normal expiration in 2009.
Observers are now waiting for the commission members to take the necessary action in regard to Woods under the express and plain language of the Charter. It is in the nature of their oaths of office to enforce Charter provisions or they then, presumably, will be in violation.
Harper sounded this caution - "Before anyone jumps up and says Commissioner Woods asked for an investigation that does not qualify because the investigation the Charter refers to is entirely different and pertains to the commission doing an investigation in accordance with Section 2.10."
Harper pointed out that the police authorities acted correctly by notifying the acting city manager before proceeding.
"We must wonder how Acting City Manager Craig felt when a commissioner went around him and straight to the police department without his knowledge and in violation of the Charter," Harper said.