BELLEAIR BEACH -- The highly paid assistant to the mayor came under strong attack from Presiding Officer Lynn Rives at Monday night's City Council meeting, that also heard a strong accusation against a police officer by a citizen.
Tina Skaggs, who reputedly "runs" the city in Mayor Mike Kelly's absence, says that some of her duties are not being carried out even though she is being paid for them.
The criticism, in which Rives made no attempt to hide his concern, could spell the knell for Skaggs when a new city manager comes in next March and hopefully brings some efficiency to a city that now is in disarray.
Kelly was not present at Monday night's meeting.
The meeting began with unsuccessful attempts by two councilmembers to suppress two different items on the agenda.
For those in attendance who had the sense that the wheels were coming off in the administration of the city that idea was ratified by the "hot" items that unfolded at the meeting.
Councilmember Donna Durante did not want fellow member Bert Cutler to give a report on the cost of police services and possible alternatives that he undertook on his own initiative in a move to save money.
Marvin Behm, another member, did not want a newscast video of some years ago shown that destroyed Police Chief Ernie Armistead's claim to educational credentials. Behm suggested, in blatant contravention of the Sunshine Law, that the video, which was broadcast some years ago, should be reviewed privately by the City Council before it was publicly shown at the city hall. (Figure the logic of that out.)
If that wasn't enough, there was a sharp exchange between Behm, who apparently has been out of touch with developments that are part of the public record, and members of the audience.
Rives said that in the process of interviewing candidates for the city manager position, he said all of them said they could not access the city's web site when they sought information on their possible employer.
"The web site is always down," Rives said. "We have an employee who is supposed to take care of it and it is not being done."
Rives said that he had payroll records showing that Skaggs was coming into the office on Saturday and Sunday to work on the web site. "Yet," he said, "the job is not being done," leaving a question as to the possible validity of the weekend time sheets.
Councilmember Bert Cutler pointed out that Skaggs was given her special position and a big raise by the council when the matter of whom she worked for came up.
"She is 40 percent legislative (Council)," Cutler said.
Because the city treasurer, Myrna Reynolds, has been sick, Skaggs was supposed to be filling in, Rives said. "But," he said, "when it was found she was not filling in it turned out she was working on a jazz festival."
The jazz festival, scheduled December 4, Rives said, was a project by the YMCA. He raised the question of why a city employee was working on anything for a private organization. The city gives about $20,000 of taxpayer funds each year to the YMCA which is very questionable.
The reason Durante wanted to shut up Cutler on the matter of police services is because he had figures that showed the city could save up to $300,000 a year under an arrangement with the Sheriff's Office.
Behm didn't want the video shown that questioned Armistead's credentials -- a story that has been done on TV and has been exposed in the Clearwater Gazette & Beach Views twice over the past eight years.
Armistead claimed to have a bachelor's degree, gained in four months, from a so-called college in Louisiana that was certifiedly not accredited by any agency in the United States, according to Louisiana officials. Most colleges require three or four years of academic work to attain a degree.
A citizen, Buck Owens, said that Sgt. Michael Coleman of the police department, who is a stock car owner/driver, solicits citizens for contributions while in uniform and using a police car.
Coleman's soliciting has been going on for years. A few years ago, when questioned about the practice of his top officer, Armistead brushed it off with that Coleman was entitled to do what he wanted on his own time. Apparently, Coleman stays in uniform and uses a Belleair Beach police car when not on duty.
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