LARGO – Questions still swirl around Largo’s election of two weeks ago although a new commission appears to have settled in and the air is cracklin with new plans for the city.
One puzzler is why Jean Halvorsen, running to keep the seat she had held for more than 20 years, was fined for being two days late in filing a campaign report when an examination of the time frame offers nothing but confusion.
Halvorsen missed the March 3 deadline. That was a Friday. When she showed up at City Hall Monday she was told she was being fined for two days tardiness, a total of $1,000.
That raises a couple of questions. First, there is the question of how late days are counted. City Hall was not open Saturday and Sunday and certainly cannot be counted as days against Halvorsen. At most, it would seem, Monday would constitute one late day. But if the weekend days are counted then that logically would be three days and a $1,500 fine.
The other question is what the proper amount of the fine is. Warren Andrews, a former mayor, was enmeshed in the tentacles of the City Hall bureaucracy on this very same issue several years ago.
Good citizen that she is, Halvorsen immediately wrote a check on March 6 for the demanded amount. That might have been a big mistake.
Then there is the case of Mayor Pat Gerard’s conflict of interest case committed when she was a commission member and voted last October on an issue that benefited her employer.
She was found guilty by the Florida Ethics Commission investigator but that person also recommended that there be no further action. The twists and turns in the Byzantine history of Gerard’s adventures with the Ethics Commission are as complicated as Kepler’s Third Law.
Called into question is the effectiveness of the Ethics Commission itself. Guilty but no further action strains credulity and if there is anything an outfit like the Ethics Commission needs it is credulity.
Then there is the suspicious timing in the sequence of events leading to the astounding recommendation by James H. Peterson III, the chief advocate of the commission, and supposedly a lawyer.
Curtis Holmes brought the ethics complaint against Gerard, charging a conflict of interest. There is no doubt of the conflict of interest, the commission’s Peterson made that clear.
She voted last October 18 on a matter that benefited her employer, Family Services, Inc. That was a clear cut violation of the law. She did so because Alan Zimmet, the city lawyer, said she could.
Zimmet, in his contact with Peterson, admitted that he was wrong.
So Gerard’s defense wound up with “my lawyer said it was okay.” Try that the next time you face a charge and are before a judge.
The Ethics Commission received Peterson’s recommendation on January 26. He signed and dated it, in his own hand, January 27.
The commission notified Holmes, the complainant, that a hearing would be held March 3, four days before the Largo city election. When Holmes received a copy of the commission’s agenda for March 3, the Gerard case was not listed.
Holmes inquired and was told that the matter had been postponed.
After Largo’s election was held, the county’s only daily newspaper, which prints selective news, carried a story saying Gerard was “cleared.”
In addition to that erroneous information, the story said that the matter had been decided March 3 and that Gerard had journeyed to Tallahassee for the hearing. Huh?
So the mystery towers over this city that is rife with nepotism, cronyism, conflicts of interest – the big mystery being why a finding of “probable cause” would indicate “no further action” and a mystery of lesser level why dates were juggled.
There are some theories on this. None is subject to proof at this time.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition