Largo Mayor George McGough asked City Manager Stephen Bonczek on Tuesday not to help the Chamber of Commerce's government committee put on a political rally in Ulmer Park. Bonczek is a member of the government committee and usually attends committee meetings. He said Tuesday he had not had a part in planning the rally scheduled for March 10.
At the end of a workshop for commissioners Tuesday night, McGough told Bonczek that he had received several calls from residents concerned that "the city manager was helping put on the rally."
The residents are concerned, according to McGough, because "there are two incumbent commissioners running for re-election," which the city could be perceived as favoring, and "two Chamber board members running against them."
"We've now got three political parties in Largo," McGough told a
reporter. "The Democrats, the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce."
Chamber president-elect Joe Mangus said Tuesday night that "the mayor is as wrong as he can be" about his organization's political intentions. "There's no way we are endorsing anybody. We are in no way a political party."
Mangus said Chamber members Sonja Schultz, who is seeking seat 1, and Jim Pitts, who is seeking seat 2, are running as individuals and not Chamber representatives.
Schultz, who sells insurance and owns a janitorial service, is challenging incumbent Scott Henniger, a landscaper, and Duane Runyan, a banker.
Pitts, manager of the Largo district for Florida Power Corp., is
challenging incumbent Ernest Wm. Bach, a private investigator, and David Kayholm, who works for a Clearwater manufacturer.
The election is March 13.
City Manager Bonczek agreed not to participate in plans for the political rally but said he would continue to serve on the government committee and participate in other Chamber activities.
The rally is to include a candidate forum, free hot dogs and soft drinks for spectators, and a band.
Last week, the Greater Largo Chamber of Commerce asked the city to help sponsor the rally by waiving fees to rent the park.
But city commissioners, led by McGough, voted 4-3 not to participate. At that point, the Chamber called off the rally. Chamber president Jerry Dominick said corporate sponsors had said they would withdraw their support if the city didn't participate.
Later in the week, the Chamber changed its mind and reset the rally for March 10. Mary Heaston, the Chamber's executive director, said an additional sponsor had agreed to pay the city's rental fees.
McGough also said Tuesday that he would ask candidate Schultz to withdraw from participating in the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast scheduled for March 3.
McGough said he had suggested earlier that Schultz read the scripture because she "is a good Christian woman."
However, now she is a political candidate "and the prayer breakfast has always been sacred ground as far as politics goes," McGough said.
Schultz said the mayor won't have to ask her to withdraw.
She said that shortly after she heard him "remark about the three
political parties in Largo, I wrote a note and left it with his secretary telling him I was withdrawing," Schultz said.
She said she "wants to work with everybody. Sometimes I don't believe the mayor has any idea what the Chamber is all about."