LARGO -- It's too bad John Hubbard didn't know about Largo City Commission Resolution Number 1302.
Commissioner Mary Black knew about it, though.
Nevertheless, the commission violated its own rules Tueday night and approved a four percent raise for the city manager, by a final 4-3 vote.
The action further demonstrated the complete disarray the city is in -- tied up in knots of inconsistency with a faction on the commission, the "Stanton gang" -- Commissioners Pat Gerard, Harriet Crozier and Gay Gentry -- violating the city's legislative and policies manual.
In other action, with the budget facing cuts, commissioners turned down the idea of giving themselves a raise. Gerard bit off her words in bitterness in saying she would not support it, betraying her disappointment that taxes will be reduced.
Gerard wants Largo taxpayers to pay more so that programs the city cannot afford can be supported and furthered.
Once again, Black has demonstrated that she knows the rules, leaving most of her fellow commissioners, city manager and lawyers in the dust.
On August 16, the City Commission, by a 4-3 margin, voted a 4 percent raise for Steve Stanton, the city manager, on the motion of Commissioner Gay Gentry.
Gentry spouts off all kinds of knowledge and information about Thomas Jefferson and other ancients, but obviously has scant knowledge of the city she is supposedly serving and currently collecting $1,022.26 (which is more than some Largo Social Security recipients are getting) each month for said service.
This action led to the information set forth by Black and Mayor Bob Jackson that five votes were needed to grant the city manager a raise.
The contorversy brought Hubbard, a well respected municipal lawyer in Pinellas County, into the picture. He was requested to do the onerous task of interpreting Largo law, a job King Solomon in his wisdom would turn down.
Hubbard rendered a decision that seemed to uphold the 4-3 vote although his written seven-page opinion was contradictory in places and he cautioned that it was only "advisory," meaning that it had no legal force and effect.
Of course. Only courts can give legal opinions, and unlike the learned Hubbard courts never give "advisory" opinions.
Enter Resolution 1302, dated October 18, 1988.
This is what it says specifically in paragraph 3 --
"3. At a regular Commission meeting scheduled on or before September 1 of each succeeding year and based upon the evaluations submitted, the City Commission shall collectively and by a vote of not less than five of its members, evaluate the City Manager's performance during the predecing year and fix his compensation accordingly." (Emphasis added.)The resolution further instructed that the legislative policies and procedures manual of the city be amended accordingly.
Following the August 16 brouhaha over the raise issue, Stanton said that if he didn't get the raise he would be gone.
He would be invoking, presumably, a provision of his contract that allows him to walk with about $150,000 in benefits if he fails to get a raise equal to or more than executive management.
Technically, it seems, he could not invoke that provision until the final city budget passes which contains raises for executive management.
The issue was scheduled to come to a head at Tuesday's commission meeting because on the agenda was an item approving the 4 percent raise for Stanton.
A memo on the item was prepared by Alan Zimmet, the city attorney, who said he was aware of Resolution 1302. Apparently city resolutions and the city's legislative and policy manual is meaningless to Zimmet, the part time city lawyer who collects more than $2,000 a week.
Also approved was a $3,755 expenditure for the participation of Jackson, Gentry, Halvorsen and Crozier in the Florida League of Cities annual orgy, this time held in Orlando last month.
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