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Video was best bet for controversy

Which takes longer: a 26-minute videotape highlighting the city's accomplishments, or a discussion about whether even to view it?

It was a close race Tuesday night when city commissioners had a long discussion about the propriety of viewing the promotional tape while two investigations into the city's public works department are going on.

Scott Black told fellow commissioners the city's video might be "misrepresented as something in regard to the investigation."

"This can be perceived as a propaganda item," Black said. "I feel like we need to wait."

Because Mayor Pat Weaver was not present, a 2-2 vote split the remaining commissioners. The issue was dropped _ then reopened when Charles McIntosh had a change of heart.

"Initially I just thought it was bad timing. I agreed with Scott Black. But when (City Manager Ben) Bolan said (the tape) was a public document, and it was going to be released anyway, it was purely academic," McIntosh said.

So the commissioners and others at the meeting watched the tape, which opens with an aerial shot of the city and will be shown to civic groups and anyone interested in its message.

In the end, McIntosh's impression was that the tape "was done in pretty good taste."

Even Black thought "it was a very well-produced video."

But he said he still would have preferred delaying the tape until the completion of the two investigations into the city's Public Works Department.

One investigation, being conducted by the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, is examining the city's dumping practices. The other, conducted by local police, is examining various allegations against city employees, one of whom was arrested Thursday night on a burglary charge and accused of stealing speakers from an impounded vehicle on city property.

According to records released Tuesday by the city, allegations ranging from alligator poaching to drug use and alcohol use on the job have been made against some city workers.

One worker allegedly bragged "about stealing enough lumber from the city to build a 12-by-36-foot barn," the records show. Other claims are that a city worker took materials from a city vehicle for personal use, that limerock was taken by two employees for a private driveway and that another used a city vehicle to take a "1-ton truck load of cabinets from the old First Union Bank building."

Allegations involving missing liquid propane gas, tools, electrical wire and high-pressure hose also have been made.

When Bolan said the investigations weren't the motivation for the video, Black pointed to a memo Bolan wrote. The memo said, in part, that "recent adverse publicity" about the city's woes "has shaken employee morale and the confidence of some citizens and taxpayers have in city employees."

"In an effort to set the record straight, that the great majority of city employees are dedicated, resourceful, skilled and professional, we present the Dade City Progress Video, 1991," Bolan wrote in his memo.

At the meeting, Bolan said the video doesn't have "anything to do specifically with the public works investigation."

"I think we have had a lot of negative press. It's very difficult to get positive press in the paper. I think the public has the right to know of the quality of employees they have working for them," he said.

All of the hullabaloo over the tape has left Administrative Assistant Doug Sanders somewhat confused.

Sanders said the idea to make the visual progress report was born innocently in January when the city's department heads were asked to outline their accomplishments.

"I said, "Let's make a video.' This was done on my time; I used my equipment at no expense to the city. I think visually. I was just surprised that the commission became deadlocked in a (lengthy) conversation on it," he said.