tampabay.com

Goober, Opie and Gomer in Pinellas

By HOWARD TROXLER
Published July 22, 2007


For starters, and just for starters, I want my money back.

I want Pinellas County to sell back that land that it bought from the elected county property appraiser, Jim Smith.

I want Smith to give back the $225,000 that he got.

They should do it tomorrow. Either that, or Smith should resign.

Have they lost their minds?

Under what circumstance should a County Commission do land deals with the county's elected officers?

Under what circumstance should the county's property appraiser be doing personal land deals with the county?

Here's a hint: none.

If Jim Smith wants to be in the business of selling Marvin Gardens and Tennessee Avenue and so forth to the county, then he should resign first.

Say, has Sheriff Jim Coats got anything on the market? How 'bout Tax Collector Diane Nelson or Elections Supervisor Deb Clark?

Maybe the county could pay them nearly four times the appraised tax value too.

Or maybe not -- since Jim Smith is the only one who controls the size of the County Commission's tax roll. Can they not see the conflict?

Good grief! The government of Pinellas has lost its way. It is a laughingstock. It bungles time after time with its left hand and slaps the public with the right.

Commercialize the parks. Carve up the nature preserves. Approve every development. Say no to every citizens' group. And anyone who disagrees is wrong, wrong all the time.

The Pinellas County Commission is lackluster and passive, like that half-dead king under a spell in Lord of the Rings. The commission is the slack-jawed rubber stamp of a bureaucratic, public-be-damned administration.

The beaches of Pinellas County are talking about seceding. The people of Tierra Verde are so disgusted that some want their own city.

O, the times! O, the customs! O, the mealy mouthed explanations!

Here is this mealy mouthed explanation. The county accidentally worked on land that Smith owns up near Brooker Creek, damaging it along with the land of other folks. By itself that is astonishing. How many people were fired?

The details keep changing, but the bottom line is that the county rushed to pay Smith $225,000 for 1.5 acres of land that Smith's office declared in 2006 was worth only $59,400 for tax purposes.

The county says it got an outside appraisal, but that appraisal was based on the county's own off-the-cuff stab at how much of the site was useful upland.

The county says that, gee, Smith might have sued.

Well, here is another hint:

Let him sue. Let the elected property appraiser of Pinellas County sue the public. I'd like to see that, actually.

Finally, there's the fact that Smith so breezily dismisses his low tax valuation of his property, saying, shucks, everybody knows my office's appraisals don't mean squat for sellin' stuff.

Cue the banjos! Cue the gap-toothed boy picking and grinnin' on the porch swing. Cue the Keystone Kops veering around the corner and falling off the police wagon. Cue Goober and Gomer and Howard Sprague and Floyd.

Cue the Pinellas County Commission, which voted 7-0 for the deal: Ronnie Duncan. Susan Latvala. Bob Stewart. Ken Welch. Calvin Harris. John Morroni. Karen Seel.

Yeeeeeeeee-hah.