LARGO - With reasons piling up for Largo to create the post in the city hall of an independent internal auditor, waiting in the wings is a developing story that could literally "blow the socks off" the city administration, according to an inside source.
First off, as Curtis Holmes, the chief proponent of an independent internal auditor, says, "The public should know what this job is all about. It is not an auditor in the 'bean counter' sense."
An independent internal auditor, Holmes says, to take all the mystery out of it, would be hired by and report only to the commission and would ensure that commission policies were implemented and that all functions of the government were running in accord with the policies of the elected officials.
Over the years Largo has drifted away from strict adherence to commission policies and the power has devolved on the office of the city manager.
Holmes and other proponents have compiled a list of examples that illustrate this trend.
In the meantime, however, information has been developed that is surprising and borders on the shocking in its implications.
That information is currently undergoing thorough research and documentation and is expected to be reported on within a week or so.
Among recent dissatisfaction with the city manager was the construction of a fence along Central Park Drive going north from 8th Avenue.
The commission specifically told Stanton not to build the fence. It was done anyway.
When the charter commission met last year, Stanton put the city's lawyer, Alan Zimmet, who is paid $2,000-plus a week as base pay, in place as the group's legal counsel. Zimmet wound up being paid $18,000 - over and above his regular compensation - for this work.
Stanton took this action without the approval of the City Commission, although he has asserted to the contrary that the commission approved it.
It did not and, in fact, when the matter was discussed by commissioners in 2005, it was recommended that an outside lawyer be appointed to the job.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the administration, which is under the tight control of Stanton, by his own testimony, presented to the commission a party to run the food and drink (a liquor license is being sought) concession at the pepped-up city golf course.
It turned out that the city was dealing with and asking the commission to approve a contract with a non-existent corporation.
Just a week before, the commission was presented with the idea of contracting, for more than $300,000, with an outside grass cutting business.
At the same time, a similar proposal, to cut grass on three or four empty lots for $8,500 a year, was presented to the commission.
The administration said that thorough vetting of these proposed contracts with the vendor meeting in detail all requirements gave them the green light.
This contrasts with the golf course concession debacle that was a "rush job" similar to the "buddy-buddy" deal that created the coffee shop in the new library. That was a blatant example of cronyism.
Some wonder if there is a personal behind the scenes agenda in the case of the golf course concession. The pattern is the same as with the library coffee shop deal - that was rush, rush, gotta have it right now.
The annexation of the Sandpiper mobile home park appears to be slipshod. The actual owner of the property is now legally fighting the annexation, claiming that someone not the owner had agreed to the annexation.
Those seeking an independent internal auditor cite these as just a few examples of things that would not occur if an internal auditor were in place.
Holmes stresses that the auditor must be autonomous and independent, reporting and responsible only to the City Commission.
"Obviously," Holmes says, "If the internal auditor is not independent and comes under the city manager the idea would be absurd and pointless. The idea is that the administration needs to be checked on carrying out wishes of the elected officials. Power must be returned to the elected mayor and members of the commission."
Former mayor Bob Jackson says that the charter allows the commission to employ directly - emphasizing directly - any person or firm it thinks is necessary and beneficial for the citizens of Largo.
Years ago, Jackson pointed out, consultants like engineering firms and architects were answerable directly to the commission and in this way the mayor and commissioners participated in the selection process.
During this time, Jackson said, consultants reported directly to the commission. "Over the years, for unknown reasons, the duties of the elected body have been eroded, but the provisions of the charter allowing this has not changed."
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