Attacks on Hernando Commissioner Jeff Stabins turn ugly

Commissioner Jeff Stabins got into a snippy exchange with persistent gadfly Steve Langone,  threatening at one point that he would be “eating spaghetti out of a strainer.”

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Commissioner Jeff Stabins got into a snippy exchange with persistent gadfly Steve Langone, threatening at one point that he would be “eating spaghetti out of a strainer.”

BROOKSVILLE — For weeks now, Spring Hill resident Steve Langone has been trying to get County Commissioner Jeff Stabins to respond to his complaints about the widening of Elgin Boulevard and Stabins' frequent commutes this summer between Spring Hill and New York.

On Tuesday, that mission boiled over into a shouting match when Langone brought moving boxes to encourage Stabins to resign from his commission seat, which Langone claims Stabins has abandoned.

As Langone approached the microphone during the commission meeting, he had in tow several moving boxes, emblazoned with a cartoon of the commissioner and a message: "flights non-stop from N.Y. to Spring Hill, Florida.''

Langone brought other props, too — as he described them, "a cow for a coward, a chicken for a chicken and a rat for a rat.''

Langone demanded to know whether Stabins wanted to represent New York or Florida and why he had abandoned the county during a major road project.

He questioned why Stabins had not returned his calls or his e-mails and asked whom he should contact to get help with his issues concerning the Elgin Boulevard project.

That was when the voices got louder.

"Public Works'' is the place to call, Stabins responded, noting that Langone had made 50 phone calls to the Public Works Department, wasting the time of county workers.

Stabins also told Langone that if he ever called his parents in New York again, he'd be "eating spaghetti out of a strainer.''

Langone called him on the threat, and he and Stabins then argued back and forth about who had the floor to speak. Stabins eventually told Langone to "shut up'' and "get lost.''

Commission Chairman Jim Adkins temporarily adjourned the meeting, the other commissioners walked out, Hernando County Government Broadcasting cut the live feed of the meeting and a deputy asked Langone to leave.

Langone told the deputy he was done and wouldn't say another word. He was allowed to stay.

Earlier this year, Stabins bought a summer home in upstate New York, and he has been commuting back and forth between his home in Spring Hill and New York.

Last month, he announced that he was going to make a run for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York. But last week, he said that he had tested the waters there and decided the time wasn't right. Instead, he said, he had decided to run next year for a third term on the Hernando commission.

Langone wasn't the only one to take on Stabins at Tuesday's meeting. Tax-relief activist Linda Hayward asked him which of his constituents he was referring to recently when he used the term "wackos.''

Stabins responded: "If the high heel fits, Linda, wear it.''

Anthony Palmieri criticized Stabins for saying he didn't want his seat on the commission to be filled with another commissioner like Chairman James Adkins or Commissioner Wayne Dukes.

"I could never forget or forgive'' those words, Palmieri said, noting that he had told Stabins before that his problem was he couldn't keep his mouth shut.

He added that he was glad to see Stabins run again for the commission because "now I have the pleasure of criticizing you for the next 14 months.''

Paul Douglas, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, defended Stabins, saying that the name calling was not appropriate, but that using the power of the vote is.

For those who disagree with what Stabins has done, Douglas said, "take it out at the ballot box.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

.COUNTY COMMISSION

In other business

The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday:

• After hearing a report that Hernando Beach channel dredge contractor BCPeabody continues to fall further behind schedule, voted to send the contractor a letter of concern, seeking a new dredging schedule. The commissioners also agreed to the company's latest pay request of $562,903, bringing the total paid to $5.1 million. According to Transportation Services Director Susan Goebel, BCPeabody so far has removed approximately 20 percent of the required material from the channel.

• Unanimously approved an ordinance that would allow the county to collect fees from the owners of abandoned homes where county mosquito control staffers have had to provide mosquito abatement. Foreclosed homes with abandoned swimming pools have generated more than 200 phone calls to mosquito control.

• Reached consensus on the idea of furloughs and other economic concessions tentatively accepted by Teamsters Local 79 and approved a package for nonunion employees that mirrors the Teamsters deal. The county will save $351,848 for union and $169,640 for nonunion employees. Plans for a further pay cut of 1.15 percent for employees earning more than $60,000 was dropped. County contributions toward health insurance have also been targeted for reduction.

• Approved the designation of Linda Pedersen, Jenkins Creek, Lake Townsen Regional and Nobleton Wayside parks under the county's sensitive lands program. The designation would allow the county to spend $120,000 from the sensitive lands funds to maintain the parks and another $58,000 to improve the road to the Lake Townsen boat ramp. Those parks had been slated for closure because of a shortage of revenue in the general fund.

Attacks on Hernando Commissioner Jeff Stabins turn ugly 09/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 9:14pm]

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