By Leo Coughlin
We get mail; oh, yes, indeed, we get mail. A sampling -
"Recently you wrote about the huge compensation many Largo officials get. Then someone from the city wrote a letter to the editor saying it was not true. What is the real story?" - Dave Robinson
AH - The story was absolutely correct. The letter from a Largo employee (whose total compensation is $127,315, not bad for a personnel director) stressed that actual salaries are lower. All the extras come from a man in a red suit who comes down the chimney, apparently. Of course, taxpayers pay for ALL of it.
"Over the years, you have written that you were the man who kept Lou Piniella, who has just retired, in baseball. True?" - Fred Sutherland
AH - Of course. Piniella, a Tampa lad who takes the waters at nearby Treasure Island, has quit baseball, stepping down as Cubs manager. Years ago, as a rookie minor league ball player in spring training in Pensacola, he was at the point of giving it all up. Yours truly talked him out of it. He knows it but has never acknowledged it. Around Here may revisit the whole story soon.
"Please tell me that the pay figures you quoted are woefully inaccurate or perhaps made up! Please tell me it's not true that we're paying a librarian almost the same as the police chief or that a municipal golf course manager is paid over $70,000 a year." - Janet Moore
AH - Not inaccurate. Not made up. All true. Honest.
"Why do we have so many so-called 'cities' around here when they are really no more than villages?" - Pete Anderson
AH - Places like Belleair Beach, Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Shore truly are really villages, as you say. Somehow or other they got chartered as municipalities, the underlying reason being that they were really homeowner associations, but the power to tax eliminates all that dreary dunning people for dues. Also, they exist, as the late Chris DeMaio said, "to provide employment and benefits" for those they employ.
"Why do we read so many important stories about Largo in the Clearwater Gazette that never seem to appear in the daily newspaper?" - Grace Scuzzarella
AH - I have spent many hours of prayer and meditation, interrupted occasionally and briefly only for sleep and fletcherized snacks, on this question and am still stumped. Daily newspapers are dying out and the one here in Pinellas County seems to want to lead the way in this regard.
"It doesn't seem proper that the highest paid city employee in Largo, Henry Schubert, the assistant city manager, and his wife, also highly paid, are on the payroll. Isn't this nepotism?" - Frank Bernard.
AH - Frankly, we don't know the legal status in terms of nepotism in regard to this married couple. It would seem that an opinion from the Florida Attorney General would clear the air, but Largo officials refuse to take Schubert off the hook. City Manager Norton Craig and the city's legal officer, Alan Zimmet, insist that all is hunky-dory. Of course, the situation speaks for itself.
"Everybody in our neighborhood (in Largo) is outraged by the huge amount of money and benefits paid to Largo executives. This is incredible and what is even more incredible to us is that the City Commission knew nothing about it. If they did know, they are not putting any controls on to limit this kind of money being paid. It looks like Curtis Holmes has really woke the city up to what's going on." - Bill Davis
AH - The unearthing of the big compensation packages to the executive suite in Largo came as a surprise to us, too. The baker's dozen of the big bucks folks average $145,916 in salary and benefits. The real crusher comes later when taxpayers have to cough up what are going to be very big pension payments.
"You've got to be kidding. You mean to say that the city manager of Largo - a very small city - gets more than the mayor of Tampa, a big city, and St. Petersburg, about five times bigger than Largo? How could this have possibly come about unless City Commission members weren't watching the store?" - Chuck Grady
AH - Well, the commission over the years didn't get the nickname of "bobbleheads" for nothing. Whatever the administration threw on the table they lapped up greedily like cats starving for milk. The reputation that the administration ran the commission and made elected officials - representatives of the people - ineffective turned out to be true, it seems.
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