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Ugly council couch sprouts legs, moves sprightly at night

The couch now holds audience in the office of the Pinellas Park assistant city manager.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 29, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- When Assistant City Manager Mike Gustafson walked into his office Tuesday, he noticed something different: The decorating elf had visited during the night.

Gustafson is the new owner of the "brightest thing in City Hall," the neon yellow, green and brown 1970s-vintage couch that once occupied City Council's office.

"It lifted my spirits," said Gustafson, who admitted to being a bit grumpy until he saw the couch. "I didn't think I'd get it."

His first act was to call City Manager Jerry Mudd to let him know the couch had not been stolen.

Next, he sent an e-mail to council member Rick Butler, a critic of the couch. Butler had threatened to move the couch out of the council chambers but had relented when colleague Patricia Bailey-Snook, the couch's main supporter, agreed to serve on the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority if Butler would leave the couch alone.

The e-mail to Butler said: "Have you now agreed to be the PSTA member?"

Butler denied any knowledge of the couch's movements.

"I don't know who did it. It's an amazing thing," Butler said. "Things happen every day over there, and nobody knows how it happens."

Actually, the couch movers left some tracks.

Zoning coordinator Wayne Wells was working late Monday night in the city's Technical Services Building, where Gustafson's office is located.

At some point, a city employee came in to check the air conditioning. That's all Wells knows.

"I was doing my thing, and he was doing his thing," Wells said. "Of course, his thing was devious."

It's unclear whether Gustafson plans to pass on the couch to someone else or keep it. "I don't have a clue what I'm going to do with it," he said. "I know it's important to one council member."

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