Largo Tells Truth but Then Weasels
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - To the city of Largo's credit, when queried by a news gathering organization in Tampa about compensation paid to city employees including total annual salary, wages, bonuses and other monetary compensation from all sources, the city answered in a very forthcoming way, giving the information exactly as asked for.
To their non-credit, other governmental entities in the area apparently were not as fully truthful, limiting their disclosures to salary information only.
That is the claim of Largo and it is no doubt true, evidence to the contrary not available.
But then, when the information was published in this newspaper in good faith Largo officials went into some sort of modified denial cover-up hangout.
The information as published, directly from the inquiring source's records, was called "incorrect," "inaccurate."
Oddly enough, the weaseling didn't seem to embarrass anyone in the upper reaches of the Largo government.
Of course, the information was absolutely correct and stunningly accurate.
No doubt the big numbers were embarrassing to the folks who are being paid - and paid supremely well - by the taxpayers and no doubt there was some squirming when the figures revealed that an assistant city manager, Henry Schubert, was making more - altogether - than his boss, Norton Craig, the city manager.
Oh, they love the numbers - $171,593 in total compensation for Schubert; $170,946 for Craig - just as long as they are not made public. When that happens they blush, tug at their forelocks, stub their toes in the dust and demurely equivocate.
"But, but, but don't you see," they seem to be saying. They want it made clear that Craig's salary is (only) $145,600, just $3,400 less than the mayor Tampa is paid. Think of it, Pam Iorio has to run a city 5 times larger than Largo for just a few bucks more than Craig gets for running Largo, pop. 73,315.
No benefit events need be held for Craig. His total compensation is quite nice and he also collects a hefty pension check from the U.S. Army, has free medical care from the U.S. government as a retired Army officer (O-5), has PX privileges and commissary store privileges at MacDill Air Force Base (or any military installation, for that matter), has a pension from Tampa where he once worked and is collecting Social Security.
As to Schubert, the city wanted to make it plain that his actual salary was $42,985 less than his total compensation. In other words, he is paid $128,608 in salary.
But not to worry. Schubert's wife, Dorothy, works for the city, too, with a salary of $71,385. It is unknown what her total compensation is. Relax.
We do know that the Schubert family is being compensated to the tune - minimum - of $242,978 by Largo taxpayers. Not bad in a city where the median income is something like $40,500. The wolf is far from the Schuberts' door.
What is amazing is that no one on the City Commission prior to last November's election had any idea of this range of high compensation. The largesse goes down to lower jobs, as well as the top jobs.
It may well be that the word is out far and wide that Largo is the place to work.
How did it come to be? Questions are rocketing around the city - Why didn't the City Commission know? Why were the huge compensation packages kept under such tight wraps? Who okays raises in terms of actual numbers, not the vague percentage number?
And the guessing and talk now in the city is that the talk is going to get very heated as August 31 approaches.
That is when the City Commission has to resolve the impasse between the city and the International Association of Fire Fighters.
When the hearing was held before a special magistrate in June, the city - with the voice of Kim Adams (salary of $120,764) - pleaded poverty. No money, no money, no money.
You can bet the union will be quoting figures to the commission, most of whose members will be squirming, and especially Harriet Crozier (seeking another term after 17 years in office) and Woody Brown.
They think they need the endorsement of the firemen so they are both between a rock and a hard place.
In the meantime, there is a lot of squirming as well in City Hall over the compensation revelations.
The taxpayers, meanwhile, are twisting and snarling over the outrageousness of it all. They may be planning on a rumble-bumble.
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