Tampa progressives target Maniscalco over police oversight position

They fault him for refusing to support creating an independent attorney to represent the police Citizens Review Board.
Tampa City council member and candidate for District 2, Guido Maniscalco is facing criticism from some progressives for failing to back a police reform measure. He is pictured campaigning for reelection last month in South Tampa.
Tampa City council member and candidate for District 2, Guido Maniscalco is facing criticism from some progressives for failing to back a police reform measure. He is pictured campaigning for reelection last month in South Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published April 1

More power and independence for the Citizens Review Board, which investigates accusations of police misconduct, has been one of the top priorities of progressives who hope to elect more members of the Tampa City Council.

They’ve been targeting incumbents opposed to giving the Review Board subpoena power and the ability to hire an independent attorney.

One of their main targets is council member Guido Maniscalco, who voted against a giving the board an independent attorney in key votes in January and February. He had cast votes in favor of the issue previously. The progressives say he flip-flopped under pressure from Mayor Jane Castor, a former police chief, who opposes the changes.

Maniscalco said he hasn’t actually changed his mind on whether the Review Board should have independent counsel, but said he learned the board has the power to seek one in cases where it believes one is needed.

He said he was swayed by a memo from the board’s chairman calling the change unnecessary, and a memo from Castor calling it an unnecessary expense.

Advocates of the change, including James Shaw of the Tampa ACLU, dispute those contentions.

The Tampa Bay Times asked the candidates in the April 25 runoff council election ballot their positions:

  • In the race for the District 2 citywide seat, Maniscalco faces challenger Robin Lockett, who favors the expanded powers for the board.
  • In the District 3 citywide seat, incumbent Lynn Hurtak, one of the council’s main proponents of the expanded powers, faces challenger Janet Cruz, a political ally of Castor.
  • In the District 1 citywide seat, incumbent Joe Citro, an opponent of expanded powers for the Review Board, failed to win a spot in the runoff. Alan Clendenin faces Sonja Brookins, a proponent of the expanded powers.
  • And in the District 6 seat, incumbent Charlie Miranda, a consistent opponent of the expanded powers, faces challenger Hoyt Prindle.

Cruz didn’t respond to email, phone and text message questions from the Times about her views.

In a recent candidate forum, Clendenin and Prindle both said they support an independent counsel but have reservations about subpoena power, in part because of the potential for abuse of government power.

In an interview, Maniscalco said he originally favored creating the board in 2015 and worked with Mayor Bob Buckhorn to reach a compromise in a dispute over who would appoint its members.

“Since the beginning I’ve always voted for the board,” he said, but hiring an independent counsel would be “a duplicative effort” because the city attorney’s office, by law, advises the board.

Shaw said that creates an automatic conflict of interest in any case where a charge of police misconduct leads to litigation.

The city attorney, he said, would be responsible for defending the city against legal liability for police misconduct —“But the CRB’s job is to develop information that potentially could subject the city to liability.”

He acknowledged the board has the ability to request an independent counsel, but said city ordinances dictate that the city attorney decides when it can hire one.

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The council voted unanimously, including Miranda and Maniscalco, on Jan. 5 to put a referendum on the ballot for voters to decide on hiring an independent counsel, but Castor vetoed that and other proposed charter changes.

The council overrode the other vetoes but failed on a 4-3 vote, with Miranda, Maniscalco and Citro voting no, to override the Review Board measure. A 5-2 supermajority was required.

“Because (Maniscalco) switched his position, the people didn’t get a chance to vote on this,” Shaw said.

Miranda said in an interview that he has occasionally voted in favor of the ballot measure “to move the process along,” but has always opposed the idea as an unnecessary expense.

Hurtak has since said she will propose making the change by a city ordinance instead.