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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Petersburg council members bicker over procedure



ST. PETERSBURG -- City Council chair Leslie Curran and council member Wengay Newton could never be mistaken for best friends.

Newton regularly complains during council meetings that his requests to speak are ignored. Curran, who manages the meetings, says they aren't.

But, today their frequent bickering reached a new level after Curran brought up Newton's repeated questioning of city staffers during televised council meetings.

She suggested that council members who want to discuss consent agenda business, items approved in a group without discussion near the start of council meetings, do so immediately after the vote or at committee meetings. Currently, Newton asks that notable consent items be discussed during the council's report session, which often occurs toward the end of lengthy council meetings.

"The idea is to streamline," said Curran. "I'm just trying to be a little more efficient."

Newton said he often pulls items from the consent agenda that warrant further discussion -- items may represent good news or a controversial development. Peppering staff members with questions is helpful, he said.

"I get more information that's pertinent that the public needs to know," he said.

Curran eventually moved to change the topic, prompting Newton to wave his hand, indicating he wanted to speak again. He then asked whether she was going to call on him.

Curran snapped, "I am getting a little tired of you questioning my integrity."

She invited Newton to sit next to her and "play" discussion "monitor."

Newton said he was simply trying to get her attention.

"If you want me being obnoxious and saying, 'hey, Leslie,' I'll do that," he said.

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:23pm]


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