LARGO - Largo was a city of exploding news Tuesday - the end of the career of the city's fire chief and a City Commission meeting hours later that featured a shouting match and near pandenomium.
Chief Jeff Bullock resigned effective in three weeks after an investigation into a personal purchase by him of equipment for a pick up truck.
Allegations were that he acted wrongfully in using his position to make the purchase. That story had been out as a rumor and was confirmed after an investigation by Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert.
Another story making the rounds regarding Bullock was not mentioned by city officials after the resignation was announced.
But that news, startlingly as it was, and obviously incomplete (the general observation is that there is much more to that story), was mild to what happened later in the day.
That could have been labled "Explosion at City Hall."
What set off the fireworks at the commission meeting was the agenda item - "Review of City Attorney Performance and Compensation."
To cut to the chase on that - nothing happened on the subject matter itself. Because of the tinkering the state Legislature is doing with the tax structure, the question on the city's lawyer has been put off to August.
What did happen was collateral to the main question.
Commissioner Gay Gentry wanted to wait on any raise (4 percent that would bring the compensation to $113,000 or so annually).
Commissioner Mary Black was a little more emphatic - she read a prepared statement that included charges of the city Charter being violated. "I can't support a raise," Black said.
Commissioner Andy Guyette joined that chorus. No support for a raise and . . . furthermore, Guyette wanted an investigation - one, he said, that includes Alan Zimmet, the City Attorney.
In moments, pandemonium broke out. Mayor Pat Gerard, trying to protect Zimmet and all that might be at stake, tried to shut Black up. Black wasn't having any of that. Gerard gaveled the meeting into a recess.
Gerard and Zimmet left the dais, Commissioner Rodney Woods stumbling after them. The remainder of the commission kept their seats.
In the final comments at the end of the meeting, Black asked Gerard, "Why did you interrupt me?"
Gerard's terse reply was that she would do so anytime Black was abrasive.
Largo citizens await the rematch of these two.
There is something amiss in Largo. It is now starting to surface and erupt, like an overripe boil.
The corruption that has so long percolated under the surface in the city erupted Tuesday, set off, as such things very often are, not by any proximate happening, but by the pent up feelings and frustration of a long seething situation.
There is a history of cronyism, nepotism, self dealing, conflict of interest - bits and pieces of all of that going back a way.
But you go back to the outing and downfall of Steve Stanton, the former city manager, who was fired because he brought about a situation that made city function unworkable, and you have the fuse that set off the dynamite explosions now rippling through the city.
Some think the city is rotten to the core, and their opinings may be very close to the mark.
A city and its employees that have known a personality as a man for 17 years just does not blithely accept with equanimity that same person now transformed into a woman. That kind of perversity and deviancy does not go down easily.
That is what happened and no doubt has created a lot of anger.
As to Bullock, there had been rumblings that something was going on with Bullock.
But city hall was silent as to any details.
On Monday, April 23, Acting City Manager Mac Craig was queried -
"Mac - Do you expect to be making any announcement on the situation with Chief Bullock any time soon?"
Craig responded the same day, "I have Assistant City Manager Schubert and the Human Resources Department conducting some interviews and they very likely will not have a response to me until the end of the week or the first of next week depending on the availability of the persons to be interviewed."
At no time was the nature or details of the inquiries or investigation with Bullock divulged.
Rumors were going around the city, but no hard evidence emerged to support these stories.
Because the implications might have involved some possible serious aspects, the Gazette reported nothing, out of fairness to Bullock and to avoid any possibility of defamation.
Last Wednesday, Craig was asked this -
"What is the status of Chief Jeff Bullock? Still on the job? Suspended pending investigation? City alone doing investigation or has sheriff been brought in?"
This brought the response from city hall that Craig was on jury duty.
On Monday, Craig caught up with his e-mails and responded in this way -
"Sorry I am just getting to older e-mails. Chief Bullock is at work and has been except for a day of vacation last Thursday. There is an investigation ongoing but it is incomplete at this time. It is a city investigation being conducted by Human Resources. The Sheriff's Office is not involved. It is not a criminal investigation."
Craig neglected to say in this e-mail sent to me Monday that Bullock had resigned the day before.
Bullock became fire chief in March, 2005, succeeding Caroll Williams in a promotion that took place within the ranks.
What was surprising - even curious about Bullock's appointment - was that on a Friday, Steve Stanton, then the city manager, said that he would launch a nationwide search to find a successor to Williams.
In a big surprise the following Monday, Stanton announced that his choice for the job was Bullock.
It seemed strange at the time, but subsequent events might give some clues.