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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Kenneth City town attorney ready to step down



KENNETH CITY - Paul Marino plans to retire from his job as Kenneth City town attorney.

"When I came on, he said he'd give me three years," Mayor Muriel Whitman said today. "Three years is up."

Marino, 69, responded to a request for comment by e-mail:

"For the record, three years ago I had indicated to the mayor my intention to retire as town attorney; however, Mayor Muriel Whitman asked that I continue to work with her and the Town Council through her first term. I agreed. For several months, I have advised the mayor and others that I was going to retire this year. While I will continue to maintain a very specialized law practice working with nonprofit organizations and other specialized government work, I promised my wife that I will continue to cut back so that we can do more traveling and enjoy life. Also, for the record, this decision has nothing to do with the hue and cry of a small segment of the town residents over Ordinance 562 or the current issues related to the election for mayor in Kenneth City."

Ordinance 562 is the so-called neatness ordinance that sets standards for the appearance of all property in Kenneth City. One clause that would have allowed officials to come into homes if they had cause to believe there was a violation prompted an uproar. The ordinance passed first reading approval Wednesday without the controversial clause.

His retirement was first mentioned Wednesday night during a contentious Kenneth City council meeting where more than 80 residents came to protest Marino's interpretation of a clause in the town charter that prohibits public employees from serving as mayor. Marino's opinion that the definition of "public employee" must be taken literally to include all people paid with public monies means mayoral candidate Teresa Zemaitis will have to decide whether to quit her job as a reading teacher at Dixie Hollins High School if she is elected mayor in the March 10 election.

Many of the speakers pounded Marino so hard that, at one point in the meeting, he refused to answer a speaker's question, saying, "Nobody wants me to talk anymore."

While Marino was being verbally attacked and audience members were whispering critical comments about him, his wife went outside where she met several Kenneth City residents. Mrs. Marino told them her husband planned to retire next month. She repeated the statement inside the Community Hall after the meeting. She told some the couple plans to travel.

Wednesday's meeting was not the first time Marino and Kenneth City residents tangled at council meetings over controversial issues. Marino said at one meeting that he knew many people did not like him but he also did not care. The dislike was so deep, Zemaitis said, that the first question many people asked her when she decided to run for mayor was "will you fire him?"

Whitman, the mayor, said Friday that Marino had asked her not to say anything. She acknowledged the news would "make a lot of people happy."

But, she said, Marino will still be around for awhile even after he hands in his resignation.

"He'll stay on until we find somebody else," Whitman said. "He's not going to leave the city in a lurch."

Anne Lindberg, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:43am]


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