TARPON SPRINGS — A long-simmering feud between the mayor and another city commissioner has started to boil over.
After a lengthy commission meeting two weeks ago, Mayor Beverley Billiris fired off a memo to City Commissioner Peter Dalacos, in which she accused him of "grandstanding" during meetings.
"I do not believe we are being effective by rambling on for more camera time," Billiris said in the memo.
Billiris said she's heard complaints from residents about meetings that stretch to six hours because of lengthy questioning and discussion by Dalacos.
On Monday, Dalacos blasted back with a two-page response that begins by describing the mayor's letter as "a vindictive missive from a frustrated mayor."
Dalacos, who campaigned for his seat on a platform supporting open and accessible government, said it's his duty to thoroughly examine each item that comes before the board.
"To try to limit discussion and debate goes against our democratic process," he said in the e-mail.
Dalacos acknowledged he sometimes repeats himself during meetings, but accused the mayor of being inattentive, saying, "Quite often when I do speak, you ignore my words and are busying yourself with paperwork in front of you or speaking or passing notes to others next to you," Dalacos said. "So, maybe if you paid attention the first time I spoke I wouldn't have to repeat myself."
On Monday, Billiris said she does listen to Dalacos — to a point.
"After 45 minutes of dialogue, I certainly have collected enough information that I need to make my decision and … I'm not there to listen to grandstanding," Billiris said Monday.
To those who frequent Tarpon's Tuesday night commission meetings, the ongoing spat between Billiris and Dalacos is nothing new. Billiris, first elected to the commission in 1998, became mayor in 2004, the same year Dalacos joined the board. Since then, the two have frequently traded criticisms.
In December of that year, Billiris admonished Dalacos for standing on the side of Alt. U.S. 19 with a sign that read "Do you want a Wal-Mart on the Anclote River? Come speak out."
Billiris said then that Dalacos could be exposing the city to legal liability if the sign-waving called into question his impartiality on the controversial matter.
Dalacos responded he was just trying to engage citizens to take part in the democratic process.
In February 2005, Billiris accused Dalacos of rifling through her office late at night, a charge Dalacos vehemently denies.
Dalacos has accused the mayor of trying to silence him at meetings and has criticized Billiris' handling of matters such as the resignation earlier this year of City Manager Ellen Posivach.
Dalacos said the mayor's memo seems designed to "create a bigger rift" than already exists between them.
"She's kind of had a thorn in her side about me since the beginning and I can't control that. I've tried to be respectful of her. I've tried to respond to her in a professional manner, but I think we do have some differences of opinions on some issues," he said.
Billiris said Monday she had said her peace.
"All I asked is for him to curtail some of the comments. I'm not making a big issue out of it. If he doesn't, that's fine."
Dalacos said he'd continue to spend as much time as he needs to examine the issues brought before the board.
"In essence, we're paid for attending meetings and handling the government issues before us, and if it takes two hours or five and a quarter hours, we need to handle it and go on," he said.
Rita Farlow can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4162.