LARGO - The exercise of "vox populi" now comes on the Largo scene and was exercised at Tuesday's City Commission meeting.
The "voice of the people" is the ultimate theory of our government at all levels, top to bottom, and when the people speak, the authorities do well to listen (to which Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who became headless, would attest).
There are those among the humble population of Largo who want to see heads roll, too, and to that end (but not really to that extreme) have brought specific claims against city officials.
A petition was submitted at the meeting Tuesday by a citizen, Curtis Holmes, who passed it to Diane Bruner, the city clerk, with multiple copies for distribution to the mayor and commissioners.
The petition has but one prayer, as the expression goes, and it is this: "We the undersigned hereby request that the Largo City Commission launch an immediate investigation of the violations of the city Charter, and other rules of government, as outlined in this petition handed to the city clerk this First day of May, 2007."
What has spurred the action is the activities surrounding the hullabaloo over the "outing" of City Manager Steve Stanton's plans to change his gender from male to female.
Apparently there was a lot of preparation by Stanton in his plan into which he drew some key elected officials along with other high ranking staff workers in the city.
The petition sets forth some basic predications for the action it seeks. It cites Section 2.06 of the city Charter which lists general powers and duties of the commission.
That section says - "The mayor or a city commissioner shall report to the city commission all violations or neglect of duty or any misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance in office, or improper conduct on the part of any elected or appointed officials that may come to his or her knowledge."
The petition points out that the City Commission is empowered to make investigations into the affairs of the city and "conduct of any department or office, and for this purpose may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and require the production of evidence."
That is serious stuff because city law says that anyone who refuses or fails to obey commission injunctions in regard to these powers "shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and punishable" by a fine and jailing.
These are the individuals who the petition names as objects of an investigation in accordance with Section 2.06 of the Charter
Mayor Pat Gerard; Commissioner Gay Gentry; Steve Stanton, former city manager; Alan Zimmet, city attorney; Fire Chief Jeff Bullock; Police Chief Lester Aradi; Susan Sinz, director of Human Resources; Patricia Burke, former city commissioner.
Some observers point out that any such investigation might lack jurisdiction over Stanton and Burke, each of whom no longer have any connection with the city.
"The investigation," the petition says, "is requested for violations of misconduct by various city officials, malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance by various city officials, and conspiracy by various city officials."
The petition cites Gerard, Gentry, Bullock, Aradi, Zimmet and Sinz of all being well aware, "by their own comments of Mr. Stanton's secret information . . . and chose of their own accord not to make the majority of the City Commission aware if this secret information."
An eight-page plan Stanton was to use in June when he intended to make public his transgendering "was developed by city employees, on city time, in city buildings, using city equipment," the petition says.
One point makers of the petition have discussed is the role of Zimmet, the city's lawyer, who they say was not Stanton's lawyer, but the city's lawyer and therefore owing a primal duty to the City Commission.
Among the key questions petitioners want answered in any investigation are these -
When did former City Manager Stanton first share, with public officials, his desire to become a woman in appearance?
What city employees did Stanton tell this to?
What other city officials were involved in his "secret plan"?
Was anyone else on the commission aware of this eight-page plan?
What was the role of former city commissioner Pat Burke in this entire situation and was she aware of Stanton's desires while she was a member of the City Commission?
Was Gerard truthful when she said, concerning Stanton travel, that Stanton "never represented Largo dressed as a female?"
Gerard said that no city money was spent on sensitivity training for city employees because these services were supplied by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. These "courses" were held on city property during staff working hours, so what was the cost to taxpayers?
The courses were arranged, contrary to procedure, without going through the office of the city manager which violates the city Charter which forbids any elected official from dealing directly with any city employee except for information gathering purposes.