Hamilton-Wollin Assails Ockunzzi In IRB With a Public Statement
by Leo Coughlin
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - A member of the Indian Rocks Beach sounded what may be the death knell for the political future of Mayor-Commissioner Bill Ockunzzi with a scathing attack at the City Commission meeting last week.
Like many in the city who are getting fed up with Ockunzzi's behavior, Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin took Ockunzzi to task September 11 with a 429 word statement that attacked the tactics used by Ockunzzi at commission meetings and ended with these words -
". . . Here's a message from this commissioner: Those tactics are obvious and will no longer be tolerated. Our job is to move our city forward. Work with us or against us but we will insist that we be allowed to do the job that the voters in Indian Rocks Beach elected us to do."
That was the flourishing finish to a statement that carefully laid out a bill of particulars of undesirable behavior. Hamilton-Wollin's statement followed one by Commissioner R.B. Johnson who said that attending the September 5 meeting of the IRB commission, following a PSTA meeting which he'd attended earlier, was like "stepping through the looking glass."
Johnson referred to the professionalism and orderliness of the PSTA meeting as compared to what Hamilton-Wollin called the "train wreck" that was the September 5 IRB commission meeting.
What triggered Hamilton-Wollin's action after many exasperating moments is what she said took place at the commission's September 5 meeting when the first reading of the fiscal 2008 budget was taken up by the commission.
"On Wednesday last the Indian Rocks Beach City Commission sank to an all-time low. What should have been an orderly first reading of our 2008 budget quickly deteriorated into a three-ring circus clouded with confusion, mistruths and half-truths which had been fabricated and sent via email to the voters in this city."
Here, Hamilton-Wollin was referring to what has been regarded as a highly political and inflammatory clarion call. It is also regarded by insiders as the opening of Ockunzzi's campaign for re-election in March.
Her written statement, that she read at the September 11 meeting, went on -
"How disappointing, how discouraging to realize that one of we five commissioners believes himself to be the only one who has the right answers, and when he does not prevail, resorts to subterfuge and sleight-of-hand to get his way. Clearly he does not understand, respect or subscribe to the democratic process by which we govern.
"How annoying, how frustrating to realize that one of we five feels that it is appropriate to send information to the public knowing full well that it is crafted in such a way as to confuse, delude, frighten and inflame the very people we serve."
Her colleagues sat in shocked silence as her words were read into the record. Seldom in these parts has there been such frankness expressed by one elected official to another.
Hamilton-Wollin described how "For four-and-a-half hours this commission deliberated and labored trying to make our way through a confusing and unnecessarily overburdened budget presentation because one commissioner simply cannot take 'no' for an answer. He not only assumes that he, and he alone, is right on every subject, he assumes that he has no need to take notice of any democratic process if he doesn't agree with the outcome. That commissioner fails to understand that each of us has been elected by the citizens of this city to govern fairly, effectively and openly."
Hamilton-Wollin's description of Ockunzzi's tactics brought to mind the high-jinks of a politician in nearby Belleair Bluffs who wound up being deposed by the people when his similar behavior was publicized.
"After more than four hours we were unable to reach a consensus due to the exhaustive circus atmosphere, peppered with catcalls, interruptions and derogatory remarks. To be sure there were citizens who attended the meeting and shared legitimate interests and comments. However, the all-too-familiar antics, disrespecting the citizens, wasting the commission's time and the taxpayer's money, were represented as well and contributed to the debacle that was the meeting of September 5, 2007," Hamilton-Wollin said.
A claque of Ockunzzi adherents was at the meeting.
Then Hamilton-Wollin reached a most significant part of her statement - "When the March election sent a clear message from the voters that they would no longer tolerate this self-serving, disrespectful and disruptive behavior it was hoped that we could settle in to a collegial, serious and professional working relationship. One of us will simply not allow that to happen. He didn't get the message. He still doesn't get the message."
She was referring to the fact that at the March election, two of Ockunzzi's myrmidons - Jim Palamara and Ed Piniero - were bounced from office. Their upending shocked them and visibly shook Ockunzzi. When they went, so did his power.
The voters opted for Hamilton-Wollin and Bert Valery. They obviously hoped for a better performance on the commission, but as Hamilton-Wollin's statement pointed out, Ockunzzi has blocked that.
And thus she finished, as already noted here - "Those tactics are obvious and will no longer be tolerated."
Ockunzzi greeted Hamilton-Wollin's statement with, "This is garbage."
The run-up to March ought to be interesting.
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