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Politics

Council member and mayor are targeted

Randy Heine says he has filed a state ethics complaint against the pair.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published August 19, 2007


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Almost a year ago, the mayor and a council member admitted they broke the rules while considering whether to allow a countertop maker to move into the city.

Both said their breach did not affect their vote, and the countertop manufacturer's attorneys did not object.

Now, an unsuccessful mayoral candidate and longtime foe of the mayor has filed an ethics complaint with the state asking that Mayor Bill Mischler and council member Patricia Bailey-Snook be investigated and punished.

"It's been on my mind since it's happened, but I just got around to filing it," said Randy Heine, who signed the complaints Thursday.

Heine denied that the complaints were politically motivated.

"It's all about good government. The people of Pinellas Park deserve better council people and a mayor than what they've got. These people blatantly say they broke the law," Heine said Friday. "They think they're immune from the laws."

He added: "It's not about Bill. It's never been about him personally. It's about what he does to people, including me. ... It's time that somebody stopped him, and I'm the one. I'm stopping this right now. I've been abused by this council for five years."

Mischler was at a Florida League of Cities meeting Friday. He did not return a phone message asking for comment.

Bailey-Snook also did not return a message asking for comment.

"It appears Mr. Heine's kicking off his campaign early," Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said. Caddell said he could not comment on the merits of the complaints because he had not seen them, but added that Mischler and Bailey-Snook had been open about what happened.

Heine's charges stem from a council meeting last August when members decided to forbid Surface Technology Corp.'s request to move into an industrial center that backs up to the Pinebrook Estates neighborhood. Pinebrook residents had said the company would bring noise, dust and odors.

Before the vote, Mischler announced that he had spoken to the mayor of Gulfport, where Surface Technology was located, to check on the company's record there. Bailey-Snook also announced that she had asked a city employee to drive her by the proposed location in Pinellas Park.

Both had violated the state's Administrative Procedures Act, which governs the conduct of council members in quasi-judicial actions. A quasi-judicial action is one in which the council acts as the equivalent of a judge in a court proceeding. Like a judge, the council members are forbidden from gathering or considering any information other than what is presented at a public hearing.

But both the mayor and council member said their extracurricular activities did not influence their decision. Surface Technology's attorneys did not complain.

The issue seemed dead until Thursday.

Kerri Stillman, spokeswoman for the Florida Commission on Ethics, said she could neither confirm nor deny the filing of either complaint.

Heine and Mischler's differences go back at least 20 years, when Heine allegedly grabbed Mischler, then a council member, by the shirt collar, called him names and reportedly threatened, "I'll get you."

Heine disappeared from public life after that, but reappeared about three or four years ago to protest the presence of the Bible on the council dais. Since then, he has appeared at many council meetings, challenging Mischler and attempting to provoke the mayor.

Heine has also tried to join several volunteer boards. He was appointed to the Code Enforcement Board, but before being approved, subsequent board meetings were held and he lost the seat to another candidate.

Heine ran against Mischler last year. Mischler took 80.3 percent of the vote; Heine, 19.7 percent.

[Last modified August 18, 2007, 22:20:43]


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