Many Questions Surround Woods Behavior as Holmes Brings Challenge in Largo
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - A campaign season highlighted by the ouster of one challenger for mayor, a host of questions and behavior raised by one surviving candidate and a referendum question most voters (including one candidate) don't understand comes to an end Tuesday when voters go to the polls.
Curtis Holmes is challenging Rodney Woods, the incumbent, for Seat 3 on the commission. Woods's behavior has raised questions about his fitness to hold office.
The mayor, Pat Gerard, has been breathing easy since her challenger, Bob Jackson, a former mayor, was ousted through some weird doings in City Hall. Many still question the way Jackson was put out of the race.
Originally, three seats were scheduled for election, but only the Holmes-Woods race remains.
Commissioner Gigi Arntzen was automatically re-elected when no genuine challenger emerged. There was talk of opposition early on, but that turned out to be hot air.
Gerard escaped challenge when Diane Bruner, the city clerk, failed to do her job properly and she was unwittingly aided and abetted by another city employee who broke the law in the performance of her duty.
That left whatever focus in this election was left on Holmes and Woods.
Defying what has become custom in every American election from municipal to national levels, Woods flatly refused to engage in any debates during the campaign, at the same time saying he "was not afraid" of Holmes.
However, actions speak louder than words and when the two were corralled up in what might be termed a confrontation at the private Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week, Woods showed he did not have much to offer and thus explained the reluctance to debate.
Holmes, who ran a very clean campaign, on the other hand laid out ideas he had as the city faces perilous financial times with next year's budget. He has been a critic of the city outsourcing contracts that could be done by public works while, at the same time, laying off public works employees.
As for Woods, it appeared that there were too many questions he did not want broached in a public venue. Among them, his campaign reports that are inaccurate and misleading.
For example, Woods has campaign signs all over the city but nary a mention in his reports of any expenditure for the signs. Other than that, his financial reports are festooned with inconsistencies and inaccuracies.
In his disclosure form concerning assets and liabilities, Woods lists "none" in both categories. Yet, he owns property on Georgianna Street which is listed in Pinellas County records and has a mortgage worth $132,000 with SunTrust.
A complaint about Woods's questionable reports has been filed with officials in Tallahassee, according to reliable sources.
Woods also seems to lack an understanding of some fundamental aspects of his role as a member of the City Commission.
He was queried by one citizen on a voting matter and his response was -
"I do not know of any compiled list of how commissioners vote."
Woods apparently is unaware that all votes by commissioners are indeed recorded and compiled.
In the endorsement given him by the county's only daily newspaper, the article - obviously based on material supplied by Woods - mentioned Woods's involvement in the building of a new library and in the city's strategic planning process.
Woods, in fact, had nothing to do with either subject and taking credit for them while he putatively was a member of the commission was a blatant misstatement of fact.
He also likes to take credit for "diversity" and racial progress in Largo.
The city has had no racial problems in anyone's memory and the Martin Luther King memorial that Woods likes to take credit for was first broached by commission members long before he ran for office.
When he was queried about his condition and behavior at a drinking establishment in Indian Rocks Beach earlier this month, Woods quoted Jewish scripture as his answer -
"My comfort . . .
"Psalm 37. Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
"Have a great day. You will receive your just reward."
To say the least.
On other matters that arose during the campaign, Woods refused to answer any queries.
As to the charter amendment referendum question, Woods has no idea what that is all about, but for the edification of voters, what it does is ask voters if they want to change the qualifying period for candidates from 60 days to 15 days.
Candidates would still be able to pick up petition cards 45 days prior to the start of the qualifying period, so, in substance, the change is of little importance.
But based on his comments at commission meeting in discussing the proposed referendum, Woods apparently thought it was targeted at him and limited a candidate's ability to run for office.
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