LARGO -- A memo that surfaced at City Hall last week bolstered the idea of the tight control City Manager Steve Stanton holds over all activities in the city of Largo.
Addressed to the mayor and commission, the memo says that a certain law firm has been retained by Wal-Mart and that the firm has requested that invididual meetings with the mayor and commissioners be arranged.
The purpose of these meetings the memo said was so that the law firm could communicate their client's concern in regard to a certain city ordinance.
"In reviewing this request with the city attorney, it is our joint recommendation that individual city commissioners do not agree to invididually meet with lawyers representing any individual developers regarding their concerns or objections to the proposed ordinance."
Stanton was referring to his joint decision with Alan Zimmett, the part time but highly paid ($103,000) city attorney who is under his direct control.
In fact, all employees of the city are under Stanton's sole control. The mayor and commissisoners have virtually no power. The only thing they do is vote up or down on proposals brought to them by the city manager.
By suggesting that elected officials meet only with parties approved by him, Stanton exercises even further control over those people whom the voters choose to run the city.
There is an "out" in the memo. If any member of the commission insists on meeting with lawyers from Wal-Mart, Stanton urged that they agree that Tammi Bach, assistant city attorney, and Carol Stricklin, assistant community development director, be in attendance.
Obviously, Stanton does not want any individual commissioner getting any information on which he is not fully apprised. Both Bach and Stricklin work for Stanton.
Stanton takes the position that he is responsible for everthing that goes on in the city. He says he is responsible for "outcomes."
"That's a responsiblity most people think of being lodged in a power much higher than a city manager," one observer noted.
Stanton's strictures on information gathering by elected officials hampers the duties of those elected officials to gather information in the pursuit of making laws, renders them as mental cripples unable to distinguish properly what information they are being given and is tantamount to a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Another aspect of the tight lid kept on any information in city hall was the letter from Thomas M. Gonzalez spelling out the extent of the shroud of secrecy thrown over the mystery accusations made against a former commissioner, Charlie Harper.
Stanton imposed a tight lid on any information regarding that case, saying that the secrecy extended even to commission members and that they had not been informed.
That was belied by one commissioner who perkily spoke up a couple of weeks ago and said, "I know what it is all about, but I can't discuss it." At least one other commissioner made comments indicating knowledge of the case.
Gonzalez in his letter said that the commission was indeed entitled to the information and that the secrecy provisions of Florida Statute 119.07 apply only to public disclosure.
In other words, those who pay the bills are not entitled to know what is going on at city hall.
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