LARGO — City leaders appraised the man who replaced former city manager Steve Stanton last week, giving him basically a B grade — and a raise.
But Stanton's staunchest supporter, Mayor Pat Gerard, doled out the highest praise for Mac Craig, 71, who took the helm about a year ago.
"I believe he's done an exemplary job in the past year," Gerard said at last week's City Commission meeting. "He took hold of this thing in rather a tumultuous time to say the least. And my personal feeling is that he has done a great job at it."
Stanton was fired in March 2007, a month after revealing plans to become a woman. Since then, Stanton has changed her name to Susan and has undergone gender reassignment surgery.
Some city workers "were sort of afraid of" Stanton, Gerard said, and Craig has fostered a calmer, more supportive atmosphere.
"I just think following the whole Steve thing, even during it, people were riled up,'' Gerard later explained. "They were angry at lots of things. Before he even left, (Stanton) was pretty much known as a micro-manager. Mac has taken some of that sting out."
Most commissioners gave Craig good ratings. And five out of six s who attended Tuesday's meeting voted to give him a 4 percent raise to $145,600. Commissioner Mary Gray Black said she opposed the raise because of budget constraints.
But Black's evaluation also questioned Craig's integrity. One reason, she explained later, was that the city had blocked e-mails from Leo Coughlin, a blogger who writes about issues in various Pinellas cities.
"The issue is that not all news media are treated fairly and equally," Black said in an e-mail. "And yes, that equates to integrity within the scope of duties and responsibilities of the position."
Craig said he always makes an effort to have employees respond to Coughlin's requests, and took issue with questions about his integrity.
"No one has ever questioned my integrity in my entire life and I go to great lengths to stress it here," Craig said.
Craig explained that at least one of Coughlin's e-mail inquiries was missed because his e-mail addresses have been linked to spam, or unsolicited bulk e-mails, and blocked by the city's Information Technology department.
About 200 city workers received the e-mails on a regular basis and, in line with city policy, two of Coughlin's addresses were blocked after several workers complained, IT director Harold Schomaker said.
During Stanton's 14-year tenure as city manager, she received high ratings from some commissioners. But she had rocky relationships with others, including Black.
About six months before Stanton was fired, she received nearly an 8.75 percent increase after lobbying for it. Three commissioners, Gerard and former Commissioners Andy Guyette and Gay Gentry, gave Stanton excellent ratings. The previous year Stanton was awarded a 4 percent raise, with opposition from Black and two other commissioners.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at email@example.com or 445-4155.