Florida mayor resigns over fund distribution concerns

Author: Associated Press
Published: Updated:
Mayor Frank Hibbard speaks to the public during a city council meeting at the Clearwater Main Library on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Clearwater, Fla. Hibbard turned in his resignation during a tense budget meeting, Monday, March 20, and said he made the quick decision due to concerns over the direction his colleagues were taking with city funds. (Jefferee Woo/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

A Florida mayor resigned during a tense budget meeting and said he made the quick decision due to concerns over his colleagues’ direction with city funds.

Clearwater’s Mayor Frank Hibbard called for a five-minute recess Monday and made the announcement afterward. Before the recess, the council had been discussing how to pay for a $250 million shortfall for about 30 projects, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Hibbard had pushed back against spending $90 million for a new city hall and municipal services complex while his four colleagues said was their top priority for the city of Clearwater, which has a population of about 116,000 people and is 23 miles (37 kilometers) from Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

He called his resignation one of the toughest decisions he’s had to make.

“I’m not a quitter, but I’m not the right leader for this council anymore, and I’m concerned where the city is going because this is simple math and we’re not doing very well on the test,” Hibbard said.

Councilwoman Kathleen Beckman’s mouth was agape as Hibbard spoke. She then reconvened the budget workshop and urged her colleagues to continue despite being “shell-shocked,” the Times reported.

After leaving the meeting, Hibbard told the Times he made the decision on the spot.

He called his wife, Teresa, who he said asked if he could live with the decision. “I’m not going to have a choice,” he told the newspaper when asked the same question.

“This is so out of character for me … I don’t do things lightly,” Hibbard said. “I don’t want to criticize the council, but it’s an overall vision for where the city is going and being fiscally responsible. We talk about affordability and everything else, but we’re not doing the things that continue to keep a cap on costs.”

Hibbard was in the last year of his four-year term, and had already announced he would not seek reelection. He had previously served as mayor from 2004 to 2012, and took office again in March 2020, just as the global pandemic was beginning.

After the budget meeting, the city’s attorney told the council he wanted to speak with Hibbard to confirm his intentions before they discussed replacing him.

By that time, Hibbard had already cleared out his office.

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