Citizen's Effort to Oust 2 Bluffs Commissioners Fizzles
by Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - A scheme by a citizen to oust two Belleair Bluffs commissioners from office predictably failed Monday night, despite the efforts of the city lawyer to make the charges stick.
Tom Trask was given the word in advance that his role was to present the case without a prosecutorial tone and he did. He had taken the position that the thrust of the move was legally correct.
Mayor Chris Arbutine expressed himself in favor of the "spirit of the law" and not interested in a narrow and draconian interpretation.
Ordinary thinking and public policy generally makes it very difficult to remove an elected person from office in the absence of a very serious breach of the law.
But, as with so many of the little towns and villages in upper Pinellas County, the thinking among many citizens renders an elected body as no more representative of the electorate than a homeowners association.
The citizen behind it all, in a manifestation of "sour grapes" if there ever was one, Wally Witham had charged that Commissioners Dave Shimkus and Troy Krotz had forfeited their office.
In the case of Shimkus, the charge was that he was no longer a resident of the city. In Krotz's case, the assertion was that he had missed four meetings in a year, which, according to the Charter, puts a commissioner out of office.
Witham is a former member of the commission and a carping critic of the current board always making invidious comparisons ("you don't know your jobs," "we used to do it this way," etc.).
He ran for office in March but was thoroughly trounced.
Trask outlined the case in regard to each commission in two separate special meetings. Shimkus and Krotz defended themselves and were justified by the commission in unanimous 4-0 votes. Each recused himself in his own case.
Shimkus pointed out that although his home is being re-habbed, his residence remains in Belleair Bluffs. He is homesteaded in the city, pays taxes here and has all the legal ties to the city that residence would indicate.
It is almost an established principle in law as set forth by courts of appeal that a person's residence is where he or she says it is.
In Krotz's case, the argument was that a year begins with the taking of the oath for office. Krotz did not violate the absence rule with that in mind.
After that hour of time wasting the commission got down to business which did not amount to much except to hear a presentation by the Sheriff's Office on renewing the budget.
The new budget seeks a 9.7 percent increase ($37,060.50) over the current $382,067 the city pays.
Commissioner Hunt Brand said nothing doing, such an inflated percentage at a time when jurisdictions are probably being forced to cut expenditures is "unacceptable."
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition