BRADENTON BEACH -- After Vice Mayor Jack Clarke called Monday for ousting Mayor Bill Shearon, alleging Shearon was creating a hostile work environment and wasting resources, Shearon and other city officials accused Clarke of wanting the mayorship for himself.
"He worked his way in as vice mayor, and now I think he wants to be mayor, which is his right," Shearon said about Clarke. "But I wish he'd do it in the proper way and run in an election against me, and then the people can decide."
Clarke said the mayor and other city officials are mistaken, and he doesn't have plans to run for mayor after Shearon's term ends next year.
"Being mayor of this city was the furthest thing from my mind a year ago," Clarke said.
Clarke presented an eight-page complaint about Shearon at a meeting Monday, calling for an investigation into his allegations and a possible vote by commissioners on whether to make Shearon forfeit his position.
Among his allegations, Clarke said Shearon lost the council's trust by mismanaging the replacement of city computer systems and appointments to the offices of city clerk and city treasurer. Clarke said poor plan
ning and execution meant the computer systems cost thousands more than needed and the clerk's office, a staff of two, lost four employees in the past nine months.
Clarke also called for more transparency from Shearon, saying reports the mayor is required to provide the commission have not been done. He also wanted more details of discretionary city spending.
"(The) commission has no idea what funds are expended or for what purpose," Clarke said. "We have lost control."
Clarke ultimately compared Shearon's lead to a dictatorship, saying the heavy-handed way Shearon deals with vendors, contractors and employees goes past a hands-on management style. He said three employees from Public Works have filed hostile work-environment claims. Those reports will be released this week, according to Shearon, so neither Shearon nor any commissioners have read them yet.
Shearon and Ward 3 Commissioner Janie Robertson said most of Clarke's allegations are not factual.
"Most of what he wrote was an opinion," Robertson said. "When you say stuff like, 'Lost the trust,' I don't know what that means."
Shearon said he was surprised since Clarke had never complained to Shearon personally and hadn't given him notice about the problems.
"That's what has me upset," Shearon said. "They're not telling me what they'd like to have me do or what I'm doing wrong."
Robertson said she believes Clarke simply wants to take over as mayor.
"It appears with him taking the (vice mayor) position away from me, it was a very fancy maneuver by the way, with a couple attorneys working together, but he wanted to be vice mayor, and he got it," Robertson said. "Now, after that, he wants to get rid of the mayor. So you tell me what that looks like."
Clarke said allegations he orchestrated a way to get the vice mayorship for himself are groundless.
"I was nominated, and two other experienced commissioners voted for me," he said.
Tammy Johnson, who resigned from the city clerk's office in Bradenton Beach in July, also brought up that incident and accused Clarke of wanting to take over the mayor position in a statement.
Ouster process unclear
The process of ousting the mayor is unclear, because the city has no procedure outlined for it. A lawyer told commissioners Monday of a path they could take.
Robertson said her understanding was commissioners would go over all relevant documents and talk about the next step to take at a meeting tentatively scheduled for Oct. 6, where they could choose to talk to Shearon about what he needs to change or open an investigation and ultimately vote on whether to oust Shearon.
Clarke said he wouldn't comment on the procedure until he had the Oct. 6 meeting agenda.
Robertson said she would prefer not to see an investigation.
"My major objection to doing it through the city attorney is the cost involved," Robertson said. "She couldn't even answer us on how much it would be or how much time it could take. It could be two years and the mayor is already out of office. What a waste."
Robertson said she's supported the mayor from the start, and thinks he's slowly but surely fixing the city.
"I know that people say the city's in a mess. Well the city was in a huge mess when he first arrived," Robertson said. "He's slowly getting us to climb out of it."
Some local businesspeople don't agree.
Sue Shinka, general manager at the Bridge Tender Inn & Dockside Bar for 18 years, said she hasn't seen Anna Maria Island get any better under Shearon.
"It's ridiculous, some of the stuff that's going on," Shinka said. "They're all acting like a bunch of idiots. They're spending too much time arguing amongst themselves rather than addressing the problems that are there."
Several local business owners declined comment on the issue, although some Bridge Street vendors attended the meeting Monday, according to Robertson. Robertson said they were silent at the meeting as well.
Shinka said she didn't believe ousting the mayor was the answer, and she hadn't seen any evidence Clarke is trying to take over, either.
"I'm never for anybody just getting rid of someone. Find out what's going on and fix it from there," Shinka said. "They all need to clean up their act, because it really is embarrassing. Last time, I was ready to bring down some popcorn and watch the show."