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Stanton's firing spawns 3 of 5 charter proposals

By LORRI HELFAND, Times Staff Writer
Published October 7, 2007


Here's another legacy of the firing of former City Manager Steve Stanton. On Nov. 6, besides electing two city commissioners, Largo voters will consider five changes to the city charter - three of them inspired by issues that came up in the Stanton controversy. Like a constitution, the charter outlines the principles, functions and organization of the city's government. These are the questions voters will consider:

Question 1

The city's charter requires two resolutions - one preliminary and one final - to remove the city manager.

At least five of seven city commissioners must approve the preliminary resolution, according to the charter. But it doesn't say how many votes are required to approve the final resolution.

This proposed change would clarify that a final resolution also requires at least five commission votes.

During the discussion leading up to Stanton's firing, City Attorney Alan Zimmet requested a legal opinion on the matter from an attorney with a firm that represents Largo on labor matters. The attorney's opinion was that the final resolution also requires five votes. In March, five commissioners voted to fire Stanton, who one month earlier had disclosed his plans to undergo gender-reassignment surgery.

Question 2

Contracts and leases that extend beyond the end of the fiscal year commonly contain clauses that allow the City Commission to terminate those agreements if commissioners do not appropriate funds for them in the budget.

This amendment would clarify that the commission does not have to pass an ordinance every time it approves a contract or lease that contains such a clause.

Commissioner Mary Gray Black has said that the charter requires an ordinance for contracts that require the city to make payments beyond the end of the fiscal year.

She also questioned making severance payments to Stanton beyond the fiscal year for that reason. Zimmet disagreed, but officials propose to clarify the language to avoid friction about the issue in the future.

Question 3

The charter now requires the election canvassing board to meet no more than one day after an election to certify results. As proposed, the meeting would take place within five days after the results of the election are available to be certified. That would allow time to count provisional ballots.

Question 4

The charter now says commissioners will take office within seven days of the election. This amendment would change that to within five days after the results of the election are available to be certified. This change would help the city conform with Supervisor of Elections procedures.

Question 5

Currently, when the charter says "day," it's not clear whether that's a business day or a calendar day.

If amended, the charter would say that if the number of days mentioned is 10 or fewer, days would be defined as business days. But if the number exceeds 10, then days would be considered calendar days.

After commissioners moved to fire Stanton, questions arose about how long he had to request a public hearing and when commissioners had to schedule it.

[Last modified October 6, 2007, 20:16:07]

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