INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Al Grieshaber, the just departed city manager, has gone from a hero to a bum, thanks to a series of stories in this newspaper which exposed apparent irregularities.
No other entity reported the irregularities. Anything reported about them henceforward will have been sourced on what appeared in this newspaper.
The irregularities were not acted on by city figures, even in the face of the reporting.
As late as three weeks ago, Commissioners Jim Palamara and Ed Piniero were heaping praise on Grieshaber. Palamara hailed Grieshaber as the "best city manager the city has ever had."
The City Commission (with one dissenter, Jose Coppen) even came up with a plaque, presented to Grieshaber by Mayor Bill Ockunzzi.
It said -
"Presented to Al Grieshaber, Jr. in recognition of his service and dedication as city manager for Indian Rocks Beach, February 15, 2006 to January 10, 2007."Keep in mind, that was prepared and presented in the light of the enormous amount of information that had been published about Grieshaber's activities.
A big turnaround came last week, January 23. The commission now paints Grieshaber with a black brush. Andy Salzman, the city lawyer who was responsible for the loose contract that gave Grieshaber opportunities, was instructed to find ways to get some of the money back that Grieshaber has skipped down the road with.
In the reporting of the biggest of that amount, the figure has been consistently incorrect. Only a few dollars off, the amount cited is $13,124.88.
The correct amount, taken from a copy of the actual check (in my possession) which lists Al Grieshaber Jr. as the payee and is also signed by "Al Grieshaber, Jr." (!), is $13,156.33.
An amusing note in this otherwise tragic rip-off of Indian Rocks Beach taxpayers is the performance of the mayor, Ockunzzi, in the light of what has come to light.
In the tradition of the famous Sgt. Schultz in "Hogan's Heroes," Ockunzzi has been whooping, "I know nothing. Nooooooothing!"
Ockunzzi, who has had the reputation since he was in office of being a guy who was on top of everything, watching closely the operations of his government, now has distanced himself considerably, apparently in light of what has been revealed and reported.
Ockunzzi, the micro manager par excellent, now does not want to "micromanage" and wants whatever needs to be done to be performed by others, notably the city's finance officer, Marty Schless.
Rising from the lethargy of blindness and self satisfaction (and maybe other characteristics) the City Commission last week denied Grieshaber the $4,000-plus he wanted in vacation pay, about $2,500 in over-awarded compensatory time, and, of course, the big boodle - $13,156.33 paid in "relocation" reimbursement.
Grieshaber last week hauled over from Sun 'n Lake where he is now employed (reports coming from there say that already Grieshaber has submitted expenses of $138 in gas tickets for five consecutive days which extrapolates to about 57 gallons at 15 miles a gallon, indicating 860 or so miles driven.)
He returned to IRB to defend his position last week and pointed out that the contract (again, partly written by and okayed by Salzman) allowed compensatory time at Grieshaber's discretion and liberal expense allowances.
Those allowances showed mileages of anywhere from 2,500 to about 5,000 miles a month (a month!) on the city vehicle Grieshaber used. IRB may be as much as three miles square, if you stretch a point.
What is so troubling to many IRB residents is the question of who was watching the store?
Ockunzzi disclaims any involvement, approval indeed, knowledge, of any of Grieshaber's activities.
Salzman is a lawyer. A lawyer's first duty is to protect the interests of his or her client. IRB is Salzman's client. Yet Salzman helped write and outright approved a contract that has unconscionable loopholes you could put the Queen Mary through.
And, according to a Grieshaber and evidenced by an e-mail (a copy is in my possession), Salzman approved the $13,156.33 payment to Grieshaber.
The story still has legs and there is more to come.
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