TAMPA, Fla. — Confirming a mayoral appointment is usually a formality but it's turned into a fiasco in Florida's third-largest city.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor named Mary O'Connor as the 43rd Tampa police chief on Feb. 8 but the city council has yet to confirm the appointment.
City council could have voted on O'Connor's appointment on March 3 but the mayor's spokesperson, Adam Smith said they wanted to wait until all of the council was present. Also, Councilman John Dingfelder was attending virtually for medical reasons so they decided not to submit the appointment before the council.
Dingfelder has since resigned after a lawsuit called his handling of a public records request into question.
That's the short answer, but there's a lot more to the story.
After Castor's announcement naming O'Connor as top cop, community backlash was swift and the council's vote to confirm the appointment on Feb. 17 was delayed.
But why the controversy? One reason is a lack of transparency in the hire. Some council members complained that the public wasn't involved in the process.
Residents have also expressed disappointment surrounding Ruben "Butch" Delgado, who had been interim chief of police, not being picked to fill the role permanently.
The loudest backlash revolves around a bit of an elephant in the room — O'Connor (Minter, at the time) was arrested in May of 1995 for battery on a law enforcement officer. She was a new officer with the Tampa Police Department at the time.
O'Connor is already serving as Chief of Police and getting paid. Her salary is $192,920, according to Smith.
City council is preparing for a lengthy discussion followed by a vote to confirm O'Connor's appointment on March 17. A simple majority of four votes would confirm her appointment.
If the council rejects the appointment, according to the Tampa City Charter, the mayor would have 90 days to submit a new candidate or she could resubmit O'Connor again.
The council and the mayor could be in this deadlock cycle, and it's unclear what would happen after that.