Jim Smith land deal
Kudos to the St. Petersburg Times for not letting this story drop and not accepting the so-called investigation by Pinellas County Administrator Steve Spratt. An inquiry by a law enforcement entity is definitely needed.
In America anyone can sue or threaten to sue anyone. Actually going to court and winning real money, less attorney fees, is a much different prospect, especially when suing the government.
Why did County Attorney Susan Churuti cave so easily to Smith's "threat" of a lawsuit? It would seem that the county had an excellent defense in performing the alleged flood control work on Smith's property. It was work that prevented other properties from flooding and most likely enhanced the value of Smith's property. Why was there no debate by county commissioners when approving a purchase not on an approved list of properties needed for flood control? Why buy it now without a proper feasibility study?
Smith's property sat for sale for almost a year with no offers, so this scheme seems concocted to have the county purchase it just in time for Smith to buy a new home. Both buyer and seller are equally guilty of duping the public and misusing public funds for the personal gain of an elected official.
I wonder how many other elected officials have benefitted from land sales to the county? I and many others deeply resent this cavalier waste of our tax dollars by people who so vociferously opposed property tax reform and budget cuts.
Keep digging, Times. I feel this is only the tip of the iceberg in county corruption.
Steve Richards, Tarpon Springs
Smith should resign over dubious deal - July 25, editorial
Cancel sale of Smith's land to Pinellas
Thank you for your continued exposure of our county's "Jim Smith Home-Purchase-Subsidy Program." Your editorial said virtually everything that needs to be said with one important exception. You did not suggest that the Smith land deal should be rescinded.
If the deal was a product of duress (i.e., bullying), or any form of misrepresentation or impropriety, the county should consider demanding the cancellation of the deal. The purchase price and costs should be refunded to the public treasury and the land returned to Jim Smith.
This, along with any appropriate resignations, may better serve the public interest than an expensive, drawn-out grand jury investigation. Restitution may be a better remedy than retribution.
Marshall Reissman, St. Petersburg
Pinellas County's purchase of land from Property Appraiser Jim Smith is the sort of back-door deal that causes residents to distrust the County Commission.
Because of such concerns, a parade of concerned citizens recently appeared before the commission to insist that a charter amendment be used to protect our county parks and preserves from just such shenanigans. In typical fashion, most of the commissioners ignored the pleas of those citizens.
This sordid episode demonstrates that the County Commission does what it finds expedient, not necessarily what is legal, ethical or in the long-term best interests of the people who elected its members.
Jan Allyn, Largo
County rushed deal for Smith July 26, story
Pinellas County Property Appraiser Jim Smith says: "I think I will be totally vindicated. I can't even possibly conceive of anything that I've done that was inappropriate."
Apparently he is not a reader of the St. Petersburg Times, which has outlined the ethical and possible legal breaches for days now. Smith would have us believe that this multifaceted rip-off of county taxpayer dollars is business as usual.
Maybe therein lies the problem. The mind reels with how many other violations may have gone undetected with a property appraiser who can see nothing wrong with this whole smelly affair.
The mendacity of it all.
Walt Blenner, Tarpon Springs
County attorney's job at risk over deal - July 25, story
This story noted that "County Commissioner Bob Stewart said the board supported the sale because it did not know then what it knows now."
To Stewart and the other commissioners: That's why when a motion is made to do something you speak up, you ask questions, you debate its merits in a public forum. You just don't unanimously agree to spend taxpayer money without a peep.
A wink and a nod just won't do. This leads me to wonder what other winkin' and noddin' goes on at these meetings.
Dave Plyer, Clearwater
The lowest road
How low can the Pinellas County commissioners and their cronies go?
First property taxes go through the roof. That is unless you are "the property appraiser," and then your lot is appraised at a fraction of the real value. I cannot imagine my property being undervalued by more than a dollar or two before I get reappraised.
Now the good property appraiser gets our County Commission to agree to spend my money buying his property without any discussion whatsoever. Huh? I don't want his property.
Now the commission has (according to the St. Petersburg Times) "agreed to consider hiring an outside attorney to represent members in (Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie) McCabe's inquiry."
Huh? Now it looks like they could spend more of my money hiring an outside attorney to get them off the hook for spending my money on Jim Smith's property. Oh my gosh, couldn't Pinellas County Attorney Susan Churuti represent them? Uh oh, I guess not. It seems she is as deep into the deal as the commission.
Well folks I guess we now know how low the Pinellas County Commission and all of its cronies can go.
John Elliott, Madeira Beach
Pinellas County land deal
Actions tell all
It's just this sort of lapse in ethical judgment that causes citizens to turn their backs on representative government, with the mantra "they're all corrupt." So it seems.
They prove it every day with their machinations out of the sunshine, scratching the litter box to cover their droppings, spinning the facts to their advantage, scamming the average citizen.
Citizens don't need another investigation to understand their ignorance of the responsibilities they assume when elected as the people's representatives, ignorance of what a representative democracy is really all about.
We don't need Bernie McCabe to reveal their sordid little games in their eternal quest for power. Their behavior reveals all. The county appraiser and county attorney were elected to perform in the best interests of all Pinellas citizens. They have scammed us and need to be put out to pasture, in disgrace, for their total lapse in ethical judgment.
The stench emanating from 315 Court St. in Clearwater is in serious need of cleansing. Come election day...!
Mike MacDonald, Clearwater
Florida Hometown Democracy
A say for voters
If I understand the position of the Florida Chamber, builders and developers correctly, allowing the residents to vote on future projects and such would be the end of Florida's economy and of our "good life."
We, in St. Pete Beach, have been hearing this for the past few years. It has been an avalanche of doom and gloom with no supporting data or facts. The construction community wants to continue to build and develop without interference from the public.
Florida Hometown Democracy, which I am not part of, feels the voters should be part of the conversation. The impact of overdevelopment, uncontrolled growth and sprawl on the residents includes congestion, gridlock, stressed infrastructure and generally a compacted urban environment for all.
These are parallel talking points, not a dialogue, and are mutually exclusive, at least at this time. Howard Troxler noted, a year or so ago, that developers would have to convince the electorate that a proposed project was in their best interests, not just convince a couple of sympathetic politicians.
I offer this observation: If you are happy with how Florida looks, with the continual building, the loss of open space and skyline and the resulting congestion, do nothing.
If you would like to have a say in how our future unfolds, sign the petition. This is still America.
Lance Peterson, St. Pete Beach