No Boss Mayor gets boost from trade group; pro-strong mayor PAC leads in cash

MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | TimesMeeting attendees take home yard signs at the end of a meeting led by political consultant, Beth Rawlins for the No Boss Mayor Clearwater Committee at Clearwater Family Restaurant in Clearwater, Fla., on Sept. 12, 2018. The grassroots group made up of community members and business owners hopes to defeat a strong mayor referendum on the ballot Nov. 6.
MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | TimesMeeting attendees take home yard signs at the end of a meeting led by political consultant, Beth Rawlins for the No Boss Mayor Clearwater Committee at Clearwater Family Restaurant in Clearwater, Fla., on Sept. 12, 2018. The grassroots group made up of community members and business owners hopes to defeat a strong mayor referendum on the ballot Nov. 6.
Published October 8
Updated October 9

The group fighting the strong mayor initiative in Clearwater has received its single largest boost from the leading organization that advocates professional management for governments.

The International City/County Management Association based in Washington gave $40,000 to the No Boss Mayor political action committee, according to the most recent available campaign treasurer's report. The association traditionally contributes to citizen-led efforts to retain council-manager forms of government, according to spokesperson Michele Frisby.

The help from the trade group now accounts for the vast majority of No Boss Mayor's total money raised: of the remaining $8,891, about $7,000 came from Beth Rawlins, a Clearwater-based political consultant who chairs the PAC. The rest are small donations from about two dozen residents.

Former Mayor Rita Garvey and former City Council member John Doran have each given $100 and Palm Pavilion, the inn and restaurant owned by City Council member Hoyt Hamilton, has given $1,000 to fight the strong mayor change.

Accountable Government, the PAC pushing for the strong mayor referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot, has raised $126,005 – much of it from business executives, other PACs, Clearwater residents and a chunk from Bellair business people.

Some of Accountable Government's top donors include: $13,155 from Restore Florida Inc., which is funded by prominent Pinellas County Republicans; $10,000 from Mid-Atlantic Finance Company; $10,000 from Belleair businessman Dan Doyle Jr.; $10,000 from Boos Development Group; and $10,000 from real estate mogul Ben Mallah, who moved from Largo to Clearwater last year.

Former Mayor Brian Aungst Sr., Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel and City Council member David Allbritton have also contributed, according to filings with the Department of State.

Voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to change the council-manager government Clearwater has had for nearly 100 years into a "strong" mayor-council form.

In council-manager governments, cities hire a professional manager to be chief executive, make day-to-day administrative decisions, prepare the budget, hire and fire most employees, and carry out policy created by the Council. The Council, which includes the mayor, sets policy, approves ordinances and the budget, approves expenditures and hires and fires the city manager.

Strong mayor-council governments put most day-to-day authority in the hands of the mayor, who is elected but is not a member of the Council. In these governments, like what is in place in Tampa and St. Petersburg, the mayor can hire and fire most employees, create and disband departments, negotiate deals on behalf of the city, and has veto power that the Council can override with a 4-1 vote.

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