Largo Coffee Shop to Go Out to Bids
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - The City Commission decided to go with a Request for Proposal for a possible new leaseholder of the Bookmark Café, the coffee shop at the Largo Library.
It had been thought that the commission had settled on, by consensus, at last week's work session meeting that the staff would prepare an agreement for a one-year extension of the lease now held by Dalal Mansour.
But Commissioner Mary Black insisted that the contract with Mansour be for a five-year extension. Black cited provisions of the agreement that she insisted allowed for only a renewal of the contract.
Black insisted that the leaseholder's failure to ask for a contract renewal 270 days in advance of termination was a breach or failure that lent itself to being cured.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes defined that as a failure to exercise an option, which Alan Zimmet, the city attorney, ratified.
The coffee shop lease situation goes back to March 2 when Henry Schubert, an assistant city manager, suggested putting out an RFP because the current leaseholder had not complied with a 270-day notice of desire to renew the contract.
But his letter left the door open by suggesting that she might want to renew. Mansour immediately responded to that effect and in the March 2 meeting Schubert's letter was called a "gotcha" by Mayor Pat Gerard who also described the city as a "discourteous landlord."
After long discussion, the commission voted to go ahead Tuesday night with an RFP.
One party known to be interested in taking over the coffee shop is the Greater Largo Library Foundation which at one point made an offer of $20,000 to take over Mansour's contract. The offer was rejected.
The current president of the library foundation is Eric Gerard, husband of the mayor.
Gerard has been very active in Pinellas County for years both as a businessman and in civic affairs.
One curious piece of information is a chart showing his name at the center with lines extending to other familiar names in Largo.
Discovered on the Internet under a corporation called Ogden Gerard LLC, the chart shows a variety of local personalities connected to the Greater Largo Library Foundation which is a private, non-profit corporation, although "affiliated" with the city, according to the city's web site.
The foundation is shown as a centerpiece on the chart with arrows directed to it from Eric Gerard, Lynn Pippenger (listed as the resident agent and vice president director of GLLF), Carol Miles, Joe Falanga (also a vice present director of GLLF), Keith Bailey (former president of the library foundation), Bruce McManus, a Largo lawyer.
Also on the chart are listed the Ogden Gerard LLC corporation which, in state corporation records, was established June 16, 2009 and lists Gerard and Scott Ogden as its principals, and a corporation called Carloansok, Inc.
Carloansok underwent dissolution, according to state corporation records, last September. It listed Eric Gerard and Sean Marra as principals.
Marra is also tied to an active corporation called Direct2Print LLC, which is listed on the graph chart as a "possibly related company."
Gerard and Marra, according to corporation records, were also affiliated with each other in something called Rhino Corp., which is also listed on the chart as a "possibly related company."
The meaning and significance of the chart is not known but it ties together seemingly private and public entities all of which Eric Gerard is involved with.
Eric Gerard has been active also in city activities.
When the former city manager, Steve Stanton, was in the process of turning himself into a woman three years ago, both Gerards were on the group Stanton had formed to advise him on how to accomplish the goal in his personal life and at the same time keep his city job.
He apparently succeeded in the former but failed in the latter with the City Commission voting to dismiss him in March, with only Mayor Pat Gerard voting to keep Stanton.
Another familiar figure in the Stanton advisory group was Pat Burke, a former member of the City Commission. Her boy friend, Howard Ritchie, was part of the original operation of the library coffee shop.
There is a compelling "connect the dots pattern" to certain relationships and personages in Largo.
Pat Gerard herself has been involved in corporations. One, listed in the state's corporation records, was Emma Curtis Hopkins College, Inc., which underwent voluntary dissolution in August 1997. Gerard was listed as the registered agent and a president director.
The corporation had the same address as Unity Church of Clearwater and among its directors was Leddy Hammock, a minister at Unity Church.
Another corporation, which became in inactive in September 2007, with which Pat Gerard as associated was Edward James Reid Counseling Services, Inc. Gerard was listed as president and director.
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