Badda Bing, Badda Boom; Suddenly Indian Rocks Situation Reverses
by Leo Coughlin
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - It seemed obvious, going into last week's City Commission meeting, that Mayor Bill Ockunzzi might have thought that he had the city manager situation well in hand.
But then, ironically, it all came undone.
Steve Cottrell, the interim city manager, once appeared ready to take the CM job, then backed off, saying he wasn't interested.
Then, at the August 14 meeting, Ockunzzi said that he had a phone call from Cottrell who told him that four members of the commission wanted him, Cottrell, to take the manager's job.
So Ockunzzi, who had undoubtedly been licking his chops at having a chance to maneuver the commission into picking a pliable city manager other than Cottrell, suddenly found a discussion taking place, a motion made to hire Cottrell, and there he was on the short end of a 4-1 vote.
With Cottrell on the job, and with this professional having the backing of responsible commission members, the chances of any more interference and micro-managing went to just about zero.
When Cottrell, who spent almost 10 years as Belleair's manager, showed some interest in the full-time job here some time ago, a contract was in the works and it looked like IRB had finally solved its manager problem.
As part of the contract process in that first go-round, Cottrell filed some ideas that he would like included, with the proviso that these thoughts be kept strictly confidential.
Virtually within minutes of submitting his ideas there was a reporter from a daily newspaper on the phone to him questioning him on his contract ideas.
Somebody leaked the information Cottrell wanted to be held confidential.
It was then, no doubt, that Cottrell got the first intimations of what bureaucratic life was like in Indian Rocks Beach.
And he got more than a taste of it as the days unfolded.
Finally, he let it be known he wasn't really interested in working in this leaderless, fragmented and going to the dogs city. No doubt he was up to here with all the bureaucratic tricks and knife play.
Meanwhile, strong sentiment in the city to make Cottrell the full-time city manager persisted. And for good reason. He is competent, a thorough professional and has all the qualities that IRB needs so badly and has been without now since Tom Brobeil was run off some years ago.
Brobeil couldn't take the interference and micro-managing. The city has been adrift ever since and the only unity seen was provided by Mayor Bob DiNicola until he left in retirement.
John Coffey, Brobeil's successor, did his best but when push came to shove, he was propelled out the door.
Al Grieshaber, amenable to micro-managing, came on the scene as manager, and still has a presence in Indian Rocks Beach through a pending lawsuit and counterclaim that he well may prevail in.
The big attraction in that litigation is that the full story will come out via depositions, and this has, reports indicate, certain parties frantic with fear.
Another action at the commission meeting last week removed one of the key tools for micro-managing.
That was the expunging, by resolution, of a previous resolution that required that check registers and financial reports be received by and filed with the City Commission.
This neat idea gave Ockunzzi and two of his pals on the previous commission a tool to interfere in a city manager's operations.
The big shock in the Ockunzzi "how to run Indian Rocks Beach program" came in March when the voters wisely ousted the two buddies and, in so doing, reduced Ockunzzi's power to one vote, as it should be.
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