LARGO - A major effort was made last week to sidetrack the proposed idea for an independent internal auditor that would serve the City Commission but the effort fell short and the idea is still alive.
In the understated but intense battle going on, one commissioner put forth the outrageously false idea that the establishment of such a position would require a charter change.
City Manager Steve Stanton is adamantly opposed to any such independent internal auditor because his operations would then come under scrutiny.
An item on the agenda December 19, to discuss having a consultant do a review of replacement in the city's fleet of vehicles, was designed to divert attention away from and substitute for the internal auditor.
During the discussion Commissioner Rodney Woods said that the temporary fleet review consultant is fine, but he urged that the independent internal auditor idea stay alive and be discussed later.
At this point Commissioner Harriet Crozier, whose husband obtained his city job after she was elected in a clear cut case of nepotism, stepped in and said that the idea is all well and fine, but "of course, it would require a charter change and a vote by the people."
Crozier couldn't be more wrong.
Section 2.09 of the City Charter clearly states "The City Commission shall also be empowered to appoint special consultants, including attorneys, architects and auditors when deemed advisable or necessary."
Crozier put forth her erroneous idea obviously in support of the embattled city manager (who operates with no supervision and with a totally free hand) and based her opinion on the fact that such a referendum was held in the past and was turned down.
The hope, obviously, is that the former event would be conflated with the current auditor idea and die before it saw the light of day.
Having an independent internal auditor is chiefly the idea of Curtis Holmes, a citizen who takes an active part in the city's affairs.
At citizen comments last week, he underscored the principle of the auditor idea.
Addressing the commissioners, he said, "You people were elected to represent us and my only goal is to have a good city that runs more effectively. And that is where an independent internal auditor comes in."
Holmes made the point that the commission only hears one version of any issue or proposal. "You only get one side of the story," he said, "the administration's version. It's sanitized, what the administration wants you to hear. As individuals you don't always have time to investigate or research a subject."
He then cited recent howlers brought forth by the administration trying to get commission approval like the crony deal on the restaurant at the rehabilitated golf course and a huge and questionable landscaping scheme.
The independent internal auditor idea will be discussed in May which gives Stanton time to muster new attacks against an idea that probably is inevitable. Why would not the City Commission do something to increase its power which has been severely and slowly eaten away at by a strong city manager?
Last week's meeting was preceded by a secret meeting of the commission with Alan Zimmet, the city lawyer, about the litigation going on between Pinellas Counties and 21 cities in the county.
No one has any idea to what extent Zimmet's legal bills have soared for a subject that appears to be dying anyway for lack of Legislature support.
The City Commission chambers, a scene never very far from the ludicrous, has taken on the quality of the late and unlamented "Gong Show" with the installation of a timing clock to make sure no citizen speaks one millisecond beyond his or her alloted time.
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