LARGO – The Florida Elections Commission approved on May 26 a $350 fine to be levied on Mayor Pat Gerard of Largo for violations stemming from the March 7 election.
Complaints were filed by Gerard’s opponent in the election, Bob Jackson.
Gerard has been the object of complaints and accusations beginning with alleged violations in the 2005 Largo city election. Up to now she has gotten away with her actions.
She was accused of an ethics violation as result of her conflict of interest proposing and voting in favor of allowing her employer to use the old library building.
In the case of the 2005 violations, the State Attorney decided not to pursue action despite two investigations and apparently bought Gerard’s story that she did not know about the laws she allegedly violated.
The conflict of interest ethics violation ended with the investigation showing that there was probable cause for the complaint against her but the recommendation was, mysteriously, that no further action be taken.
Of course, the disposition of the conflict of interest case has made the Ethics Commission the laughing stock of the state.
Jackson alleged election violations that he had been defamed by Gerard in a brochure she issued, that she failed to insert the word “for” between her name and the office she was running for making it appear that she already held the office, that she failed to list a required disclaimer in her literature, and that she took a $200 cash donation in violation of the election law.
The Ethics Commission acted on the failure to use the word “for” and disclaimer accusations.
Gerard signed a consent order on March 13. The commission accepted the adjudication of the complaint on May 5 and made its action final on May 26.
Still pending, apparently, is the alleged acceptance by Gerard of a $200 cash donation.
In other developments in Largo, June Dehart and JoAnne King signed an opinion directed to the City Commission that the Community Center relocate its activities to the old library building.
Dehart is acting president of the Largo Senior Advisory Board and King is secretary of the group.
There has been strong sentiment on the other side of the questions with some residents strongly in favor of retaining the Community Center as it is.
The commission is scheduled to take up further use of the old library building at its meeting next Tuesday.
While there is a feeling in the city that there has been a fait accompli in the use of the old library building, that is, that it be used as an art center and multi-generational center, the commission has never directly voted on that.
It seems that back door entry, a method that may become more widespread in Largo in the future, has been used in discussing the former library’s use.
A committee made up of many residents who don’t live in Largo and which met in Dunedin has pushed the idea of an arts center, which has also been the hobby horse of Gerard. But the commission has yet to give a definitive vote on the actual question.
Use of the library remains a hot question in the city with a strong sentiment among some who are users of the Community Center that activities remain there.
But the city administration is bent on a course of developing the area where the Community Center is located with at least one high-rise building already on the drawing board.
The city has bought up property in the area, including paying a price way above market for one property.
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