Got an idea to raise a few bucks for Manatee County government coffers.
Sell tickets to Tuesday’s Port Authority meeting.
The anticipated fireworks should be worth the price of admission.
In one corner, Port Chairman Larry Bustle.
In the opposite corner, Commissioner Joe McClash.
In another corner, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.
Gentlemen, let’s have a fair fight.
And keep it clean.
Given the hissing match that’s gone on the past two weeks?
This could be a three-ring circus.
The flap revolves around maritime consultant Paul DeMariano, an Ellenton resident who has been described in published reports as a “can-do man with years of big league port experience” in tough places like Boston, Jacksonville and Philadelphia.
Hollywood’s made gazillions with movies about the rough-and-tumble characters working on the big city waterfront.
Port Manatee is not big city, but the political brawl over its future is entertaining and enlightening.
The issues are:
n Bustle’s recommendation to hire DeMariano as a transition administrator at the Port Manatee without consulting authority members.
n Hunzeker’s meeting with both men individually.
n McClash’s charges they broke the Sunshine Law — and other nefarious deeds.
That’s Joe being Joe.
He reminds me of what Coach Eddie Shannon always says about killing a mosquito with an ax.
Histrionics aside, McClash has a point.
Technically, Bustle and Hunzeker were within their rights to do as they did.
That they didn’t keep fellow Port Authority board members in the loop strikes us as not being fully transparent.
It’s understandable some people — i.e., McClash, Commissioner Gwen Brown — felt ambushed.
Then there’s this matter of DeMariano. While director of Port Everglades, he awarded a $215 million land-lease contract without advertising it for bid and without notifying Broward County commissioners in January 2001, according to published reports.
Under fire, he resigned the following May.
McClash has also raised red flags about alleged conflicts of interest the consultant may have with port tenants and adjacent property owners.
DeMariano has promised to answer commissioners questions about these concerns.
Bustle said he addressed the $215 million question with DeMariano and satisfied his curiosity.
Now satisfy the public’s.
Showtime is 1:30 p.m. in commission chambers.
Maybe we should set up a concession stand outside with soda and hot dogs.
But no tomatoes.
Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055 or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206.