INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Two incumbent members of the Indian Rocks Beach City Commission, which is under heavy fire because of the Grieshaber affair, will face challenges in the March 13 election.
The election, which might possibly bring about a change in the makeup of the commission, could be the awakening from apathy in the light of what has been learned recently in the city.
Foremost among the problems is the extra-contractual payments made to Al Grieshaber, the just departed city manager, who walked away with more than $13,000 based, apparently, on an unusual affidavit he filed with the city.
Blame is being handled like a hot potato among elected officials and the city's lawyer, all of whom - with the exception of Commissioner Jose Coppen - are ducking, bobbing and weaving. In one case the finger of blame has been pointed at an appointed city functionary who was probably intimidated and used.
Terry Hamilton-Wollin, who has been on the Planning and Zoning Board, and Bert Valery, a well known figure in the city, are challenging incumbents Jim Palamara and Ed Piniero.
Palamara and Piniero are like two of the three well known figures in the triptych of "say no evil, see no evil, hear no evil." In short, they know from nothing about Grieshaber's shenanigans and remained blind to the problems even after they were brought to public attention.
Apparently the theory of strict liability for those with a fiduciary duty does not have any application in Indian Rocks Beach.
Victor Wood exemplifies that portion of the citizenry up in arms over what has been called the wrongful payments to Grieshaber. The whole scenario raises many questions.
Wood has called for an investigation and has urged that some elected officials step down.
At the end of December, Coppen asked for a special meeting of the commission to look into the Grieshaber affair, but his colleagues turned him down.
Amazingly, the seeming irregularities involving Grieshaber took place under the nose of Andy Salzman, the city attorney, but he never got a whiff of anything, he says.
Salzman said on January 12 that "documentation provided by Al Grieshaber is insufficient, which is why this issue has not been resolved."
Yet, a ludicrous affidavit submitted by Griehaber, that was legally insufficient in so many respects so as to render it a nullity, seemed to have passed muster with Salzman, the city official who, in respect to documents involving the city, "shall endorse on each his approval of the form and correctness thereof."
The fact is that Grieshaber got a check for $13,156.33 last August contrary to the provisions of his employment contract, but Salzman now claims apparently that he did not know about this until recent days.
Salzman also said on January 12 that "Grieshaber has been informed on numerous occasions and again last week that his submitted documentation is insufficient. This issue is unresolved at this time."
In view of the fact that Grieshaber has already pocketed a lot of IRB taxpayers' money the situation may be quite resolved in his mind.
While Salzman has said that documentation provided by Grieshaber is insufficient, the question is how did this get by city officials (including Salzman because it is among his duties that "He shall prepare all instruments in writing in which the city is concerned and shall endorse on each his approval of the form and correctness thereof").
So Grieshaber walked away with $13,156.33, billed the city for about 500 compensatory time hours (usually, an employee who is a supervisor or executive does not get paid overtime and compensatory time is accorded in lieu of overtime), ran up anywhere from more than 2,000 to almost 5,000 a month on a city vehicle, and expected to be paid $4,675.54 for untaken vacation time. Many are calling it a rip off and they are not disputed.
The check for the putatory moving expenses (there is ample doubt that Grieshaber ever moved a household to the area) is dated August 17, 2006, and Salzman indicates he had no knowledge of this until the time of Grieshaber's departure from the city when the question of possible irregularities arose.
It would seem that Salzman was either lax in pursuing his duties or was kept in the dark as to what was going on.
And while there has been an apparent attempt to point the finger of blame at the finance officer, Marty Schless, this seems to be a diversion to keep the blame from landing on another likely doorstep.
Salzman's activities have given rise to questions recently. He is listed as a member of the board of directors on a bank that proposed to do business with the city of Indian Rocks Beach, and in all the turmoil over the manufactured "confusion" over the Villa Rosa project and Whitehurst Street that part of his duties relating to preparing "all instruments in writing in which the city is concerned" seems to have been taken over by the mayor, Bill Ockunzzi, witness the minutes of the November 28 commission meetings.
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