LARGO - With all the hullabaloo and attempts to cloud the real issue, tomorrow's special meeting of the Largo City Commission to fire City Manager Steve Stanton will follow a pre-ordained script.
Stanton's fate was sealed by a commission vote, 5-2, to dismiss him on February 27.
Added unnecessary procedure called for in the city Charter merely prolongs the descending of the guillotine blade.
The five votes calling for dismissal on February 27 from Commissioners Mary Black, Andy Guyette, Harriet Crozier, Gigi Arntzen and Gay Gentry were as solid as the rock of Gibraltar on the eve of the final vote tomorrow.
He will be fired and then may sue on some civil rights grounds to keep his job. It is doubtful that he would prevail.
Stanton asked for and was granted three hours to lay out his case which centers around his choice to have an operation that will turn him into a female.
The issue, and only issue, for the commission which can fire the city manager for any reason, for cause or for no cause, is stated simply in Resolution No. 1927 thusly -
"The City Commission of Largo pursuant to Section 3.02(3) of the City Charter and Section 3A of the Employment Agreement finds it to be in the best interest of the residents of the City of Largo to terminate the Employment Agreement City of Largo, State of Florida, a municipal corporation, and City Manager Steven B. Stanton, signed and executed October 10, 2003, as amended September 6, 2005, and as amended September 5, 2006."
The key words - "finds it to be in the best interest. . ." - are central.
Stanton's adherents have turned the whole thing into a circus with the local daily newspaper acting as advocate and publicist to argue and extol the merits of alternative lifestyles, homosexuality, cross-dressing, trans-gender, transsexual and any other bizarre twist you can think of.
The Big Paper, along with homosexual groups are trying to make the issue before the commission about sex or gender.
Stanton is being terminated based on the narrow "best interests" of the city issue.
Wisely enough, the commissioners who vote know the real issue and that the rest of the hoopla is just that - hoopla, for ways that are not acceptable to the overwhelming majority of citizens.
And the five votes are solid so Stanton's dog and pony show justifying a bizarre lifestyle is basically a waste of time. A survey of commissioners reveal that they have no interest in being educated on the subject of transgendering.
In the meantime, a whirlpool of issues surround the main event.
Among them was the "eight-point plan" Stanton whooped about at the February 27 meeting. When a request to city hall was made for a copy of the plan, I was told "we do not have it in our possession."
A strange response because obviously the document is a public record. It was created by a group that included public officials paid by Largo taxpayers and concerned city business.
In on the creation of that plan was Stanton himself, Mayor Pat Gerard, Susan Sinz, the city's Human Resources director, Lester Aradi, the police chief, Jeff Bullock, the fire chief.
One leading Largo citizen who asked not to be identified for obvious reasons urged that all the Largo officials be summarily fired.
Others in the group included Eric Gerard, Pat Gerard's husband, Pat Burke, a former commissioner and confidante of Stanton, and Howard Ritchie, Burke's friend.
Because requests for the document were stonewalled, there is a suggestion that Stanton has concealed a public document, contrary to law.
A leading legal figure, knowledgeable in municipal and government law, said that "failure to produce the actual requested document for the commission is insubordination."
Another prominent citizen has attached the label liar to Stanton. "He stated repeatedly that if even four commissioners voted against him he'd resign. He didn't. He said (February 27) that he would never sue the city, 'it would be like suing my mother.' Now he has a lawyer, obviously for one reason only."
The Florida Family Association joined in the chorus and circus surrounding events in Largo and noted that transgenders and homosexual activists from across the nation bombarded Largo commissioners with e-mails trying to change their votes.
In the meantime, Stanton apparently enjoyed the spotlight with TV and radio and magazine interviews.
Tomorrow's meeting to fire Stanton could be prolonged. Some officials were expecting up to 3,000 people to be at the Largo city hall.
Under the rules, the public will be allowed to speak with no limit on the number and no restrictions on residency.
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