LARGO -- Commissioner Mary Black has been thwarted again and again in trying to get the Largo City Commission to enforce its own rules under the charter.
That obstruction has come from City Manager Steve Stanton and Alan Zimmet, the city attorney, who have found one way or another to slough off Black's requests.
The lastest frustration in her efforts has come from Zimmet, the part time employee who makes $2,000 a week. In a memo dated April 19 he listed 10 separate reasons that criticize the ordinance she proposes.
In most cities, the city attorney -- part time or not -- would perhaps be instrumental in helping an elected commissioner formulate a law.
But not in Largo. Zimmet, who relies on Stanton for his supersize $103,000-plus annual contract for part time work, is under the direct supervision of Stanton.
That members of the commission do not have legal counsel in the person of the city attorney has been bemoaned again and again by Mayor Bob Jackson.
That is why, in the forthcoming review of the city charter, it seems almost a sure bet that the city attorney will be placed under the jurisdiction of the City Commission, a protocol that exists in just about every other city in Pinellas County.
Zimmet's comments on the inadequacies of what Black was proposing have a goading put-down, sneering quality. What he did was rip her ideas to shreds, citing, with his lawyerly knowledge, reasons why her potential legislation failed.
Citing her reference to Chapter 120, which he commented, "I assume you are referring to Chapter 120, Florida Statutes," he brushed off with the "chapter applies solely to state agencies."
Another comment -- "What is meant by a legal ‘consultant?'"
The whole tone of Zimmet's comments are defeatist, almost telling Black in bald language that what she proposes is incompetent in the legal sense.
What is at stake in Largo, with all the dilatory tactics, foot dragging and reluctance to act with integrity, is whether the city will be run by the rule of law or by whimsy.
Three commissioners -- two of them still on the commission, Harriet Crozier and Patricia Gerard -- violated the city charter's prohibition on making contributions to political candidates.
It is clear within the charter itself what the remedy is. The charter clearly call for removal from office. That, so far, has been avoided.
There is also a provision for a criminal investigation. One has been held and the assistant state attorney conducting it found no legal reason to proceed, calling the violations "not willful," a judgment certainly open to argument.
Commisssioners said they had no knowledge of the provisions in the charter prohibiting contributions to candidates.
Then the minutes and video record of the June 22, 2004 meeting were unearthed and it was found that the violators had participated in a discussion of the very subject.
That exercise evidently fled the memory of the commissisoners questioned by Bob Lewis, the assistant state attorney. Either that or the miscreants are veracity challenged. A second investigation is being conducted.
Zimmet's role is to quash, if he can, any action against commissioners who Stanton needs to maintain his viability in keeping all power in Largo in his hands.
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