LARGO -- The Largo election has been decided, but the compositon of the City Commission is unsettled.
Mary Black swept to victory in the seat 1 commission race over Gigi Arntzen and Joshua Lindsey, compiling 1,277 to her opponents' 1,058 and 344, respectively.
Andrew Guyette captured seat 2 with 1,658 votes to Rodney Woods' 932.
Arntzen was seen as a clone of Commissioner Pat Burke who stepped down and her loss to Black, who was on the commission from 1974 to 1984 and from 1989 to 1991, is significant in regard to political power in Largo. Chiefly, it makes City Manager Steve Stanton's position less secure.
The seats now held by Pat Gerard and Harriet Crozier are in jeopardy. They violated Largo election laws with illegal contributions to candidates and by the terms of the City Charter, must be removed. There doesn't seem to be any way around the automatic operation of law that will put them off the commission.
The current investigation of their illegal campaign contributions and possible court action is extra baggage. Section 2.07 (a)(2) of the charter clearly states that they must lose their offices.
This is the language -- Sec. 2.07. Vacancies, forfeitures of office, filling of vacancies.
(a) . . . A member of the city commission shall be removed from office and forfeit same if said member:
(2) Violates any express prohibition of this charter.
If this provision of the charter is skirted or ignored, then the charter is meaningless, in the view of some expert observers, and in the future no one need pay any attention to the charter.
To have these two key commissioners removed could spell disaster for Stanton, the dictator of Largo. He relies on them, in part, to keep him in office. His other myrmidons were Commissioners Gay Gentry and Burke.
The lineup on the commission now finds Mayor Bob Jackson, Commissioners Black, Guyette and Jean Halvorsen less favorably disposed toward Stanton. Commissioner Gay Gentry will no doubt align with Stanton.
Gerard and Crozier, of course, cannot pass judgment on their own removal, so Stanton's position has changed radically.
Alan Zimmet, the city's $2,000 a week part time attorney, attempted to water down the charter language by saying the commission "may" remove those who violate Section 2.07(a)(2). The charter says "shall" which legally is a mandatory word.
Zimmet also tried to slickly minimize the illegal campaign contributions by Gerard and Crozier by emphasizing the word "wilful." Wilful is a word that legally means where a person acted on his or her own volition without coercion.
Gentry narrowly escaped illegality on the campaign contributions on the technicality that her husband signed the check, but she almost certainly knew about, favored it and encouraged the spousal contribution.
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