Largo Coffee Shop Discussion Reveals Lots of Side Stuff
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - The City Commission's long and torturous discussion about concerns of the coffee shop at the city's library which went on for well more than an hour Tuesday night turned up a variety of insights.
Among them - Henry Schubert, an assistant city manager, never kept his boss, Norton Craig, the city manager, informed about complaints from the public about the Bookmark Café; alleged illicit sexual activity goes on inside the library; there never would have been a prolonged session on the subject Tuesday night if Schubert had not included a sentence in a letter to the leaseholder that arguably created an estoppel; the temperature always goes up when Commissioner Mary Black engages in colloquys with Mayor Pat Gerard and Alan Zimmet, the city attorney.
On the subject of a contract for the leaseholder the commission, in the words of Gerard, who has grown in wisdom and deftness in presiding over commission meetings, "We seem to be all over the place."
Then Gerard, practically in the next breath, nailed the situation in an accurate precis -
"If the door had not been left open, we could have gone ahead and done what we wanted to do because of these other things."
Translation: If Schubert's letter dated October 7, 2009 to Dalal Mansour, the leaseholder, had not contained these two sentences - "We have not received written notice of your intent to renew and the 270 day notification deadline has passed. Therefore, is it correct for me to assume that you do not wish to renew the agreement with the city?"
Mansour immediately responded last fall and said she wanted to renew. That torpedoed Schubert's plan to open the bidding for the coffee shop which he brought to the commission last week.
Many complaints about the coffee shop had been received by the city ranging from rudeness to lack of cleanliness.
Craig said Tuesday night that until last Wednesday morning he knew nothing about them which means the guy who has the responsibility for running the city was left in the dark about something important.
That's not how it works in the Army where Craig spent almost 30 years. In most places a subordinate who leaves his boss that vulnerable finds his head on the chopping block.
Then as the discussion bounced from one commission member to another with individuals frequently bringing up new subjects and concerns, Black revealed that she had learned from at least one citizen that complaints ranged outside the coffee shop.
Her informant told her, Black said, that sexual activities among teenagers was taking place in the hidden nooks of the genealogy area of the library and in one case, upon entering a rest room, a couple of kids were caught in flagrante delicto savoring the delights that are supposed to belong only to adults.
With all the struggling over what to do about the current leaseholder, the commission finally decided to let her go on for a year and then the commission would look at the situation.
The coffee shop has an interesting history. While there is discussion now of an RFP (Request for Proposal where vendors are invited to make bids) the Bookmark Café, just off the main lobby as one enters the library, was initially operated without the benefit of an RFP.
And when the original operators, a boy friend of a former city commissioner and his friend, bailed out after about a year, the current leaseholder took over.
Tuesday night's work session included four other subjects but they could not compete for interest with the Bookmark Café doings.
Among the byplay that is always amusing is the half baked approach to legalities, including terminology and thinking and process, from commission members that Zimmet, in his patient way, always manages to parse out and clarify.
The coffee shop and all its ramifications is not over.
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