Gerard Asserts Largo Commission Has Its Own Rules
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Mayor Pat Gerard told a citizen last week that the City Commission had "agreed verbally" on procedures that override, or at least ignore the city Charter.
Her response, by e-mail, came in answer to a question that Bill Monroe raised in an e-mail to her asking what was the foundation for statements she made at the commission last week denying information to Commissioner Curtis Holmes.
Holmes was seeking receipts the Recreation, Parks and Arts Department paid for alcoholic beverages sold at the Cultural Center.
The bar there has been operating with transactions not being processed through the cash register (the register drawer remains open, according to witnesses, including Holmes himself and others.)
At last week's meeting, Gerard said, when Holmes questioned why he had not yet received the information he requested September 21, "All requests for information have to go through the city manager…well, actually, through me and then to the city manager."
There is no such provision in the Charter that says that.
She also said, "No one commissioner has the right to seek information the rest of us don't want."
Of course, that statement itself is full of implication; i.e., members of the commission have one mind and one voice?
That element was elucidated when Gerard told Monroe in her response, "I have to admit that some of what I said Tuesday night was based on historical precedents and procedures verbally agreed upon by the City Commission in past meetings…"
Several past commission members say they have no recollection of any such "verbal agreement" and one said, "If there was any agreement, it was not reached by all and certainly not in public."
At least three of the former commission members said Gerard was on the commission in their time.
The conclusion then is that if what Gerard said is true, she has convicted herself in her own words of a possible violation of the Sunshine Law.
Gerard failed to state with any specificity any "historical precedents."
"I suspect," one former commission member said, "that Pat's statement is really saying, 'This is how we always did it,' which, of course, is no justification at all for her statements."
But what is significant is that after Holmes made his request, two members of the commission - Gigi Arntzen and Bob Murray - issued nonsensical statements full of misinformation about the appropriateness of Holmes's request, and then came the Gerard outburst last Tuesday.
A former commission member said "Looks like there was some circling of the wagons, intense discussions behind the scenes."
In her response to Monroe, Gerard also cited Charter language that outlines the duties and powers of the mayor, but what she cited was irrelevant to the matters Holmes was pursuing.
She also said in her response, "It is up to the City Manager to clarify exactly what is being requested, to inform the commission of the impact of the request…"
"Good Lord, this is total nonsense," a former commission member said. "This would be a classic case, generally speaking, of putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. What Holmes was doing is perfectly proper and goes to the idea of checks and balances. He was doing his job."
While purportedly answering Monroe's query as mayor of Largo, her e-mail was signed "Pat Gerard, Chief Operating Officer, Family Resources, Inc." with the address of this organization and a promotion line - "To learn more about Family Resources, visit our website, etc."
Monroe said, "I thought she should have identified herself as the mayor, not as she did."
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