SEMINOLE – During the July 22 City Council meeting, Seminole Councilor Patricia Plantamura addressed the council’s 6-1 censure vote against her at the July 8 meeting.
Plantamura called “the act of censure a theatrical distraction” from questions she’s asked City Manager Frank Edmunds that have gone unanswered. She said she sent Edmunds three letters in June and July. Edmunds has yet to respond, she said.
“I am guilty of one thing,” she said, “asking questions and expecting answers.”
Mayor Leslie Waters said some of the questions in these letters have been addressed and that if Edmunds felt they needed further consideration he should bring them before the City Council at its next meeting. At the July 8 meeting, she motioned that Edwards should bring to the council “current or future requests for information that he deems not in the best interest and/or necessary and/or beneficial to the city.” This motion passed 6-1.
Plantamura also addressed a comment Councilor Chris Burke made during his motion to censure her regarding her leaving meetings early. She said she’s only left one meeting early – a May 27 workshop – and that was because Mayor Leslie Waters wanted to discuss an agenda item from a prior meeting, she said, which, she alleges, is in violation of the Florida Sunshine Law.
She has also previously expressed concerns that the censure was a coordinated effort, which is in violation of the Sunshine Law, because several councilors had prepared statements at the July 8 meeting.
“Yes, madam, we did have prepped statements and they were called motions and each of you have received a copy of that prepared motion,” Waters said. She said that her statement and motion regarding information requests dealt with “a completely different matter” than Burke’s motion to censure Plantamura.
She added, “It’s not unusual for council members to read from prepared statements,” which can lend to the accuracy of meeting minutes.
Vice Mayor Thom Barnhorn said he read from a partially prepared statement at the July 8 meeting, but it had been written seven weeks prior during the Charter Review sessions and was not coordinated with any other councilor.
Plantamura also alleged that the council has breached parliamentary procedure. According to the city ordinance, the council must abide by Robert’s Rules of Order during meetings, she said. These rules call for the chair to be “impartial and impersonal,” she said, and for speakers to “courteously address their remarks to chair.” It also disallows “attack and questioning of other members’ motives.”
“It would do well for all of our council members, and certainly our presider, [Mayor Waters,] to familiarize herself with proper parliamentary procedure,” Plantamura said.
If she sees any breaches of the rules in the future, she will be “filing charges to enforce the ordinance.”
“I don’t appreciate being trained by a colleague,” Mayor Waters said. “I appreciate your comments and opinions and that’s exactly what they are, opinions.”
She said she’d consult with City Attorney John Elias, who wasn’t in attendance at the July 22 meeting, on the matter.
“We have a lawyer who sits with us at every council meeting,” Mayor Waters said. “He’s the one that monitors our parliamentary procedure. He monitors the Sunshine Law and he monitors any breach of law. He represents all of us on council … He’s the expert. I’m going to give this over to him.”
Earlier in the meeting, Plantamura also protested a 10 percent merit-based pay adjustment for City Manager Frank Edmunds, though the motion eventually passed 6-1.
Plantamura noted that the 2014 budget delineated minimum and maximum pay rates for the city manager role – $89,000 and $131,083 respectively.
“Ten percent of $128,000, which I believe was in the last budget for the Seminole city manager’s pay … would take this well over the $131,000 cap on the city manager,” she said, “starting a dangerous precedent.”
Other employees who are at the top of their pay grade might have similar requests in the future.
“We can’t do for some and not do for others,” she said.
She added, “I am a fiscal conservative and so I think paying more than the top of the pay scale for any employee, especially an employee that I understand is leaving our city, this seems like a financially irresponsible decision to make.”
What it comes down to is semantics, said Councilor John Counts.
Vice Mayor Thom Barnhorn said the 10 percent merit pay doesn’t affect Edmunds’ salary.
“When this was brought forward it was not brought forward as an adjustment to the salary,” he said. “It’s a lump sum merit [award.] This was not to be attached as part of his salary, and not to be repeated … in the future.”
Edmunds hasn’t received a bonus since 2006, said Councilor Jim Quinn and deserves the one-time lump sum. He listed some of the many projects Edmunds has worked on since joining the city in 1993: construction of the new recreation center, Tennis Courts Park, City Hall Park, the Seminole Mall project, the Bay Pines development, a drainage master plan, the joint library agreement with St. Petersburg College and nine annexation referendums that more than doubled the city’s size.
“He more than deserves the bonus that we’re going to give him and hopefully it will help him change his mind and not leave the city,” Quinn said.