1. Archive

Port Richey lobs one in

Step up to the column plate.

Knock the rich red soil, which was probably imported from Georgia, from your cleats, take a few loosening swipes with the bat, face the glaring pitcher down and wait for his best stuff.

Stupid political antics in Hernando County . . . fastball . . . high and inside . . . let it go by . . . STRIKE ONE!

Citrus County has its underwear in a bunch over manatees again . . . yawn . . . BALL ONE!

And, suddenly, there it is, a soft lobbing slowball spinning so casually you can see the stitches and the print on the label that reads, "Port Richey names parliamentarian." Hit me . . . it whispers silently . . . out of the park.

Swish . . . CRACK . . . don't even bother to watch it. Just run around the bases like you are doing what you are doing . . . a job.

First there is the general concept.

Port Richey naming someone a parliamentarian is sort of like Checkers hiring an executive chef or the Daughters of the American Revolution hiring a bouncer for a tea.

Parliamentary procedure is about order, a quality that is just as familiar to Port Richey politicians as the advantages of ethnic diversity are to the Ku Klux Klan.

And the selection of Robert L. Gipson, alias Gilbert Sharbey, a man with arrest records under several names in 11 states, to fill that post, is unique in that Port Richey is the only municipality in Florida where that really isn't surprising.

Because he isn't elected, Gipson at least didn't have to meet the traditional test that bars city officials there from service if their IQs are higher than the reading on the council room thermostat during a November meeting.

And if anyone can ever find the tattered tide table on the back of which the city charter was hastily scrawled in red crayon, it probably doesn't prohibit appointment of an admitted con man who claimed degrees from Harvard and Berkeley when his most advanced education came from correspondence courses he took while an inmate at Leavenworth. In fact, it probably requires it.

I already have reserved a place on my desk for the pile of mail that will come in from diehard Gipson supporters who will tell me how unfair it is to drag up a man's past and how completely rehabilitated he is.

He was at least as completely rehabilitated back in the 1984 and 1986 when, as a former writer of bad checks, he tried to ask the People of Pasco County to elect him, under an alias, to positions where he would be making decisions about the expenditure of hundreds of millions of tax dollars.

During that time Gipson compared himself to the Virgin Mary and Republican then-leader Merl Conine compared him to Abraham Lincoln, although he is never known to have used either of those personae as an alias.

I don't recall the Virgin Mary ever having to come up with phony degrees, names or employment histories to get her job, and Conine's endorsement would carry a lot more weight if he wasn't doing time for racketeering and grand theft and still facing drug, battery and grand theft charges.

But maybe I'm just being unfair.

Okay, we probably shouldn't trust our kids' education to a guy with a phony degree . . . and I really am uncomfortable about giving a forger control over tax dollars.

But if we ever bar liars from local government the city of Saint Leo, which includes a nunnery and an abbey, might be the only place in the county that could come up with a quorum.

And, besides, this time we are only talking about trusting Gipson with a city government's integrity, commitment to proper action and desire to do things correctly. This might be exactly the right choice.

Since all of the city's streets, sewers and zoning concerns are in perfect order (and I am on the cover of this month's GQ), I think it is entirely proper that Gipson should supplant the city engineer and sit at the side of Mayor Roger Naused.

Besides, it's necessary.

Check it out. When Naused talks, you won't even be able to see Gipson's lips move.