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    Letters to the Editors

    Sunshine Law violation is 'baseless charge'


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 16, 2002

    Your newspaper ran an article (Process in hiring manager questioned, Jan. 11) regarding the allegation by Safety Harbor City Commissioner Neil Brickfield of potential violation of the Florida Sunshine Law by Vice Mayor Nadine Nickeson and myself in the appointment of Wayne Logan as Safety Harbor's new city manager.

    I have little choice but to respond to this unnecessary and baseless charge that not only attempts to slander the reputations of the vice mayor and me but also attempts to raise doubts about the legitimacy of Mr. Logan's appointment.

    First, let's clear any question in the matter of Wayne Logan becoming city manager. Wayne has been a dedicated employee of this city for more than 20 years. He has served in multiple roles under several administrations. He knows Safety Harbor like few others.

    Through the years, I have come to know him and appreciate his capabilities and work ethic. Wayne has been the go-to guy three times when we found ourselves in transitions between managers and needed a steady hand at the helm. In these cases and under all of his appointed roles, he has demonstrated a professional and impartial approach to his duties.

    Although Wayne and I have had our disagreements, it was those positive traits that led me to believe it was time to recognize his proven leadership and vast experience. That is why I originally made the motion Dec. 3 to change his interim status to permanent, and that is why I renewed the motion as part of the scheduled agenda discussion concerning the city manager's selection Jan. 7. The facts are clear, and the decision was debated in open forums.

    Three of my fellow commissioners agreed with my motion, leaving only Commissioner Brickfield dissenting. The citizens of Safety Harbor should be comforted that the overwhelming majority on the commission felt no need to spend tens of thousands of dollars searching for the talent we had under our noses.

    As to the matter of insinuated violations of the law raised in the article by Commissioners Robin Borland and Brickfield, I thoroughly reject them. I am blessed with many good friends, and I also enjoy meeting and socializing with many of my fellow citizens. Nadine Nickeson and former City Commissioner Fran Barnhisel are among my dearest friends, but they are only a part of an extended circle with whom I regularly socialize.

    In all of my social interactions and private conversations, I have followed a simple rule. The letter and spirit of the Sunshine Law take precedence over any discussion regardless of relationship, and I will end the conversation if I feel it would violate the statute.

    I've been honored to serve as an elected representative for nearly 10 years, and I take that public trust very seriously. In the course of the last decade I've attempted to maintain a positive approach to the normal disagreements that stem from the debate of public issues, and I will continue to do so regardless of what others may do.

    Unfortunately, today it seems to have become an established reality of American politics that the most effective way to avoid dealing with facts that don't support your argument is to resort to innuendo and the insinuation of impropriety on behalf of your opponent.

    I reject that approach and think that the vast majority of the citizens of this community join me in that belief. I also think it is the role of the legitimate press to take special care not to become a delivery vehicle in the "mudslinger's" arsenal. Hopefully, this will be an isolated occurrence; but then in case you missed it, the campaign season has just begun.
    -- Pam Corbino, mayor City of Safety Harbor

    Story was missing some relevant facts

    Re: Process in hiring manager questioned, story, Jan. 11.

    How disappointing that your story ignored some relevant facts about this issue. It is a matter of public record that I opposed a motion by the mayor in the December City Commission meeting to hire Wayne Logan as city manager. My reasoning was that the topic should be placed on the commission agenda so that public comment could be solicited.

    The same motion is made by the mayor three weeks later. The time period is certainly a sufficient one for me to consider an issue. I had received several letters in support of Mr. Logan and his capability to be our manager. The public comments presented at the meeting agreed with my personal observations that Mr. Logan would be a fine manager. A 4-1 vote of approval is an affirmation in my book.

    To portray me as a novice with respect to Florida's Sunshine Law is insulting. I know better than to discuss official city business with any of my fellow elected city commissioners in private. I have been scrupulous in my observance of the spirit and letter of the Sunshine Law. I assure the citizens of Safety Harbor that I will continue to uphold this standard and work to maintain their trust.
    -- Nadine S. Nickeson, vice mayor City of Safety Harbor

    Article attacked respected citizens

    Re: Process in hiring manager questioned, story, Jan. 11.

    This article accusing Safety Harbor Mayor Pam Corbino and Vice Mayor Nadine Nickeson of violating the Sunshine Law was unsubstantiated. Instead, what the article accomplished was to question the integrity and character of three respected Safety Harbor citizens.

    Mrs. Corbino, Mrs. Nickeson and former Safety Harbor Commissioner Fran Barnhisel are three women who have done a great deal for this community and are respected by many. I am a personal friend of Fran Barnhisel's of 15 years, and this article was a defamation of character. These women met at the Safety Harbor cafe after a meeting as friends to discuss one of their upcoming birthdays.

    Commissioners Robin Borland and Neil Brickfield need to be careful in their accusations. I'm surprised that staff writer Leon Tucker and the St. Petersburg Times took the time and effort to print this story. This is not news, just friends getting together, and I think commissioners Borland and Brickfield have more important things to focus on in their service to this community and so does the Times.
    -- Joni Stivali, Safety Harbor

    Meeting was twisted into a violation

    The Times continues to engage in journalism that violates even the most basic principles of integrity in reporting. Most recently, the sighting of two Safety Harbor elected officials at a local restaurant is twisted into a supposed Sunshine Law violation. Moreover, the appointment of the new Safety Harbor City Manager also is questioned simply because elected officials engage in social interaction after a City Commission meeting.

    Is friendship now inappropriate among elected officials? Does public service preclude the fostering of personal relationships that we all enjoy as citizens?

    The mere sighting of elected officials at a restaurant somehow became fodder for a Times story and a gratuitous quote from (First Amendment Foundation president) Barb Peterson (without factual basis) that the Sunshine Law is violated daily. Pinellas Commissioner John Morroni is correct in stating that the Times is not reporting news but instead creating news.
    -- William P. Steele, Safety Harbor

    Just rename the city "Hubbardville'

    As the Scientologists are buying up all of downtown Clearwater and much of the surrounding areas, I think we should rename the city Hubbardville. There is nothing "clear" left about it.

    It has become the home of many zombies walking around, each with a beeper on them -- I guess so the mother ship can reach them whenever necessary -- and never a smile on their faces. They seem to be in another world of their own.

    I, for one, am sure glad that there were enough smart people in this city to vote down the redevelopment project for downtown last year. It would only have made things look better for the Scientologists, as they are the only ones that go downtown anymore. And please, I don't need anyone writing or calling me telling me all about the wonderful things the Scientologists are doing or have done for this town. I have been here from the beginning. I know all of the underhanded, deceitful things they have done, supposedly in the name of religion. A true Christian religion doesn't have to resort to tricks and deceit. They have the Bible to rely on, not a man's science fiction fantasies.
    -- Karen B. Gauvreau, Clearwater

    Reconsider Robert Pettyjohn's sentence

    Re: Shooting two bulls gets teen 10 years, story, Jan. 11.

    I truly hope Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta will reconsider the part of Robert Pettyjohn's sentence requiring 150 hours of service with an organization that deals with animals. I wouldn't even leave him alone with my house plants.
    -- Melinda Nicholl, Clearwater

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