In the offices of Steve Spratt, Pinellas County administrator.
ASSISTANT: Here's another letter for you, sir.
SPRATT: Wait a minute! This letter claims the county promised to spend millions on private roads for some company named Echelon.
A: That's right. Rick Dodge promised. As the county's chief of economic development, he was sure nobody would mind.
S: Good Lord! What's the County Commission going to say?
A: They approved it too, sir. Rick used the secret tunnels connecting their offices to get the approval of each commissioner, bravely violating the state open meetings law.
S: (angrily) I told you NEVER to mention the secret tunnels! Take a secret memo to the commission: "Plausible deniability rule in effect re: Dodge promise to Echelon."
A: Even to Commissioner Stewart? When it comes to Rick, he usually doesn't get the memo.
S: Better make him just a "bcc:".
A: Sir, I suppose this would be a bad time to bring up the Fort De Soto thing, then.
S: What Fort De Soto thing?
A: Rick turned the deed over to some guy named Connolly. He was sure you wouldn't mind, sir. He said it would be good for economic development.
S: (muffled response)
SECRETARY (on intercom): Excuse me, sir. The folks from WorldCom are in the lobby. They say it would really help them out if you'd go ahead and pay Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd's phone bill.
S: Not now, I'm in a crisis situation. Is there anything else I should know?
A: Uh, yes sir. Here's a letter from Albert Whitted Airport, asking when it can take over St. Petersburg-Clearwater International. Apparently we promised them.
SECRETARY (on intercom): Excuse me, sir, but we're getting some complaints about a letter that Commissioner Todd wrote urging the public to panic, rip out their plumbing and maybe even just go ahead and burn down their houses because of this new water.
S: Darn it! Sounds like utility director Pick Talley's work again. Get him on the phone.
SECRETARY: Yes, sir. (Brief delay.) I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Talley appears to be out of the office, setting deer traps in Pasco County.
A: Mr. Spratt, don't forget your 3 o'clock appointment. It's with some kid named Elmer who claims that Rick Dodge promised to pay him 50 cents for each rock he picked up along the road.
S: How many did he pick up?
A: We owe him $1.36-million.
S: Well, maybe we can use Penny for Pinellas money.
A: We could, sir, except we seem to have already spent it twice.
S: Then we'll have to make it up with a tax increase in the unincorporated areas.
A: We can try that, except for the businesses that we promised a secret tax break for, sir. I have the list right here.
S (reading): Moe's Taxidermy?
A: Economic development, sir. Mr. Dodge hired a consultant who estimates the annual economic impact of taxidermy in the county to be several billion dollars.
SECRETARY: Dr. Carl Kuttler, president of St. Petersburg College, on the phone for you, sir.
S (picks up phone): Carl! What? Hmm? Yes, of course I remember Rick's working for you. No, I haven't talked to him. What? He did? Honestly, I don't know anything about that. I'd say it's your problem now. Good luck. All right. Bye.
A: What was that?
S: He gave away the social science department. Also, a delegation of Russian refugees seems to be moving bunk beds and cookstoves into the Florida International Museum.
A: Maybe we should build them an extra building, like we did at Brooker Creek.
SECRETARY: Mr. Spratt, Vince Naimoli is on the phone. He's demanding to know why moving trucks and cranes are circling Tropicana Field.
A: Don't forget Elmer is waiting, sir. And, by the way, er he gets to sit in your chair.
Q: My chair?
A: Sorry, sir. Mr. Dodge promised.
_ You can reach Howard Troxler at (727) 893-8505 or at troxlersptimes.com.