LARGO - A diligent citizen gave the members of the Largo City Commission a lesson in their own legislative policies at the commission's February 6 meeting.
Curtis Holmes dug out information on the relationship between the City Commission and the City Attorney and presented the commission with information last week that was a little startling.
The understanding has been that the City Attorney is under the jurisdiction of and works in conjunction with the city manager.
Not so, according to Legislative Policy 8-1 "City Attorney Guidelines" which some members of the commission were apparently not aware of.
The language of that legislative policy is very direct and unambiguous, although City Manager Steve Stanton mentioned that the policy was subject to interpretation, a view that obviously flies in the face of plain language.
At the outset of the Legislative Policies concerning the city attorney it says, "The City Attorney in serving at the pleasure of the City Commission shall:
"1. Act at the collective direction of the City Commission.
"2. Voluntarily advise the City Commission either individually or collectively on matters of which he/she or the City Manager has notice and for which either perceives a need for legal advice."
Five more directives follow, which obviously give the City Commission a greater role in the activities of the city's lawyer than now seems to be the case.
The lawyer routinely gives the status of much pending or settled legal business at meetings of the City Commission and appears to keep the commission informed.
But the notion that the commission had little or no role in overseeing the City Attorney has been pervasive. The revelations that Holmes brought before the commission totally upend that notion.
At last week's meeting City Manager Steve Stanton continued to wage his battle against the suggested independent internal auditor - an idea that was first put forward last summer and came from the public.
Commissioner Gigi Arntzen managed to get the subject moved to this week's work session and Stanton, appearing quite exercised at the notion that someone might check his work (the commission, although supposed to, doesn't), insisted on a final decision - an auditor totally independent working only under the commission, an auditor working with city staff, or city staff doing the auditing.
Stanton says the subject has become "disruptive" and read what he described as an "anonymous" e-mail as well as citing phone calls he receives at home that indicate public interest in city affairs. By "anonymous" he undoubtedly meant unsigned.
Apparently hearing from the public on what might be described as a "hot" issue is interpreted by Stanton as "disruptive" and he called the tactic "personal."
Mayor Pat Gerard, in high dudgeon, chimed in that "People who complain the loudest are not going to run the city." That left looks of dismay on most faces as minds struggled to comprehend what that outburst might have meant.
In the meantime, the county's only daily newspaper, in an editorial commenting on using the old PSTA property as a camping ground for the homeless, said that Gerard had mentioned "the idea to other Largo commissioners."
A search reveals that there is no evidence of that mention having happened at a commission meeting and observers wondered when and where the mention of a subject to fellow commissioners on a pending matter that might come before the commission took place.
Also intriguing on that subject, is that Gerard works for a an outfit that ameliorates social ills and is a prominent advocate of using public funds to help the homeless thus identifying close to the same conflict of interest that brought about an ethics complaint against her in 2005.
That complaint resulted in a finding of probable cause but no action was taken because she supposedly relied on legal advice.
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