LARGO -- No, Mayor Bob Jackson is not after City Manager Steve Stanton's scalp. The speculation that ricocheted through the city Tuesday in the wake of what really stacked up as a "non-story" in the county's only daily newspaper was clarified by Jackson.
"Seeking to get rid of Stanton? No," Jackson said, "not so much ‘get' but just looking at the situation."
The situation is the yawing struggle between a city manager who wants first class people, equipment, techniques and all against a mayor who is very conscious of cost and how that bears on the least of us -- that is, those who are struggling and face higher taxes and fees in the city.
"Wouldn't it be great if the mayor and commissioners could get in a room privately with Stanton and lay out some concerns and incipient fears and just lay all the cards on the table," Jackson was asked.
"Can't be done," he said.
Florida's peculiar Sunshine Law, in the interest of supposed "totally open government," is an impediment to elected officials efficiently getting the job done.
Jackson has some complaints with Stanton and that is why he has said that he is backing off his previous endorsement of giving the city manager a three percent raise (that would bring Stanton to about $125,000 a year).
Jackson gave Stanton relatively high marks in the evaluation review as did most of the other commissioners. The most critical review was submitted by Commissioner Charlie Harper whose criticisms nevertheless find Stanton's work satisfactory.
The mayor cites as an example of not being listened to or not being on the same page with Stanton his suggestion in May that there be a hiring freeze in city employment.
"That was ignored," Jackson said.
He went on to say, "Too often, when there are questions from the commission on staff proposals the answers forthcoming are not sufficient. It seems like there is not thorough prepartion."
Jackson cited the recent proposal that the city handle and process waste from Oldsmar and Safety Harbor.
"The outlines were there," Jackson said, "But when we questioned on details, key information was lacking."
Jackson also did not like the idea proposed to borrow money to fund the purchase of the police department's $5 million project for computers. The commission found another way to finance it.
Another unwise approach cited by Jackson was the proposal to spend $360,000 for a second elevator in the police headquarters.
"The stairways are outside and because of that the one elevator now gets excessive use," Jackson said. "Rather than spend $360,000 for another elevator, I suggested spending $100,000 for an inside stairway."
Jackson generally feels there is an extravagance in spending philosophy that neither the city nor him can support.
He said that he was emphasizing earlier in the year with Stanton to keep expenses down, he said, "when I came back from vacation it was a slap in the face to discover we were facing a one mill tax increase."
At the same time, he is not willing to go to the mat to deny Stanton a raise. "I know I am one of seven. That is okay with me," he said.
Stanton's record in the city over the past dozen years or so is replete with success. Much progess has been made in the city. The fire department is top notch. A police department once plagued with all kinds of problems is now a crackerjack outfit under Lester Aradi.
As one observer close to the situation said, "Better the city manager we have than thinking of getting one we don't know at all."
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