Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Feud heats up between St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and City Council member Leslie Curran

ST. PETERSBURG — Council Chair Leslie Curran and Mayor Bill Foster often disagree publicly, but now their ongoing feud is heating up behind closed doors.

In their latest skirmish, Curran says Foster has directed city staffers not to work with her and is refusing to meet with her without a third party present.

"I have served as a City Council member for fifteen years and have never been discriminated against as I have been by Mayor Foster," Curran wrote in an email this summer to City Attorney John Wolfe.

The friction between the city's top two elected officials is visible in workshops and public meetings. This spat could be the first glimpse into next year's mayoral election if Curran seeks Foster's job.

"I have not decided that yet," she said Friday. "It's a consideration."

In Curran's email to Wolfe, she complained that Foster banned her from a June tour of the Melrose Mercy neighborhood to discuss housing issues with staffers. At the same time, Foster allowed council member Karl Nurse to attend.

Then, on June 18, she said Foster brought city administrator Tish Elston to witness their weekly meeting. Curran said Foster explained Elston's presence was due to the disdain Curran has for him.

"I tried to explain that there is a big difference between disdain and disagreement on issues, and that I have never treated him in such a manner," Curran wrote. "I then left the meeting."

Foster declined to comment when he learned about the email from the Tampa Bay Times.

"I'm not going to comment on some illusory statement that is purely political in nature," he said. "I don't know what more I can say. Any issue we have will be handled privately."

Curran asked Wolfe to intervene in the dispute. He refused.

"That's a personal matter between those two," Wolfe said. "I think it's blown over some."

Curran stressed Friday that it's not a personal matter and that the gag orders are making staffers uncomfortable.

"They should not have that placed on them," she said. "This is unprofessional. You don't treat people differently."

The tension has been brewing for months.

Curran has been critical of Foster's dealings with the Tampa Bay Rays and Tropicana Field. In April, she said "Foster is almost a non-entity" when he didn't settle on a way to raise revenue to cover a $10 million budget shortfall.

Now, as the city prepares to tackle a $10 million budget shortfall next month by either raising property taxes or implementing a fire-readiness fee, Curran said Foster needs to step up and lead and stop placating everyone on different sides of each issue.

"Take a position and know it's the right one," she said. "It's not a popularity contest."

In an interview this week, Nurse said Foster did not give him preferential treatment on the home tour, but that it was because he represents the Melrose Mercy neighborhood.

Curran's issues, he said, stem more from human nature than politics. "I try to get along with people," Nurse said. "She has a testy relationship with the mayor and that makes it harder to get things done."

Council member Wengay Newton disagreed.

Curran, he said, should have been on the housing tour since she heads the housing committee. Newton said he also faces the same roadblocks as Curran with city staffers.

Foster, he said, will not make staff available and doesn't want to hear ideas from council members. What troubles Newton the most, he said, is that Foster knows the importance of working with staff since he sat on the council for 10 years.

"It's not a political statement," Newton said. "She's dead on. He's making it difficult to get anything done. It's complete chaos."

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Feud heats up between St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and City Council member Leslie Curran 08/03/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 3, 2012 11:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  2. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with critical series at Yankees up first

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  3. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  4. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, they better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher they can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  5. Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep paying tech expert suspected of stealing House computers?

    Blogs

    The following is from the Miami Herald: