LARGO -- After the confusion cleared, Commissioner Mary Black wound up moving that her own bid for an investigation by the Largo City Commission of alleged irregularities in the March 1 election be postponed pending the results of a probe by the State Attorney's Office.
The postponement idea coincided with the recommendation from Alan Zimmet, the city attorney, who also suggested holding up on any commission action.
Zimmet, who is paid about $2,000 a week for his work as a part time city attorney, suggested in a March 11 memo to the mayor and commission that the commission take no action until a criminal investigation now in the hands of the State Attorney is finished.
This latest legal acrobatic act by Zimmet has left observers wondering why he persists in recommending that the City Commission avoid doing its duty.
When the reports of the illegal contributions by sitting commissioners to candidates in the March 1 election first broke, he used language emphasizing the word "wilful" in the portion of the City Charter forbidding such illegal acts.
Later, he proferred the idea in writing that, with such violations, the commission "may" remove from office the violators. The charter clearly says "shall," word that mandates the removal action.
Now the delay pending action of the State Attorney continues in the same vein. It is not necessary. The charter clearly states in Section 2.07(a)(2) that an election official who "violates any prohibition" listed in the charter shall be removed.
The commission itself can act on this as an administrative procedure and needs no substantive proof that might be gained from a criminal investigation.
In fact, many observers in the city hope that the commissioners now sitting who violated the charter -- Harriet Crozier and Pat Gerard -- do not suffer any criminal penalties.
All of Zimmet's legal tap dancing could be the perception by officials that Largo residents simply do not care, as reflected in the voter turnout, always low, but particularly so on March 1.
The challenge brought about by Commissioner Mary Black's urging that the commission take action, first enunciated March 2 and reiterated March 9, once again has been skirted, and many Largo residents wonder why the delay and when the obvious action will take place.
Many observers feel that there is no way that Crozier and Gerard can be given a clean bill of health and while there may be no great desire for convictions or criminal penalties to be levied, many wonder if Largo is to follow the rule of law or merely apply the rules on a favoritism, whimsical basis.
"If the charter is not obeyed in this instance, why should it be obeyed at all?" was one observation.
Of course, the makeup of the commission is crucial to the political balance of City Manager Steve Stanton and it appears that Zimmet is giving Stanton as much cover and protection as he can. He his wholly beholden to Stanton and no one else for that $103,000 a year contract for part time work (any extra work and litigation going to his law firm).
Retiring Commissioners Pat Burke, with more than eight years of service, and Charlie Harper, who served from April 2002 until this year, were recognized.
Another highlight of the meeting was the swearing in of Jeff Bullock as fire chief. A lifelong employee of the city, Bullock succeeds Caroll Williams.
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