Like the Addicted, the Elected in Largo Can't Stop Violating the 'Shalt Nots' of the Charter
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Once again, members of the City Commission demonstrated their complete contempt (or, to be charitable, perhaps total ignorance) of the city Charter.
Both Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods blatantly self-confessed at the July 3 commission meeting their own actions that violate the Charter.
Of course, no fellow member of the commission drew attention to their breaches of the Charter. This can be attributed to fear, ambition and stupidity.
Violating the Charter in Largo upholds a city tradition of recent years to demonstrate at every chance that the city does not follow or respect the rule of law.
The examples of the breaches, along with the nepotism, cronyism, self-dealing and conflicts of interest are many.
Here is what came up at the July 3 meeting -
Gerard spoke of how she contacted someone in the Parks and Recreation Department to set up a "mayor's tennis tournament."
Under terms of the Charter no elected official is allowed to contact city employees or department heads on any matter. All business must go through the city manager.
Woods told of how he got a phone call that related about some individual setting up as a "sidewalk vendor" and selling rugs somewhere on Clearwater-Largo Road.
Woods jumped into his Fearless Fosdick costume and dispatched himself to the scene, identified himself as a city commissioner, he said, and warned the peddler. The enterprising salesman assured Woods he would not continue his one-man business.
Obviously, it is not Woods job to enforce any laws that may or may not be extant. In fact, Woods advised, in relating his tale of derring-do that he did not know whether the guy was violating any laws or not.
So what do we have in Largo?
Commissioners who moonlight as vigilantes?
On the drug testing scene, an idea put forth by a citizen that top city officials, including those elected, should submit to tests as city employees must, Commissioners Harriet Crozier and Andy Guyette joined the volunteers who said they would be glad to undergo a test.
They join Commissioners Mary Black, Gay Gentry and Gigi Arntzen. Unheard from are Gerard and Woods. Of course, no conclusions are drawn from the silence of those who evidently will not submit to drug tests.
The July 3 meeting was highlighted by the presence of a cheerful fellow from St. Petersburg named Thomas English who talked about how he is reviving "Negro baseball" in these parts.
Of course, the old Negro League came into being for the worst of all reasons - blacks were excluded from organized baseball. Nevertheless, they built a rich history of some really great players, otherwise denied their due in the Big Leagues.
Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson having gone to the trouble 60 years ago of reversing the wretched record of organized baseball in excluding blacks it is a mystery why anyone would want to return to those pre-1947 days and make the game exclusive for any one, identifiable race.
But as one might expect, after English made his pitch, he got the equivalent of a noisy verbal high five from Woods, the first and only Negro on the City Commission.
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