DUNEDIN — If Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski put City Attorney John Hubbard on the hot seat at the City Commission's meeting two weeks ago, she was wielding a blow torch at Thursday's meeting.
She grilled Hubbard with a long list of prepared questions on two items: a proposed arts ordinance and a golf course license agreement with the Dunedin Country Club.
For the second item, she eventually made a motion to seek other counsel but it died without a second.
"I feel like I've been punched 14 times by my own client," Hubbard said Friday. "The vice mayor absolutely went after me."
He was more than taken aback.
"What's the purpose in doing that to someone who is trying to help you?" he said. "Who has spent 35 years of his life trying to do the best for the city?"
After the Feb. 5 commission meeting, Bujalski said she was only human and her frustration got the better of her. This time, she makes no apologies.
"I needed Mr. Hubbard to answer on the record the answers to those questions," she said Friday.
As a representative of the public, she said, time is money and the appearance to the community that the commission is providing good leadership and doing a good job are important.
Was there a problem with the tone of the questioning?
"I don't see it as tone," she said. "I see it as me asking some clear, concise questions."
Mayor Bob Hackworth, who tried to stop Bujalski with a gavel unsuccessfully at the Feb. 5 commission meeting, allowed her to question Hubbard, he said, because he thought there was some merit to what she was asking.
"She's got a right to make inquiries," he said Friday, and he shared some of her concerns. "But it's a fine line between letting them know you're concerned and going too far like a Perry Mason interrogator."
He said Hubbard has just received a sterling performance evaluation. He was a finalist with the Florida League of Cities for City Attorney of the Year in 2008.
Since disorder had ensued when the arts ordinance was discussed at the previous meeting, Hackworth took a couple of minutes Thursday to review Robert's Rules of Order with commissioners.
"There is in our rules everything we need to have a very good and productive debate and keep our decorum and be respectful and polite to each other," he said. "It is important that we try to keep our decorum and make sure that we are putting on the best show possible for those we represent."
Bujalski had a long list of questions for Hubbard on the arts ordinance. She had questioned him at the previous meeting about how an ordinance reached the dais that was not legally sufficient to be called an ordinance.
Before the second hearing, Hubbard sent suggested revisions to commissioners, and she wanted to know why he had done that without specific directions from the commission.
Bujalski's questions on the golf course agreement prompted Hubbard to ask if she would like to put him under oath. She expressed frustration that the agreement has lagged for so long, 15 months, though Hubbard was not responsible for negotiating the agreement, only reviewing it.
Commissioner Deborah Kynes also interceded, calling a point of order.
"You can make a point, but you don't have to heckle somebody," she said.
The golf course agreement was postponed until the March 26 commission meeting.
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.