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Flat screen TVs don't match flat budget
Tampa's council chairwoman has to send two sets back.
By JANET ZINK
Published June 14, 2007
TAMPA - About the same time the head of the City Council said she couldn't agree to the mayor's request to slash council spending, she had a special purchase on order: Two flat-screen televisions worth about $1, 100.
Council Chairwoman Gwen Miller said she bought the televisions - one for her office and another for the City Council receptionist - because current televisions were old, and she wanted to see how the flat screens "would fit in the office." She said she was considering ordering them for any council member who wanted one. Staff members sometimes watch council meetings on television.
But after a conversation with Darrell Smith, chief of staff for Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Miller returned the televisions.
"I talked with Ms. Miller after I found out that they had purchased two of them and made a recommendation to her that it would be more fiscally prudent to return the televisions and either use a smaller, lower-cost option or just monitor the council meetings on the computer, " Smith said.
With looming property tax reform that could affect local revenue, Iorio had asked the council to reduce its budget by $66, 055 next year. Miller rejected the suggestion, and in a memo to other council members said such a cut was "not feasible" and the board was not under the administration's control. But "in the spirit of cooperation" she offered to trim $7, 000.
About a week after the return of the TVs, Greg Spearman, the city's purchasing director, drafted a memo to Miller saying that all City Council purchases over $350 would have to be approved by Smith.
But Smith decided against sending the memo.
"I would rather just handle it through council members and their aides, and coordinate with the budget and purchasing department, " Smith said.