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State Veterans Affairs' leadership seeks pay adjustment

Editor: A recent letter to the editor raised questions regarding the leadership of the new State Department of Veterans' Affairs. Specifically, the letter questioned the department's efforts to secure a pay-grade adjustment for the Veterans' Affairs Officer classes employed by the department. Florida law provides that classes in the State Career Service System are to be paid a salary that provides an equitable level of compensation for similar work performed by employees in different departments in state government. Due to special pay increases given to state employees in other departments, the employees of this department are not being paid equitably when compared with other state employees performing similar duties in other departments. State law requires that such equities be redressed, and it is that situation that we have worked to correct.

The governor's budget, while seeking no general tax increase, and keeping pay of state employees well under control, recognizes the inequitable situation that exists by proposing a pay-grade adjustment for the professionals in the three Career Service classes that directly serve the needs of Florida's veterans. In order for the Career Service System to work properly, the law requires that there be pay equity within the system. The governor's budget proposes to correct the inequity that currently exists.

The turnover of trained professionals with replacement by untrained and unskilled employees leads to a significant loss of productivity and efficiency. Another result is that veterans and their survivors needing assistance are required to wait longer or receive less than the total professional services to which they are entitled.

A budget request to correct such a condition is fiscally conservative and responsible, as is attested to by the fact that the governor has included the required funds in his recommendations to the legislature.

Responsible veterans and their advocates should support this department's efforts in this matter.

Otis M. Brooks

Division director

Veteran's Benefits and Assistance

Paying legal fees fends off opportunist

Editor: I must take exception with your predictably biased editorial of Feb. 16 pertaining to the payment of lawyers hired by Port Richey Mayor Keith Kollenbaum. In my view he is defending Port Richey from a vicious attack by a political opportunist. I believe an attack against the city is an attack against the mayor, and conversely an attack against the mayor is an attack against the city!

As to outrage, I am personally outraged, as every voter in Port Richey should be, at the vile attack the unsuccessful mayoral candidate is making against the integrity of the election process in Port Richey. It is a devious plot to steal the election and make a mockery of our right to decide the results in a free and democratic manner. The ground work for this attempt to negate the election process was laid well before the vote and was initiated when the unsuccessful candidate began complaining of election fraud well before election day. In order to ensure the process was totally above board, not only did the supervisor of elections for Pasco County devote additional resources, but also the supervisor of elections for Hernando County acted as an outside observer to guarantee the integrity of the process. No irregularities were observed or found!

Two investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded the election process was correct and proper. However, there was the matter of two absentee voters using a vacant lot as an address.

I can assure you this was not a devious plot to usurp the power of the people nor an attempt to overthrow the elected government of Port Richey. At the time of the election I was in the active Army stationed in Georgia. I have used what was to be my future address as my "home of record" for several years. "Home of record" equates to permanent address and provides the U.S. government my official address for voting, taxes and future shipping of household goods. This is also the address used on the corporation documentation, to the state of Florida registering my name as vice president of Suncoast Gateway Mobile Village Inc. It also is the address from which my wife and I either voted for or against Lynn Tepper when she ran for County Judge, Group 3 in September 1984. There was nothing fraudulent about that election, either!

Election officials say this "minor administrative error" could have been corrected if I had used a relative's address such as my father's or my uncle's, both of whom live in the same park. While this would have kept the bureaucracy happy, I didn't feel it accurately portrayed my "future address."

The bottom line is that as a legal resident of Port Richey, as an Army officer serving out of the state, and as a corporate officer of a business affected by Port Richey politics and ordinances, I had a legal right to vote in this election. I am outraged that the unsuccessful candidate is attempting to deprive me of my right, but worse, that he is trying to rob the voters of Port Richey.

There has been no violation of the letter or the spirit of the law. Surely the judge will arrive at the same conclusion in March, and we can put this futile effort by Joe Mastrocolo to gain political publicity for his next election campaign in its rightful place. This waste of taxpayer money must cease!

By the wayI also resent your view of Port Richey as being "backward." The city is progressive and efficient enough to have lower taxes than our neighbor to the south!

Mr. Mastrocolo should either mature politically or seek other methods to "stroke" his ego!

Edward Schultz

Port Richey

"Bravo' to editorial about election fight

Editor: Re: Your editorial of Feb. 16 regarding Port Richey residents paying Kollenbaum's legal fees. To that I say, "Bravo." A job well done.

But, then again, why should they not foot the bill? In the past, they showed a very lackadaisical attitude about anything that Kollenbaum pulled off at the council meetings, so why not now?

Remember the adage, "There are none so blind as those who don't want to see." If the people do not want to be awakened, why should Kollenbaum awaken them?

Michael Starr

Port Richey