Support for Madeira city employees' relationship

- Love was on the agenda at Wednesday night's Madeira Beach City Commission meeting, and it was unlike most others.

The issue getting the most discussion was a relationship between the city manager and his assistant.

The topic of "who's dating who" is generally not what you'd hear about at an official city meeting. Arguably, there are much more pressing issues for the city. Now, an ethics complaint forced it front and center.

It seems a professional disagreement turned into a much more personal one. 

City Manager Shane Crawford has been dating his assistant, Cheryl Rodde, at least since August, when he got the approval of the mayor, vice mayor, city commissioners and an attorney.

"Each one of them blessed it. In fact, and were happy for us," Crawford said. "We've always kind of clicked as a couple."

At Wednesday's meeting, City Attorney Thomas Trask reiterated, "legally, there is nothing wrong with that."

It wasn't an issue, that is, until Crawford voiced his strong recommendation of a large city development. Then, came ethics complaints.

One was about the relationship, the other was regarding workers comp insurance with a city vendor.

Crawford called both allegations frivolous and unfounded, and addressed both in detail.

"It's a company of two people," Crawford said. "In Florida, you need a company of four or more to require workers comp and they provided me a certificate of exemption so we didn't make them have workers comp insurance."

Mayor Travis Palladeno asked Crawford who filed the complaints.

"Mr. Mayor, I'd hate to call out a member," Crawford said.

"Well, for the record, you mentioned," Palladeno said.

Crawford answered, "It's the commissioner that is absent tonight."

He was referring to Commissioner Elaine Poe. Hers was the one dissenting voice on the development presentation which she claimed contained errors. She had asked for a continuance.

"The hard part is, my accuser got up, gave me a big hug and said 'it's about time' and now, it's an ethics violation all because of me making a professional recommendation that these two developments in town are good for Madiera Beach," Crawford said.

FOX 13 reached Commissioner Poe on the phone. She said she couldn't make it to the meeting because she had family in town.
Though she did not speak in detail about any specific complaint, she did say that Crawford living with his assistant is "unethical."

She also said, "There are some questionable things going on in the city."

Despite the trouble, city officials made it clear they're not complaining, each giving "100-percent" of their support. Commissioner Terry Lister gave "120-percent."

"We are not going to agree on everything and we need to work some things out, but Shane Crawford, you have 100-percent of my support," Palladeno said, followed by a standing ovation.

That feeling was echoed througout the chambers during public comments.

"Last time I checked, love is not a crime," said Permit Technician Gwen Sinkfield. "Love is a beautiful thing. It does not affect our work environment. Everyone is happy."

"Leave the personal attacks and mudslinging to our presidential candidates," said Jeff Brown.

So at Wednesday's meeting, the agenda item of love passed unanimously by the Commission.

"We are going places," Brown said. "We are going forward and we just don't need the private personal attacks. They don't do anybody any good."

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