Before agreement, fur flies
By AMY WIMMER
© St. Petersburg Times,
SOUTH PASADENA -- Voters will get a chance in March to decide whether elected officials should have an automatic annual raise and be allowed to run for four terms instead of three.
But Tuesday night, when commissioners voted 3-2 to place those changes and others on the ballot in March, was not a dry exchange of ideas.
Lou Ippolito accused Mayor Fred Held of stacking the Charter Review Committee with his supporters.
Committee members struck back, offended that anyone would consider them "lackeys" for the mayor.
Then Dan Calabria, a frequent and vocal critic of the mayor, chastised Commissioner Dick Holmes for recommending that the charter changes be put on the ballot, even though Holmes doesn't agree with all of them.
Calabria also suggested that Held was recently fired from his post as executive director of the Suncoast League of Municipalities and questioned the integrity of the mayor's wife, Alma, who tripped at a Florida League of Cities convention in November and has been trying to get someone to pay her medical bills.
At one point, the mayor called for a sheriff's deputy to step into commission chambers after people in the audience applauded Calabria's statement. "Keep it up, and you will be removed," Held told them.
In its two most controversial recommendations, the Charter Review Committee suggested linking elected officials' salaries to the annual Social Security adjustment, and increasing term limits for city commissioners and the mayor.
On the regular salary increase, Arthur Jay, owner of Jay's Fabric Center, said commissioners should simply vote for a raise if they want or need one.
"A raise should not be automatic or mandatory," Jay said. "I find that kind of self-serving."
The debate over term limits was more complicated. Calabria and Ippolito said Held, who was the City Commission's representative on the Charter Review Committee, pulled political strings to get the committee to recommend increasing term limits.
"You didn't have a Charter Review Committee," Ippolito said. "You had a Fred Held Committee."
"The folks dedicated to Fred Held and his political longevity, and who made up the committee's voting majority, decided on a strategy to extend term limits to make him happy."
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