LARGO - Does the city of Largo have any debt?
Don't ask Mayor Pat Gerard. She doesn't have the slightest idea.
As demonstrated last week when a citizen raised this question to the ditzy mayor who can't even preside over City Commission meetings without having a fit of the giggles.
But City Manager Steve Stanton knows.
He verbally slapped this impertinent questioner down with these words - "There is no general obligation debt. Nothing. Zero. Nada."
The words were snapped off with whiplike urgency, betokening pride and annoyance that any citizen would dare ask such a presumptuous question.
But the real highlight of last week's meeting in the troubled city, beset with veiled accusations of wrongdoing and long riddled with the problems of nepotism, cronyism and conflicts of interest, was the accusation made by another citizen, Curtis Holmes.
Holmes rides the watchdog patrol in the city and not much escapes his penetrating gaze.
At citizen comments (often the most telling part of a Largo commission meeting) January 16, he observed that the charges intimated by the fired Patrick Bennett are brushed off as most whistle blowers are - as "disgruntled employees."
Then Holmes went on to remind the audience of the crackdown by Medicare and Medicaid some years ago on physicians who had set up branch labs and services that were on referral and turned out to be referral to themselves.
This self-serving conduct was clamped down.
Holmes related that stuff to what goes on in city hall relative to the city attorney, Alan Zimmet, who is paid more than $2,000 a week for part time work.
While Holmes urged an investigation by the commission ("you have the power to do it") into the Bennett affair saying, "You should look into it and I think it may be worth your while," his real target was Zimmet and the lawyer's activities.
He drew a parallel between Zimmet and the doctors' conduct. "All legal work in the city is referred by Mister Zimmet to his own law firm."
While an attempt is being made to paw through mountains of documents relating to Zimmet and his billing to the city, estimates are that Zimmet & Co. take upwards of a million dollars a year out of the city.
In the meantime, city spenders are planning to construct a $1.8 million entrance to Central Park off East Bay Drive once the old library is razed.
There are plans to put some grandiose monument to Martin Luther King there, too, it is said, although the commission allocated a maximum of $15,000 to the King business some years ago with the idea that anything extra would come from private subscription.
Speaking of King, a celebration was held on his birthday with about 100 people in attendance. The Big Paper covered it as though the cure for cancer had been discovered. In contrast, when a Halloween celebration attracted 30,000 citizens in Largo, there was not a line in la newspaper large.
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