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Council member resigns for job


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 31, 2000

KENNETH CITY -- Council member Chuck Webber resigned Tuesday to take a job annexing property for Pinellas Park.

Webber, 57, was first elected to the Kenneth City Town Council in 1997. He was elected to a second term in 1999.

He plans to begin his new job Thursday or Friday. Webber will earn about $39,100 a year as an assistant economic development director.

"It is with much regret that I feel I must resign the balance of my term on the Kenneth City Council," Webber wrote in his resignation.

Webber added, "My resignation is predicated on the fact that I feel my working for Pinellas Park in this capacity could create a conflict of interest, and must, by necessity, become effective immediately."

Webber's announcement caught Kenneth City residents and officials off guard.

"That's unreal," former Mayor Harold Paxton said. "It's a surprise, I tell you."

Current Kenneth City Mayor Bill Smith was equally shocked.

"I had no earthly idea anything like that was in the mill," Smith said. "I really kind of hate to see this happen."

The mayor said that until he got the news, he thought the council had some of its differences worked out so that meetings were flowing more smoothly, making things all right.

"I hate to see him go," Smith said. "We got through the rough spots. . . . It's a good opportunity for him."

The council will take applications from people interested in finishing Webber's term, which expires in March. For information, call the Town Hall at 544-6655.

The council will hold a special meeting to appoint a replacement. A date has not been set for the meeting.

That's happened twice in the past.

The first time was in the 1980s. The second was in 1993 when Carl Schleck died while in office. Webber's decision to help Pinellas Park annex property comes at an awkward time for Kenneth City.

Elected officials have recently become more interested in expanding Kenneth City's borders. Council member Al Carrier is creating an annexation plan for the town.

But the move to Pinellas Park cuts even closer. Officials have been upset recently as Pinellas Park has moved to annex land near Kenneth City's northwestern border. They have said that about eight blocks in that area should eventually belong to Kenneth City, not Pinellas Park.

It's unclear if Webber will be helping Pinellas Park annex in that area or other places near Kenneth City's borders.

"In all honesty, we annex where we have people ask us to come and annex their properties," said Bud Wortendyke, Pinellas Park's annexation guru and the man who hired Webber. "I've got a ton of properties here. . . . There's plenty of work to do without going out and stirring the pot."

Webber was hired partially because of his extensive experience in real estate, not because he was a council member, Wortendyke said.

"He was a very qualified candidate," Wortendyke said. "He interviewed well. . . . We have amassed a huge number of files. . . . I will be so glad to have some help."

Wortendyke denied that Pinellas Park had required Webber to resign from the council.

"That is something that is between Mr. Webber and the Kenneth City Council," he said. "That's up to him. We don't require that they actually leave a council position."

Still, it was the possibility of a conflict of interest that caused Webber to resign. And Webber conceded Tuesday that he's aware some Kenneth City residents will see him as a traitor.

But he declined to discuss those issues or his reasons for seeking the Pinellas Park job.

In response to a reporter's inquiry, he issued a written statement, saying, "I don't feel that I can appropriately answer the question that you have submitted to me in time for your pending deadline. If necessary, I will submit a statement at a later time."

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