By Leo Coughlin
What has happened in Largo in recent weeks strongly suggests that the legal world needs a new cause of action - malpractice by government.
The taxpayers of Largo clearly have been the victims of government malpractice in the events surrounding the project that will put up a new community center.
Up until November 10, just past, the subject of the Community Center came up 19 times over two years of commission meetings. Never once did any commission member raise the question of money.
If that is not malpractice on the part of commission members for not asking and for staff employees for not volunteering, I don't know what is.
Certainly, by any standard of common sense or responsibility, elected officials - the City Commission - had a duty to ask, "How will this be paid for?" "Where are the funds for this project coming from?" "Do we have the money to do this?"
Any of those questions would have been pursuant to any and all of the commissioners performing their fiduciary duty.
Even the question "Is this fully founded?" could have been asked.
It was not until the work shop meeting November 10 when Curtis Holmes, making his initial appearance as a newly elected commissioner, asked the question. Until then, it had never come up.
Administrative officials - the hired hands - had a duty to the elected officials to fully inform them of financial matters that had to the with community center project.
They did not and it was only after intense questioning that Henry Schubert, an assistant city manager, finally gave up the information that "No, the project is not fully funded. We have to borrow the money."
Malpractice is a measure taken against professions to ensure that individuals perform to the standard of the particular profession.
Guarding against malpractice is no stranger to the community of lawyers, doctors, accountants, to name just three.
You can bet that city managers, a group that, over the years, has tried to increasingly make its membership professional and obliged to adhere to certain standards would welcome the malpractice idea as the price for some real professional recognition.
Even with whatever professional status city managers are regarded it wouldn't make any difference in Largo because the manager here wouldn't qualify.
When Steve Stanton, a truly professional and experienced city manager, left Largo almost three years ago his job was filled on the basis of friendship and cronyism.
Only Mayor Pat Gerard spoke out against the appointment of Mac Craig. She wanted a wide search for a truly professional and experienced city manager. But cronyism ruled the day and Largo has suffered ever since.
In regard to the planned new community center, apparently the idea was to get everything done and make the project a fait accompli before the question of money was raised.
There is no reason to believe that some if not most commission members were in on this approach. After all, what has been stressed among most of them and which came to the fore during the recent election campaign is the idea of being a "team player."
What this means, one must conclude, is to raise no questions about any plans being made by the administration.
Obviously, the term, as applied to the City Commission, means to "just go along," never questioning anything the staff puts forward.
This is exactly what has happened with the community center and its funding plan which comes down to borrowing $10 million, pledging as collateral money that has not yet reached Largo's coffers.
But then, this is the city administration that was apparently willing to break employment contracts with city workers.
The same administration that is under the impression, from all signs, that providing entertainment is the chief responsibility of the city.
Perhaps this drifting and leaderless entity called Largo can get turned around and put on proper course if the kinds of questions asked by Holmes continue.
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