By Leo Coughlin
If any more facts are needed to show that the administration of Largo is a government run amuck, the recent brouhaha over the blocking of Bob Jackson from the November ballot provides overwhelming evidence of exactly that.
And the problem is right at the top of the city's administrative pyramid.
Norton "Mac" Craig, the city manager, ignores consistently the solemn oath he took entering upon the office he holds.
It is an oath taken by every other Largo official and he is not alone in violating it. The mayor, Patricia Gerard, does likewise.
When an oath is taken the substance of it embraces all acts and deeds to be performed in conjunction with the office.
One cannot say, "Oh, yeah, but that's a small detail, so-and-so mostly upholds the oath."
An oath like the one taken to hold office means that any breach at all constitutes a full breach of the oath.
Through the cavalier breaching and ignoring the strict language of the law Craig and other city officials have hazarded the job of a lower ranking city employee. Nothing could be more cynical. The employee is required to break the law that applies to her Notary Public duties. Her job is at stake.
The absolute contempt for the law demonstrates, thoroughly and absolutely, how deeply ingrained the corruption in Largo is.
Let's take a look at the elements of what we are discussing here -
This is the oath taken by Craig and Gerard, as it appears in the city's Code of Ordinances -
"I, A. B., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and protect the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Florida against all enemies, domestic or foreign, and that I will bear true faith, loyalty and allegiance to the same; that I am entitled to hold office under the Constitution; that I will faithfully perform all of the duties of the office of ________ in the City of Largo, upon which I am about to enter, so help me God."
Obeying state law is incorporated in the idea of "support and protect the Constitution . . . of the state of Florida . . . and that I will bear true faith, loyalty and allegiance to the same."
Yet, we have this testimony from Craig -
"In my duties as City Manager I sign numerous documents every week. Only the Mayor and I sign documents which are delivered directly to the City Clerk who attests the signature. Then they are notarized by a staff member in the Clerk's office."
But the law is very clear on signatures being notarized.
Florida Statutes - "117.107(9) A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the person whose signature is being notarized is not in the presence of the notary public at the time the signature is notarized. Any notary public who violates this subsection is guilty of a civil infraction, punishable by penalty not exceeding $5,000, and such violation constitutes malfeasance and misfeasance in the conduct of official duties. It is no defense to the civil infraction specified in this subsection that the notary public acted without intent to defraud." (Emphasis added.)
Further, the jurat (the act of the notarization itself) requires under F.S. 117.05(4)(C) "That the signer personally appeared before the notary public at the time of the notarization."
And in all this blithe ignoring of the law, for any reason, add this - F.S. "117.05(6) The employer of a notary public shall be liable to the persons involved for all damages proximately caused by the notary's official misconduct, if the notary public was acting within the scope of his or her employment at the time the notary engaged in the official misconduct." (Emphasis added.)
So here you have a city employee, a Notary Public, who is acting at the direction of her employer to violate the law that pertains to the notarial function. Keep in mind, her job is at stake.
And then, when the boss - Craig - discovers that she did not have Jackson standing before her when she notarized his document she was suspended without pay for three days.
Again, we have the testimony of Craig, as to why the employee was suspended -
"(She) is a member of the staff of the City Clerk. She was disciplined under City Disciplinary Guidelines #20, Negligence or carelessness in carrying out job duties. As (she) is employed by the City of Largo, part of her duties require her to notarize certain documents. The reason she was disciplined was because in exercising her duties, she notarized an unsigned document."
So she is punished on the one hand for the Jackson incident but is required on a daily basis to break the law for the convenience of Craig and Gerard in notarizing documents in violation of F.S. 117.05(4)(C)"That the signer personally appeared before the notary public at the time of the notarization."
There is an Alice in Wonderland atmosphere to all this.
Then there is this, from the city Charter - "2.06(b) The mayor or a city commissioner shall report to the city commission all violations or neglect of duty or any misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance in office, or improper conduct on the part of any elected or appointed official that may come to his or her knowledge."
The word "shall" is a mandating word, an order, a word that means "must." Violations by Craig have now been brought to the knowledge of every member of the City Commission through this writing (make no mistake; they all read it).
Will they do what their city law requires?
Let's wait and see.
What is disturbing about all this is the total scofflaw attitude of Craig. That is, if he feels like breaking the law, disregarding his oath, he will do so.
Very disturbing, indeed.
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