Verbal Fireworks Ignite Pinellas Park Candidate Forum
By ANNE LINDBERG, TB Reporter
Challenger Donna Saxer accused Mayor Sandy Bradbury of abusing her position as well as being “dishonest” and “unethical” in the closing moments of a candidates forum this morning. Brabdury chose not to reply to the accusations. The two are running for Pinellas Park mayor.
PINELLAS PARK – Donna Saxer came out of the box with her guns blazing at incumbent Mayor Sandy Bradbury during a candidates forum this morning (Jan. 27).
Saxer accused Bradbury of abusing her position as mayor to avoid having her water turned off after years of delinquencies. She also accused Bradbury of chronic absenteeism on county committees and of failing to comply with Pinellas Park codes. Bradbury declined to rebut the barrage of accusations, which came during Saxer’s closing comments at the forum, which was held at Unit 6 in the Mainlands.
“For the people in Pinellas Park, it’s time for a change,” Saxer said. “I’m here to fight for you. … This is coming to an end.”
The forum between Saxer, a retired Pinellas Park police officer, and Bradbury, who is seeking her fourth term as mayor, began traditionally with the candidates outlining their platforms.
Bradbury, the daughter of former long-time Mayor Cecil Bradbury, talked of growing up in the city and of the changes that have come.
“I’ve enjoyed watching our city prosper and grow,” Bradbury said. “I would like to continue to bring the city in a positive direction.”
Saxer, a Pinellas County native, also talked of the changes that have come with development and expansion. She also spoke of her family and their dedication to public service. Saxer said her desire to serve was a natural outgrowth of that upbringing as was a knowledge of right and wrong and the strength to “fight for what was right” and to fight for those who could not fight. That was a theme she would return to frequently during the event.
Beyond that pledge to fight for residents and the city, Saxer said that she wants to improve public safety by hiring more police, firefighters and paramedics and to work on multi-modal transportation. That would include making Pinellas Park more bicycle friendly. Saxer also advocated term limits for the mayor and council members and urged a greater transparency in Pinellas Park government. Saxer said she supports passing a nuisance abatement ordinance that could help the city better deal with bad landlords.
The two fielded questions from the audience, which covered issues that included concerns over traffic, especially considering the large number of apartments slated to be built in the Gateway area of the city.
One woman questioned Saxer about a lawsuit she filed in 2001 accusing the city of sex bias. Saxer lost the suit. The woman said it cost the city $174,000-plus to defend the case.
Saxer said she and two other women sued the city and other female officers also wanted to sue but feared losing their jobs. Saxer listed some of the reasons for the lawsuits: There were no uniforms for pregnant officers. Instead, they had to wear their regular uniforms with shirts tucked in. One officer who had been pregnant was assigned to a night shift to make it harder for her to get pregnant again. Saxer herself was accused of having deformed feet because she needed a special shoe size. Male officers who needed special shoe sizes were provided them.
“I would do it again,” Saxer said. “It was not right what was going on.”
And even though she lost the lawsuit, Saxer said, the lawsuits brought about changes, including the promotion of Dorene Thomas from lieutenant to chief.
Saxer added that her willingness to file suit was proof that, if elected mayor, she would fight for the city and its residents.
Shortly after a woman got up and rather than ask the candidates a question, said that she was one of the #metoo women. She had a boss, she said, who repeatedly grabbed her and threatened her with firing should she complain. Saxer, she said, is a “prime example” of the reason women don’t complain. She stepped up, filed suit and is now being blamed for spending tax money.
“That was not done with any malice intent whatsoever,” Bradbury said. Bradbury said that her water bills had been late because “in the past,” water bills could not be paid online.She added that she had tried to pay the bills using her bank’s bill pay system but that had not worked. It took her awhile, she said, to get the money back from the bank.
Saxer asked to rebut Bradbury’s statement, saying, the chronically delinquent water bills were “the elephant in the room.” The delinquencies, Saxer said, were not anything new or a one-time happening. They began in 2004 and extended until December after Saxer had made a public records request for the information.
The worst part, Saxer said, is that Bradbury’s water was never cut off even while the city was cutting off water for Pinellas Park taxpayers who were also having trouble paying the bill. That was a “slap in the face” to those residents, she said.
“Bank glitches, give me a break,” Saxer told Bradbury. “You did not do what you’re supposed to do.”
Bradbury said, “The bills were paid. There is no balance. I paid every late fee. … That’s all I’m going to say.”
Saxer did not let the issue drop. In her closing statement, she attacked Bradbury, saying, “This isn’t a case of absent-mindedness. This is a case of abuse of her position.”
Saxer took a pile of papers several inches thick and plopped them on the table in front of her. Those, she said, were a list of residents in the past year whose water had been cut off for non-payment because they were not the mayor.
“It’s not fair,” Saxer said. Bradbury’s actions, she said, were “dishonest,” “unethical” and served to “screw the citizens.”
The nonpartisan election is March 13. The last day to register to vote is Feb. 12. Online voter registration is available.
For information about Saxer, go to facebook.com.
For information about Bradbury, go to facebook.com.
Main Photo shows Donna Saxer, Left, and Sandy Bradbury. In-Story Photo shows Pile of Papers that, according to Saxer, have the names of people in Pinellas Park who have had their water turned off in the past year for non-payment. Photos by Anne Lindberg, TB Reporter.
Pinellas Park Mayor | Politics | Election | Donna Saxer | Sandy Bradbury | Tampabay News
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