ST. PETE BEACH – Commissioner Jim Parent and Mayor Steve McFarlin got into a heated exchange of words July 9 over an admitted mistake Parent made while attending a recent city Budget and Finance Committee meeting.
While attending, Parent made comments to committee members about financial policy that McFarlin called Parent on the carpet for in an email. The email was copied to the other members of the City Commission and the Budget and Finance Committee.
“One of the things that they did was add $10,000 to (Public Services Director Steve Hallock’s) budget,” said Parent. “Then they were getting ready to vote on millage rate. I went up to them and reminded them they can’t recommend an unbalanced budget.”
Later on, Parent said he suggested the committee propose an operating reserve.
“I thought I was doing an OK thing,” said Parent.
He was later made aware of a city resolution that was passed in 2005 that prohibits a commission member from “circumventing the purpose or intent of the system.”
“If I had read that (before), I wouldn’t have made the comment,” Parent said.
However, Parent noted he was “taken back” McFarlin’s email and “the tone of the email you sent out.”
Parent said McFarlin’s email read, “Due to the intrusions in your deliberations by Commissioner Parent, the integrity of this process has been severely compromised this year. I would hope Commissioner Parent takes some time to reflect on his actions in that they can certainly (affect) the integrity of our established processes, therefore losing the trust of our community.”
Parent noted that the same resolution also says city commissioners should make no personal comments about other commissioners.
“It’s acceptable to publicly disagree about an issue but it’s unacceptable to make derogatory comments about other commissioners, their opinions or actions,” Parent said.
McFarlin admitted he was unaware of the resolution when he addressed the issue with the email and continued to wonder why Parent was at the meeting.
“I’m not going to talk to someone who’s putting something together to present us,” said McFarlin.
“I’m a resident,” said Parent.
“But you’re part of the process,” McFarlin said. “You’re a commissioner.”
Parent said he was concerned about a procedural mistake the committee was making.
“I’m a resident and taxpayer, big time,” Parent said. “I would do that again here.”
“You have to follow the processes though,” McFarlin reiterated. “You need to read (the resolution). That’s like bid-rigging. What purpose would you have getting involved? You suggested having an extra $1,500 grand.”
“That’s absolute bull ——,” said Parent. “What I said was have extra money for an operational setback. They (committee members) are the ones that voted that much. I would’ve never asked for that much.
“I suggested they consider a slush fund,” said Parent.