By Leo Coughlin
It is time now for the Largo City Commission to do what Mayor Pat Gerard wanted to do more than two years ago.
And that is to launch a search for an experienced and professional city manager.
That to be preceded, of course, by the firing of one Norton "Mac" Craig.
To be done immediately.
The debacle of what has taken place with Bonner Park and the Nature Preserve and the prevarications by Craig and Joan Byrne, the Recreation and Parks Director, lead to only one thing - both Craig and Byrne must go.
What has happened is appalling. The underlying subject is not of earth shattering import. But the behavior of the top hired hand in the city, Craig, and the director of a department that spends huge amounts of taxpayer money is monstrous.
It is the kind of behavior that cannot be tolerated without the City Commission, the elected representatives of the people, being held up to ridicule.
When Mayor Pat Gerard said, "You have made us look like idiots," the full story and behavior of Craig had not emerged.
Now, it turns out, both appear to have found their statements in regard to the posting of signs at the city parks at odds with and a stranger to the truth.
Craig maintained in an e-mail that answered a reporter's query that the phone number posted that the public was invited to call to express its concern over a park closing was "not a city number."
It certainly is a city number and is the number of the Parks and Recreation Department.
Byrne in a parallel answer to a press query said that neither she nor the city manager had anything to do with posting them and then added that once it was known the signs were there they were removed immediately.
That is not true.
Craig and Byrne have created a problem for themselves, and they need to be discharged.
If action is not taken, and it needs to be draconian action, then the City Commission will have abrogated its responsibility and its role in the city might as well be eliminated.
Gerard's advice of more than two years ago needs to be taken now. And let sufficient time be taken to find an experienced, qualified, capable (none of which Craig is) city manager.
Not to worry. The city will be in the capable hands of Henry Schubert, an assistant city manager, who well could qualify as Craig's successor. Schubert might well have been Steve Stanton's successor in March, 2007, when Stanton left.
But cronyism reared its ugly - and familiar head in Largo - and Craig, without any necessary experience, was given the job on the basis of friendship with one particular member of the City Commission - Harriet Crozier.
Her colleagues, over the protest of Gerard, went along with it.
And Largo had the oldest public hired hand in America, a guy whose salary is more than that of the governor. When you count all the pensions Craig is collecting on top of that, he is rolling in the old do-re-mi.
During his tenure there have been too many questionable incidents and in the view of many close observers the city has drifted, virtually leaderless.
I know this first hand - Stanton knew what every staff member was going to do and say if appearing before the commission. In the "shape up" meetings in his office the day before the commission meeting he went over thoroughly all issues and subjects.
Now it is obviously hit or miss with Craig standing by, obviously bewildered, while some staff members run wild.
His record - going back to the large cash bonuses given to select city employees - is not good. He cut off communications between one news medium and the city.
Firing the secretary of Stanton, a woman with an almost 30-year employment history with the city and not offering her another job, did not go down well with city employees.
And then there was his blunder with Police Chief Lester Aradi, penalizing the chief, unwarrantedly, because he disagreed with the chief's handling of an internal matter in his department.
There is still a lot of heat being generated by that in the police offices abutting City Hall.
The City Commission needs to take immediate action to get the city back on proper course.
Return to Current Edition