SHOW DOWN: MARCH 23

March 14, 2007

Stanton has 9 days to prepare

But his attorney may not be available March 23.

By LORRI HELFAND
Published March 14, 2007


LARGO – City Manager Steve Stanton will make his case to keep his job on March 23.

City Commissioners on Tuesday night chose that date for the public hearing because that’s when they’ll all be available.

But his attorney said she might not be.

“They chose to go with the only date we’re not all available,” said Karen Doering.

Stanton, who initially requested a hearing in April, said he wished he had more time to prepare his case, but will make the most of the opportunity.

“I’m still excited about the prospect of being reinstated as city manager,” said Stanton, who did not attend the meeting. “I’ll do the best I can with the cards that have been dealt to me.”

On Feb. 27, commissioners voted 5-2 to place Stanton, 48, who makes $140,234 annually, on paid leave and to begin the process to fire him.

The vote came less than a week after Stanton, Largo’s city manager for 14 years, disclosed that he was undergoing hormone therapy in preparation for gender-reassignment surgery.

Commissioners decided against scheduling the hearing for April 9, when Doering said she would be available. They said they were concerned that day is past the 30-day deadline that the city charter sets for holding the hearing.

Advocacy groups for gay and transgender people have said they plan to help Stanton present his case, but Doering said she must attend an out-of-town conference for litigators on that date.

Doering, senior counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a legal advocacy group for gay and transgendered people, blamed her dilemma on Commissioner Mary Gray Black, who brought up the concern about the deadline.

“They chose to follow Ms. Black and her irrational fears only based in hysteria,” Doering said. “It is a bit shocking the lack of professional courtesy in scheduling a date as important as this.”

Stanton had requested three hours to present his case. But Black wanted to limit Stanton’s case to an hour.

Commissioner Rodney Woods and other commissioners balked at that suggestion.

“I would hope that he is given the amount of time he feels is necessary to present his case to us,” Woods said.

Once the public hearing takes place, commissioners can vote at any time to make Stanton’s termination official. At least five votes are required to fire Stanton, officials say.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at 445-4155 or lorri@sptimes.com

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