Why Is Largo Commission Silent on Grave Issues? 'Keep the Pay Check Coming'
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Where have members of the City Commission been for the past week while a swirl of controversy has swept the city over the removal of Bob Jackson from the ballot?
The answer, and very obviously so, is notably absent. In fact, ducking for cover.
Commission members won't touch this one with the proverbial 10-foot pole. And they are members of the commission that is the ultimate legal authority in the city.
One possible answer comes from one long familiar with city business and who has a view going back when Largo was smaller and a lot less complicated.
"Commission members want to keep that pay check coming," this authority said. "With the exception of maybe two of them, they need the money. One of them, at least, relies on it for main income."
The Jackson case is the latest in a series of stumbles that has beset the city, from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the serious to the idiocies that bring guffaws from observers.
Because there is a definite scenario of commission members not "rocking the boat," the contention that collecting a pay check may have everything to do with it.
A commissioner is paid $13,125.46 and the mayor is paid $19,688.19.
Plus each one is entitled to personal health insurance in a carousel of benefits from which each can choose. That is worth $7,440 a year.
The question - never answered - is how come part time employees get full time benefits? The answer is the inherent corruption in Largo that has existed for years and with which the record is replete with examples. Also, this happens in a system where people can vote themselves money - they do exactly that.
Add the carousel benefit to the salary and a commissioner totals $20,565.46 in pay and the mayor gets $27,128.19
Any given commission member attends no more than 40 meetings a year and most attend less than that.
Meetings last less than two hours and even figuring two hours, that would make a commissioner's hourly rate of compensation about $257. For the mayor, the figure jumps to $340 an hour.
Not bad, in a city where the median income is about $45,000 for full time, 40 hours a week work.
The health benefits package is the real moneymaker for the electeds.
For a member of the commission who has his or her own insurance through a place of employment, or are on Medicare (at least three are in this category), that person need not avail of the health benefit.
Instead, the amount piles up over the years, is credited to them and they get the full payoff when they leave office.
One commission member of recent vintage was issued a check for $15,000 or so when leaving office. That person had health benefits from employment and did not partake of the city program.
Three years ago the health carousel was worth $5,000 annually. With a jump to $7,440 that is an increase of almost 50 percent.
Significantly, the health benefits carousel available to commission members is never mentioned when pay is discussed.
Commission members this year have indicated they will take no pay raise in accord with the city's freeze on wages (including a scheme to breach the contracts with two unions).
City Manager Mac Craig threw himself on that sacrificial pyre last week when he announced he would seek no increase.
But then, his compensation is more than $164,000 a year, more than the governor is paid. Craig, the oldest public employee in America, is running a city of 70,000, the governor a jurisdiction 114 times larger.
The city attorney magnanimously did not seek an increase in his $2,226 a week retainer for part time work, but he wangled a $10 an hour increase for legal assistants in his office. That will result in shipping an extra $10,000 a year to the CA's law firm, according to Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert.
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