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. Quiet college dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?

    World

    LONDON — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain's Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

    Salman Abedi was identified by British authorities as the man behind Monday’s attack.
  2. Soldiers launch attacks in besieged Philippine city

    World

    MARAWI, Philippines — Backed by tanks and rocket-firing helicopters, Philippine troops launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear extremists linked to the Islamic State group from a city that has been under siege since a raid that failed to capture one of Asia's most-wanted militants.

    Soldiers fire at enemy positions Thursday while trying to clear the city of Marawi, Philippines, of armed militants.
  3. Back to .500, Rays feel ready to roll (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Who wants to be mediocre? Middling? Average? Run-of-the-mill?

    Rays catcher Jesus Sucre tags out the Angels’ Mike Trout trying to score from second base after a perfect peg from rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. in the first inning.
  4. Seminole man accused of fracturing 8-month-old baby's leg

    Crime

    Deputies arrested a Seminole man Thursday after he fractured an 8-month-old baby's bones, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Gary G. Gibeault of Seminole was arrested on a charge of aggravated child abuse.
  5. St. Petersburg's ballooning sewage debt could threaten credit rating (but there's a Hail Mary plan to avoid that)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city needs a lot of money — $435 million over the next five years — most of it to fix its leaky sewer pipes and aging sewer plants.

    In September 2016, signs at St. Petersburg's North Shore Park warned people to stay out of the water due to contamination from sewage released by the city's overwhelmed sewer system. The City Council on Thursday learned that the very expensive fix for its sewage woes could hamper the city's credit rating. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]