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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Petersburg council: In EMS debate, the county's private words don't match their public actions



ST. PETERSBURG - City council members were a little bit befuddled and a lot critical of the way county officials are handling proposed changes to Pinellas' emergency management system.

There's County Administrator Bob LaSala, who has proposed spending cuts to stave off a projected bankruptcy. And there's commmission Chairwoman Susan Latvala, who seems to support LaSala's proposal.

Then there are the other six commissioners. The commission has not formally adopted the LaSala plan. Members, according to St. Petersburg council members, have said in individual private talks that they don't support the proposal. Yet, when they get in a group, they have refused to negotiate with St. Petersburg and have not reined LaSala in.

Those contradictory signals figured prominently in the discussion at Monday's St. Petersburg ccouncil meeting about whether to sue the county over the projected cuts or wait. The council decided to wait and see what happens next week when commissioners are scheduled to talk about the proposal during a Monday workshop.

During the discussion, they had lots to say about the LaSala-commission situation.

LaSala, said council member Karl Nurse, has "rather forcefully attempted to speak for the County Commission on this for months." Individually, he said, some commissioners seem to be "more to money-saving ideas." Nurse said he hoped a majority of the commission would see reason and negotiate with St. Petersburg. But, reasonableness, he said, "is not true of the county administrator or the chair of the County Commission."

Steve Kornell echoed Nurse's sentiments, saying a nine-hour meeting on Halloween between the St. Petersburg council and the County Commission was a "waste. (It was) a nine-hour meeting just so the County Commission could inform us of EMS."

In any future EMS talks, Kornell said, "I hope we get some honest discussion instead of PR and rhetoric.

Leslie Curran said she doubted what commissioners were saying in private.

"If that's the way they feel, they could have said that at the meeting we had for nine hours. Nobody said that. ... I don't put a whole lot of credence in those (private) statements."

Jeff Danner agreed, saying, "They're silent when the plan is presented."

Bill Dudley commented, "They know exactly what they're doing. ... It's like a little kid plugging his ears and (saying) 'nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, I don't want to hear.' I'm tired of it."

-- Anne Lindberg, Times Staff Writer


[Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 3:18pm]


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