LARGO -- Alan Zimmet, the Largo city attorney who freely interprets the city charter depending on the exigency of the moment, carefully guided the new Charter Review Committee through its initial meeting June 15.
Some of the two-hour meeting was taken up with meandering or non-pertinent questions by one member of the committee, J.B. Butler, who seemed to dominate the discussion.
The Rev. Arnold Johnson was chosen by the members as chairman with Howard Smith as vice chairman.
Going into the exercise of choosing the committee, Zimmet made a ruling based on his interpretation of the charter that allowed present members of other city boards to serve on this committee contrary to the provisions of the present charter.
The present charter was also ignored, by the members of the City Commission, in the violation by two commission members of provisions of the charter relating to elections.
In that case also Zimmet opined that the charter provisions in question were unconstitutional, a notion perhaps accepted by City Commission members who probably are not fully aware that only courts, not mere lawyers, can make such pronouncements on the law.
So it was hard to escape the irony when Zimmet intoned that the charter is the city's "most important law."
As it is, something like eight members of the Charter Review Committee are already members of other city boards. Most of them are elderly which makes the group reviewing the chater a cozy group of insiders, including one member, Shirley Craig, who is the wife of an assistant city manager.
One observer said in the quaint language of the observing public, "That don't look right."
Right or wrong, the review committee is launched on its work that will cover the time from now until November. They agreed to meet on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, but this idea seemed to expand to perhaps first and third Wednesdays as well when Zimmet suggested holding public hearings for interest groups in the city.
At one point, the question arose of how much diligent attention was being given as the ground work was laid out. After Steve Ross, an assistant city manager, carefully explained that the meetings would not be televised live, but would be taped and re-run on Channel 15, one member brightly asked, "So it is my understanding that the meetings will be televised live?"
Ross carefully reiterated the plan.
The meetings will be held at the training center which is located just within the entrance of the city's Thomas D. Feaster complex if one were making one's way to the police station.
Under the original plan of meeting the second and fourth meetings of the month, and a restriction requested by Butler that such meetings end at 8:30 p.m., thus allowing 2 ? hours for discussion, the committee would compile in the nine weeks ahead only 22.5 meeting hours, or less than three full working days.
That does not disturb many observers who, noting the makeup of the committee and the clubby way in which it was chosen and the lack of any enforcement of the current charter, regard the whole exercise as one mostly of form and little of substance.
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