The retired English teacher schooled the whipper-snapper Tuesday morning, questioning his motives and sources before failing him on the sloppy execution of a pet project.
The teacher was Commissioner Pat Mulieri, who retired eight years ago as a Pasco Hernando Community College English professor. The whipper-snapper was Jack Mariano, who ranks third in seniority on the five-member commission, but who still comes off at times as a clumsy Eddie Haskell.
Mariano's pet project? He asked the commission to approve a resolution supporting the U.S. Constitution even though, as duly elected public officials, they already swore to uphold the Constitution when they assumed office.
These resolutions are standard fare. They come with a lot of supporting declarations that begin with "where as.'' Commissioners approve them unanimously, make a few congratulatory comments and pose for pictures with the recipients. The day's agenda included 13 resolutions honoring retiring county employees and visiting business dignitaries from Germany, and recognition of: the 192nd anniversary of Greek Independence Day, Women's History Month, Public Safety Telecommunications Week, Water Conservation Month and the safe-driving records of three county bus drivers.
It's all about retail politics, not public policy statements.
Until resolution number 13-113 came up for consideration. The resolution's title said the commission formally declared "its support for the Constitution of the United Sates including the Bill of Rights.'' The title was all the public had to go by since advance copies of the resolution were not part of the published agenda. Even Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she was unfamiliar with the contents.
It turned out that the verbose resolution, prepared by the tea-flavored 10th Amendment Center, was a political statement championing states' sovereignty. Buried among the 13 paragraphs was a sentence that the commissioners recognize the 10th Amendment "as agreed to by the ratifiers excludes the federal government from acting with non-enumerated powers; and that actions taken outside of these enumerated powers extend beyond those granted by the constitution and are in error.''
Mulieri, whose attempts for a county ordinance requiring background checks on firearm purchases has been stymied by legal issues pending in other counties, was not amused.
She had plenty of questions for Mariano. What's the purpose of this? What are its origins? Where did you get it?
Mariano acknowledged he wanted to counter what he viewed as the board's infringement of Second Amendment rights.
Then Mariano, the self-appointed Constitutional champion, ought to familiarize himself with Florida's Constitution. That document, as amended by voters in 1998, allows county governments to require background checks and three-day waiting periods on firearm purchases conducted at gun shows and flea markets. The commission originally had scheduled a public hearing on just such an ordinance, but delayed it on advice of the county attorney's office because of lawsuits involving Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.
Mariano's resolution Tuesday smacked of poking Mulieri in the eye while simultaneously catering to the Second Amendment advocates. What it failed to do was cater to a board majority. Commissioners Ted Schrader and Starkey joined Mulieri in killing the resolution.
"So now the headlines will be 'Three commissioners do not support the Constitution of the United States,' '' Mulieri said after the vote.
"For this to be done, I think is a shame. I'm really surprised at you Jack. To make a little political hay, you would do this. I am angry.''
Later, the public accused Mariano of pushing the resolution to try to permanently ban consideration of a gun-show loophole ordinance.
''Your resolution, Mr. Mariano, it's kind of like a restraining order. It's nothing more than a piece of paper,'' New Port Richey resident Peno Hardesty said.
This wasn't Burr vs. Hamilton, but Mulieri vs. Mariano likely will go down as a footnote in Pasco County history. It will be the first time that anyone remembers a commission majority defeating one of its own resolutions. And, it will be remembered as the day Mariano shot himself in the foot.