PB: The Circus is in Town

by SDM

SDM watched a lot, but not all, of last night’s village council meeting and all we can ask is…was there a carnival barker standing outside the chamber? Step right up and don’t be shy, because you will not believe your eyes!

SDM’s inescapable conclusion is that these folks really don’t like each other much, and we are speaking specifically of Mayor Stanczyk and Vice Mayor Dubois, though Mr. Fiore had a moment of outrage that rivals those of the other two.

SDM Aside: When will the folks managing the chamber toss out the audience members who continue to shout at the officials on the dais? Yes, we can hear you, you obnoxious person(s), even out there in TV and internet land. You are as much to blame for the circus atmosphere as the folks on the dais.

But it wasn’t all invective. In fact, our ever reliable Mayor Malaprop provided the audience with a Norm Crosby moment that SDM will cherish forevermore.

For those of you who did not grow up in the days of the Ed Sullivan Show, Norm Crosby is probably a mystery. Crosby was a comedian who relied upon malaprops – words that sound like they belong in a sentence, but whose meaning is totally out-of-place – to break up the audience.

For example, at a roast of Barry Goldwater, Crosby remarked that it was up to the American people to ensure that President Johnson’s “War on Puberty” will succeed: “If you don’t pitch in and do your part and we in Washington don’t pitch in and do our part, then pretty soon we won’t have a part to pitch in.” Crosby also liked to say that he drank “decapitated” coffee.

In true Crosby fashion, Mayor Stanczyk – during her comments supporting run-off elections – stated that participation in runoffs was “sacrilegious” when she probably meant “sacrosanct.” (The words are near antonyms, which is no small feat.)

The only difference between Crosby and Stanczyk is that the audience laughs upon hearing the former and cringes upon hearing the latter.

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Perhaps the most heated exchanges – there were many to choose from – came at the end of the meeting when Mr. Dubois’s plan to fire the village attorney was taken up.

After a long, rambling introduction of his item – containing both legitimate points of concern alongside petty annoyances – Mayor Stanczyk mounted her high horse and lit into Dubois. SDM can’t recall the precise words (there were so many strung together), but it would have been quicker to merely call Dubois a liar and a cheat. Dubois’s rejoinder was that Stanczyk was out of her mind.

Now, SDM understands Mr. Dubois’s sentiment, but this gripping interaction was truly shameful and an embarrassment to both parties.

For Mr. Dubois, the clear problem is that he is like a wobbling colt just beginning to understand the nature of his environment and how his legs work. He desperately needs to develop a tactful manner…that’s as tactfully as SDM can put it. SDM is sure Mr. Dubois will learn but it is painful to watch.

For Mayor Stanczyk the status quo ante prevails just as it always has done: she just cannot act at the same time as both chairperson in charge of a meeting and commentator on all things. In addition to her misstatements, she just doesn’t run a sound meeting and her abuse of the chairperson’s prerogatives is growing tiresome.

As to the substance of the issue, the village attorney’s ostensible supporters did her enormous damage last night.

When a leader becomes weakened in parliamentary forms of governance, a vote of confidence is often taken. SDM’s intelligent and insightful readers will see the contradiction in such an act immediately. Wouldn’t a weakened leader just be further weakened by proving that she couldn’t avoid a vote of confidence in the first place? The answer, of course is yes, a vote of confidence – especially one that is narrowly carried – can signal the death knell for a leader and it did so here.

After a long and circuitous discussion, Mayor Stanczyk called the question on the amended item. According to the motion, the item would be deferred to the next meeting and a discussion of the village attorney’s billing practices would take place at the intervening COW meeting. Stanczyk and Lindsay voted no. Fiore, Dubois and self-described swing vote Schaffer joined together to pass it.

The result is the worst possible outcome for the village attorney. She must prepare for, and sit through, another uncomfortable grilling at the COW and again at the next council meeting in March. In the meantime, the council’s direction to her is as muddled as is her future with Palmetto Bay.

At the nadir of the mud fight, Councilwoman Lindsay called on her colleagues to behave like adults. SDM concurs with the sentiment though unfortunately none appeared.

No adult with experience or concern amended the motion to put the legal contract out to bid, which would have terminated the inquiry one way or the other. At least then the village attorney would be spared the unprofessional character assassination and the concomitant inept defense to which she was subjected last night.

SDM Says to Mr. Dubois: It’s not too late. Bring a proposal to the COW that will put the legal services contract out to bid. The item should include a proposed contract and – if you are ambitious – a policies and procedures manual for the village attorney. End the free form nonsense and follow a customary procedure or continue to behave like your nemesis. The choice is yours.

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