Shortly after Andy Zodrow was elected to serve on Seat 3 of the Safety Harbor City Commission last March, Mayor Andy Steingold named Zodrow as his vice-mayor.
At the time, Steingold said the appointment would be for a period of one year.
“Every year we’ll move it,” the mayor said during the March 16, 2015, meeting. “That’s what my intent is to do.”
But on Monday night, when questioned as to why the item regarding naming a new vice-mayor had been removed from the past two meeting agendas, Mayor Steingold claimed he did not remember what he said.
“I noticed…the vice-mayor agenda item was pulled (on March 21),” Commissioner Carlos Diaz said during his Commission Report. “I also noticed that it was also pulled again for this meeting. What is the status of that?”
Steingold quickly replied by beginning to cite a section of the city’s code that states the mayor only needs to name a vice-mayor at the meeting that follows a city election. Safety Harbor did not hold a municipal election this year.
“As the mayor it is within our, Section 21 of the city code, organization appointment of vice-mayor, I’ll read the whole thing to you…” Steingold started.
“You don’t have to do that,” Diaz interrupted, adding, “So basically, the whole concept has changed? Because a year ago, you stated that every year you would reappoint one. A new one. Do you remember that?”
“No,” Steingold said.
It wasn’t the first time Steingold decided to go back on something he originally said he intended to do, and as has been the case regarding many issues over the past year, from tree removal fees to millage rates, the issue caused considerable dissension among the commission.
“It was my impression that it would be a one-year term,” Commissioner Cliff Merz said. “It’s fine to have an appointment or a reappointment, but (I understood) that it was an annual addressing.”
“It’s obviously an important position…and it is odd to just have it go on without a reappointment.”
Merz suggested cleaning up the language in the charter so the vice-mayor appointment was not tied to any elections, and Commissioner Diaz agreed with Merz, saying he would like to see the language changed.
City Attorney Nicole Nate added that changed the language would make things easier moving forward, and she informed the commission that the changes could be made outside of the regular convening of the charter committee.
But for his part, Steingold said he had no desire to see the language changed.
“Whatever the commission wants,” he said.
“I think you leave it to the discretion of the mayor, but that’s your call. That’s your call. I don’t particularly care about changing it.”
Steingold wasn’t alone in his position on the topic.
“The intention of the charter is supposed to bind the commission,” Zodrow said. “But if it’s still a discretionary thing, it’s a discretionary thing. So I don’t know if it’s worth (changing) it.”
“I believe it’s the discretion of the mayor, so I don’t think it makes a difference, to be honest,” Commissioner Janet Hooper added.
With no consensus to change the language, the subject was left to die on the vine, although Zodrow did say the commission could discuss it again at a later date.
When contacted after the meeting, Diaz said he didn’t understand the mayor’s actions, stating that he believes elected officials should be held to a higher standard of accountability.
“It’s a strange situation,” Diaz told Safety Harbor Connect on Wednesday. “From my perspective, when you add something to the agenda, then take it off, add it to the agenda again and then take it off again, it becomes curious to everybody,”
“As elected officials, I think we should be held accountable not only for what we say and do in the meetings, but also for what we don’t do,” he added.
“To me, it’s a lack of transparency to the public, and as elected officials, we owe it to the public to be transparent and accountable for our actions. To just brush it off as “it’s my decision” is very questionable.”
Safety Harbor Connect reached out to Mayor Steingold via email and asked for clarification on why he decided not to name a new vice-mayor after stating he intended to do so last year, why the item was removed from the agenda, not once but twice, and whether he believed the charter language should be changed in order to clarify the matter.
He replied with only a cut-and-pasted excerpt of the relevant section of the city code.
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