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Every St. Pete Beach city representative will resign

Mark Parker

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Every St. Pete Beach district representative will resign by Dec. 30. Mayor Adrian Petrila (center) will remain. Screengrab.

The City of St. Pete Beach is perilously close to not having a functioning government as all four city commissioners intend to leave office before Dec. 30.

Mayor Adrian Petrila will remain on the commission. However, holding government meetings and appointing new members requires a three-person quorum.

City officials are now scrambling to mitigate a mass exodus caused by a new state law requiring local elected officials to file more stringent financial disclosure forms. They held the first in a series of scheduled emergency meetings Monday afternoon (Dec. 18) to brainstorm solutions.

“This is not me being scared; this is not me backing down,” said District 3 representative Ward Friszolowski. “This is a decision that was made for me, and I’m not really happy about it …”

Municipal elected officials previously filed a Form 1 financial disclosure listing assets and liabilities over $10,000, income sources and property holdings. However, it did not require them to specify dollar amounts and other details.

Anyone in an elected position after Dec. 30 must file a Form 6 and disclose their net worth and dollar amounts of assets, debts and income over $1,000. Business owners must name customers and clients responsible for over 10% of generated revenue.

“I think it is a compelling discussion to have with lawmakers about individuals who I think, fairly, should be grandfathered in under the old rule because that’s not what they signed up for,” said City Attorney Andrew Dickman. “Then we wouldn’t be here with such a problem, such a situation here at the end of the year.”

Current St. Pete Beach officials must stagger their resignations to facilitate an appointment process before the Christmas break. Dickman called a special election an impossibility.

Friszolowski offered to step down during Monday’s meeting as he has a previously established successor. However, the successor told the commission she is awaiting approval to work a second job.

Many elected officials in Florida’s small towns earn little pay, or volunteer. St. Pete Beach commissioners receive $450 monthly, including a $50 expense reimbursement stipend.

Most have primary jobs or own businesses. Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, sponsored the bill and believes it increases government transparency.

He has also pushed back on claims that it unfairly targets small towns. Many larger cities with significantly higher pay scales for elected officials – like St. Petersburg – already require a Form 6.

Brodeur told WPTV that less populated areas “are exactly the types of communities that need to do this because likely, your brother is the one who runs the trash company, and your sister-in-law is the one who owns the engineering firm. Those are the ones who are going to get these contracts, and … people deserve the right to know the financial relationships you have with these folks.”

Nearly 10,000 people live in St. Pete Beach. It also accounts for a significant portion of Pinellas County’s 15 million annual visitors, and the region’s first bus-rapid-transit line provides a direct connection to downtown St. Petersburg.

While Dickman believes St. Pete Beach has “a lot to offer,” he noted it will face stiff competition for interim commissioners willing to sign a “terrifying” Form 6. Municipalities throughout the county and state are dealing with similar issues.

In addition, St. Pete Beach fired its city manager in September due to allegations that he created “a toxic work environment.” Wayne Saunders is serving an interim role, and Dickman said Treasure Island and Tarpon Springs’ city managers recently resigned.

St. Pete Beach Vice Mayor Mark Grill, who is also stepping down, said the Florida League of Cities expects myriad elected officials to resign due to the new law. He noted that discussion occurred in August, giving statewide stakeholders several months to prepare.

“As I’ve said before, this is an attack on home rule,” Grill added. “It pulls away the ability for local municipalities to be in charge of their own future.”

Grill then amended his resignation from Dec. 31 to Dec. 30.

City commissioners, excluding the mayor, will attempt to ensure the government can function by submitting sequential resignations in the coming days. They will interview appointment candidates – who must file a Form 6 – at a series of special meetings that begin Thursday at 7:30 a.m. and run through Dec. 29.

Applications are open to full-time residents who have lived in St. Pete Beach since at least Nov. 17, 2022. Candidates must submit a letter of interest and resume by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“We need to make sure we have a functioning form of government to keep the city running,” Grill said. “I’m the proponent to say that we ought to do that here and not have anybody … at the county or state level do it for us.”

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Francisco Zapata

    December 25, 2023at3:48 pm

    I guess transparency ( open books? ) is a big catalyst!?

  2. Avatar

    Jack Murphy

    December 23, 2023at11:36 am

    Just stumbled upon your recent piece covering the City of St Pete Beach, and I couldn’t help but feel the need to shed some light on the murky happenings behind the scenes. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you question the integrity of those in charge.

    So, here’s the lowdown: the City Commission launched an investigation against the City Manager, fueled by anonymous letters from some disgruntled employees. Sounds like a typical day in politics, right? But here’s where it gets interesting – it seems like this whole charade was just a political move by the Mayor to clean house and get rid of the City Manager, who, by the way, got a clean chit on allegations of creating a toxic workplace.

    But wait, there’s more. Instead of unearthing managerial misconduct, the investigation brought out the ugly truths about racism and sexism deeply embedded in the culture of St Pete Beach. And it turns out, the real targets weren’t the suits at the top but the women on the executive team. Three of them decided to pack up and leave, sick and tired of the mistreatment and rumors circulated by their male peers and the City Commission.

    Now, here’s where things get a bit shady – the City Commission, after getting wind that the investigation was a bust, decided to quietly offer the City Manager a sweet deal to leave. No public embarrassment, you see. But they’re not stopping there. They’re apparently keeping the investigation results under wraps, claiming it’s still “open,” and ignoring public records requests. Classic move to keep the truth from hitting the fan.

    And the cherry on top? They blew over $300k on this whole saga – investigation, paying off the City Manager, and hiring a new interim City Manager. All without bothering to seek approval for the extra expenses or even bring the new guy’s contract before the City Commission. It’s a real juicy story I tell you…..and now the Commissioners are all resigning??? Seems like they all just want an easy out. Everyone is tired of dealing with the mayor. All he has brought is chaos and division within the organization and the community. Another thing I heard the guy is scripted. Don’t you ever notice he only talks…when he has some rehearsed speech…I wonder who his puppet master is????

  3. Avatar

    Francis Lalbachan

    December 22, 2023at12:45 pm

    I definitely find it funny these people don’t want their extra income revealed. with that being said the same rule should apply to all government officials state representatives also because we all know they are taken pieces on the side and screwing in the regular people

  4. Avatar

    Craig

    December 22, 2023at10:06 am

    Omg. A public servant not wanting their info public ? They obviously don’t care about being a public servant

  5. Avatar

    Sally Brooker

    December 22, 2023at8:16 am

    This bill separates the wheat from the chaff. I’m sure some people are honest , but prefer to remain private. In that case, public office is not for them. Nepotism and corruption should become transparent with the new law. Way to go!! 😀

  6. Avatar

    Thomas Arnolf

    December 21, 2023at2:26 pm

    Basically the reason for leaving a position like this because you had to disclose where your money’s at or where it came from tells a lot about our government officials and the extra little candy that comes along with their income for doing that extra curricular favor for somebody

  7. Avatar

    Steve Knieser

    December 21, 2023at9:24 am

    Sounds like all of the commissioners have a lot of skeletons in their closets, and running before they are caught. Great to see efforts to at least try to keep government officials from being corrupt.

  8. Avatar

    Roger Black

    December 20, 2023at2:17 am

    How will be able to tell that our city government has stopped working?

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