E-mail Battle Continues in IRB as Ockunzzi Says He Was Sandbagged
by Leo Coughlin
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Maybe the feud going on in Indian Rocks Beach between two elected officials could best be settled on the field of honor, perhaps at five paces with wet noodles.
You have to go back to the very beginning, the election of March, 2006. Jose Coppen was chosen by the people then to be on the City Commission and he continued, once elected, to distribute a newsy e-mail he had started when he was just plain Citizen Coppen.
Colleagues on the commission did not like that, because it let people know what was happening. (It may come as big news to just a few that many politicians like to act in the dark and letting the people know too much makes them nervous.)
Consequently, much heat was put on Coppen to turn over names of those to whom his e-mail went, rigid enforcement that all e-mails had to be registered at city hall, etc. He complied.
All of that stretched over months - the idea was to get Coppen to quit. But he is not a quitter. He thinks the people should be fully informed about all city business.
Up until last March Mayor-commissioner Bill Ockunzzi pretty much had his way with directing the course of city business. From August, 2005, on there was, as city manager, the very malleable Al Grieshaber whose main interest was in seaching central Florida for another job, putting as much as 5,000 miles a month (a MONTH!) on a city vehicle.
Ockunzzi had a free hand because he and two of his pals dominated the five-person commission.
Then came last March and in a big upset Jim Palamara and Ed Piniero (and Ockunzzi) received the shock of their lives when Palamara and Piniero were ousted from office, given their walking papers.
It's been a rough slide for Ockunzzi since.
In his most recent outburst, zeroing in on what is called an "after action agenda," which is a brief recap of the commission's most recent action, he upbraided City Clerk Deanne O'Reilly for including erroneous information.
He said that the after action report seemed to indicate that the selection of the new city manager was an agenda item.
Oh no, Ockunzzi accurately pointed out. His intent was only to discuss interviews with city manager candidates and a schedule dealing with this.
But, as Ockunzzi pointed out, this "evolved" into a discussion on Steve Cottrell and suddenly there was a motion and vote and bingo! Cottrell was chosen as city manager.
In other words, Ockunzzi was saying that he was "sandbagged." He clearly did not want Cottrell from the beginning (can't dominate or micro-manage Cottrell is the main reason).
So, in the latest word scrimmage between Coppen and Ockunzzi, Coppen responded to Ockunzzi's plaint over being sandbagged pointing out that in e-mails sent out by Ockunzzi he does not obey the standards he wants to hold others to.
Coppen wrote, in an e-mail to O'Reilly, the city clerk, and requested the provenance of a recent Ockunzzi e-mail which Coppen says does not abide by the rules laid down by Ockunzzi himself.
"With all the repetitious assurances of his abiding now by the letter of the city attorney, the Attorney General opinion, commission rules, public records law, etc., the fact is that he has not (complied)," Coppen wrote.
Coppen claimed in his e-mail that "Many (e-mail) copies presumably sent by him 'voluntarily' to the city clerk for distribution do not arrive and other copies are not made available until after they are requested, sometimes two or more times."
He complained to O'Reilly that data he requested on a recent Ockunzzi e-mail has not been forthcoming.
"Led by Ockunzzi," Coppen wrote to O'Reilly, "the last commission devoted lots of time and energy to get the list of my e-mails under a public records rule . . . However, when pertinent questions about Ockunzzi's (e-mails) are asked none is answered. Mailer demons, obsolete (city clerk) addresses, ignorance on computer (technology)" are given as excuses.
There has been much recent dissatisfaction in the city over Ockunzzi and there is much talk of many voters looking forward to the March election when he faces re-election of he chooses to run.
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