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Activists in Crystal River add Web site

The forum focuses on the city manager retention issue and attempts to discredit individual council members who face re-election in November.

By ALEX LEARY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2001


CRYSTAL RIVER -- Taking its dispute with the City Council to a new domain, Citizens for Reform on Friday launched a Web site that represents the most pointed attack yet in the tumultuous aftermath of the council's decision not to retain David Sallee.

The site, crcr.topcities.com, focuses mainly on the city manager issue but sketches a broader picture of council members as pawns of former council member Ed Tolle.

Caricatures of three members -- Joe Chrietzberg, Mike Gudis and Ray Wallace -- show strings attached to their arms and legs.

There are less flattering depictions as well, such as the 2-watt light bulb above Wallace's head. Gudis is shown as having two faces; Chrietzberg is standing on a picket fence.

"We're trying to be clean-cut about this," said organizer Bud Kramer. "But we didn't want it to be too innocuous."

The group, whose full name is Crystal River Citizens for Reform, said the Web page demonstrates Sallee was arbitrarily dismissed. The objective, Kramer said, is to convince voters not to re-elect the three men in November.

Gudis, who is council chairman, dismissed the group as spoilers.

"It's pure politics. It seems like all they are concerned about is keeping Sallee on the job when they should be working with us to make the new manager comfortable."

The council has selected a South Carolina man, Steve Thomas, to replace Sallee, who was with the city for two years. Thomas, 44, has not yet agreed to take the job.

Contrary to what Citizens for Reform asserts, council members say they have provided specific criticism of Sallee.

Among them: he delegates too much; he is tight with information; and he does not own property in town.

The men have all dismissed the notion that they consult Tolle before making key decisions. Tolle has said his influence is no greater than any other citizen.

The Web site is a work in progress, Kramer said. Members of his group have been assigned to investigate the council members, as well as Tolle.

Wallace is the first target of this broader digging.

The site recounts a particularly embarrassing moment in Wallace's political career.

In 1984, while running for School Board, he indicated he had graduated from the University of Maryland and the Citadel.

He later said he was an instructor at the military college and took correspondence courses through the Army that, he said, were affiliated with the University of Maryland.

"Did Mr. Wallace bring this type of honesty to the Crystal River City Council?" the Web site states. "When he says one thing, does he mean something else?"

Asked if it was fair to rehash an incident years old, Kramer said: "That's public record. Our citizens need to know who runs our city."

For his part, Wallace said the past has no bearing on his current leadership.

"We need to talk about the issues of Crystal River today, not things that came up years ago."

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