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Official: Rumors led to city inquiry

City Commissioner Charlie Harper said Tuesday the city has investigated rumors that he made inappropriate remarks to one or more city employees, but found he committed no wrongdoing.

Largo officials declined to comment directly on Harper's statement, but city management last week took steps indicating City Clerk Diane Bruner could be involved in the investigation.

Harper and the other five candidates in the March election were directed to bring their election business to another official rather than Bruner, who normally runs city elections.

In a Dec. 28 memo, Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert told the candidates he will manage the election process, while Bruner will continue performing her other duties.

Bruner referred questions to Schubert, who said the reason for the change was "confidential."

When asked about the directive, City Manager Steven Stanton and other officials said they were barred from commenting by a state statute that protects alleged victims of employment discrimination.

"It's confidential, and I'm not at liberty to say," said Stanton, who made the decision to transfer election duties from Bruner to Schubert.

Harper said Stanton told him the city investigated rumors that Harper's language had offended an employee or employees.

"There was an investigation conducted by the city involving rumors of misconduct," Harper said. "The city investigated it and I have been told that I was cleared of all potential wrongdoing."

Harper declined further comment. Stanton said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on Harper's remarks.

According to the provision of the state statute cited by City Attorney Alan Zimmet, "all records relating to an allegation of employment discrimination are confidential and exempt" when "the alleged victim chooses not to file a complaint and requests that records of the complaint remain confidential."

"We have a request under that section to keep all that information confidential," Zimmet said.

Vice Mayor Pat Gerard acknowledged that it was "unusual" to have someone other than the city clerk handling the elections.

"I can't really comment on it," she said. "I know why, but I can't say."

Lori Hudson, deputy administrator for the Pinellas County supervisor of elections, said her office will work with the person designated by the city _ in this case, Schubert.

Commission candidates Andy Guyette and Rodney Woods, who are running against Harper, said they did not know why the switch was made.

Even Mayor Bob Jackson said he "know(s) very little" about the situation.

"My understanding is, it's confidential information," he said.

Shannon Tan can be reached at shtansptimes.com or 445-4174.

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