TRANSSEXUAL CITY MANAGER COULD BE FIRED THIS WEEK (UPDATED 02/28 @ 07:56 ET)
Last week I made note of Largo City Manager Steve Stanton, who announced that he was transgendered and would be undergoing a sex change operation. His announcement had originally been planned for this summer, but had to be done suddenly after someone leaked the story to the St. Petersburg Times.
Obviously, such an announcement was bound to cause a backlash, even for an individual who has held the position for 14 years and is generally well respected in the community. But the idea of a transsexual city manager dressing in women's clothes and calling himself Susan (part of the therapy required in preperation such the surgery) is simply too much for some, and Stanton may not have a job after tonight.
City Commissioners expect to face several hundred residents at a special meeting tonight, at which three commissioners have said they plan to vote for Stanton's termination. Only Mayor Pat Gerard has publicly announced that she is standing by the city manager. The other three commissioners are undecided, so could decide his fate. It will take five of seven votes to fire Stanton.
According to today's St. Petersburg Times:
City Hall has received more than 250 e-mails about Stanton, more than 40 percent from people who identified themselves as Largo residents. Those e-mails called for his removal by a 7-to-1 ratio.
The first 520 people to arrive will be permitted to enter City Hall, with about 100 in commission chambers and the rest in the community room, staff break room and City Hall lobby.
Both Stanton supporters and opponents say they plan to pack the chambers.
Charlie Martin, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, said he encouraged parishioners to attend because it's the "biggest issue facing Largo" in his 36-year tenure as pastor of the church, one of the largest in Pinellas County.
Stanton's continued employment will be devastating to Largo's reputation and future business interests, Martin said.
Moreover, he said, it would trample on the rights of religious employees to force them to call the city manager Susan, the name Stanton plans to use when he comes to work as a woman this spring.
Brian Winfield, communications director for Equality Florida, an organization that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, said his group will urge members and other supporters to attend the meeting as well.
The discussion of Stanton's future employment is discriminatory because the topic only came up after Stanton announced plans for gender reassignment surgery, he said.
As I mentioned in my original post last Thursday:
Friends, it really shouldn't matter. The man has been the top administrator for 14 years in the Pinellas County city of 75,000. Noone stays around that long without racking up an excellent record at the job. As long as Stanton continues to do the job he was hired to do, it shouldn't matter if the name if Steven or Susan or if he wears a suit and tie or dresses.
UPDATE: The Largo City Commission voted 5-2 to begin the process of terminating Stanton's contract, placing him on paid administrative leave following a four hour meeting in which more than 60 speakers addressed the body. My guess is that they won't get that far, that Stanton and the city will come to an agreement which would protect the city from any possible litigation and provide the soon-to-be former city manager with a very generous benefit/retirement package considering his long tenure of service. That would likely be done within the next couple of weeks to allow this whole situation to be closed with as little fanfare as possible.