Editor: As the late Paul Harvey used to say, “and now the rest of the story.” For that reason I find it necessary to respond to the recent statements made by Peter Kreuziger in the guest column of the North Pinellas Times which appeared in the Feb. 12 edition of the Tampa Bay Times entitled “Hostility reflects poorly on Dunedin.”
It is true that on the night of Jan. 21 at the Dunedin City Commission meeting, many of those in attendance were vocal and showed disagreement with the statements made and the actions taken by certain members of the City Commission.
Those people were citizens of the city of Dunedin and were looking for answers to the many questions that surfaced because of the unexpected motion to terminate the City Manager Rob DiSpirito immediately. The motion was made by Commissioner Heather Gracy, seconded by Vice Mayor Bruce Livingston and endorsed by Commissioner John Tornga, at the Jan. 7 meeting. This motion followed a five-hour meeting regarding paid parking in the downtown area after most residents had gone home and in bed. The hour was almost midnight.
The motion was made soon after Mr. DiSpirito had just thanked the City Commission for the flowers they had sent for his father’s funeral. Mr. DiSpirito had just returned from attending the funeral the day before the meeting. Undoubtedly, those members of the City Commission showed poor judgment, lack of compassion, and the question of collusion and distrust surfaced almost immediately. Sunshine Law violation accusations along with credibility issues began to surface.
According to the City Charter, the city manager works at the pleasure of the City Commission and the City Commission has the right to sever the services of the manager. In the past, the evaluations given, praised him for his work and given high marks for performance. He maintained a very professional demeanor and never has there been any controversy or severe reason for termination. He is honest, professional, ethical, and responsive to not only his employers, but to the citizens themselves. There has never been any controversy surrounding his administration. He has been a good leader for Dunedin and his loss will be difficult to replace.
If the city manager was a problem, he should have been told during the yearly evaluation period in March and given an opportunity to correct any errors or misgivings. This man had just buried his father. He is a father and husband, and has been a good employee for nine years and previous evaluations prove it. It’s obvious that certain members of the commission had hopes of speeding the termination and sweeping it under the rug.
Every citizen who spoke that evening did so in favor of retaining the city manager and questioned the credibility and trust of the commission. They did so with a great deal of passion and concern.
Yes they were vocal and had they not been, the evaluation and the reasons for termination would have never taken place. It wasn’t about being hostile or disrespectful as much as it was about democracy at work.
The insinuation by Mr. Kreuziger that the citizens were uncivilized is a slap in the face to those who believe in the democratic process. They are the ones who support his business and he is the one showing disrespect.
The damage done by members of the City Commission cannot be measured at this point. A nationwide search is on the way for a new city manager. There will be an additional monetary cost in trying to find the right person who can fill Mr. DiSpirito’s shoes. In the meantime the credibility, insensitivity, poor judgment along with the lack of compassion that has been shown so far by the elected officials is an issue and will remain one until they can prove otherwise and work toward mending the broken down fences and clearing the air.
The city has been wounded but far from dead. The healing of those wounds won’t happen overnight and as time passes people may forgive, but it will be difficult to forget.