Has St. Pete City Council candidate learned from past admitted mistakes?

Barclay Harless, a banker employed by Bank of the Ozarks, wants a seat on the St. Pete City Council. But has the now 32-year old Harless learned from the mistakes that the 22-year old Harless made a decade ago? Those mistakes led to Harless’ resignation as student body president of USF in 2007.

Harless, a former aide to Florida state senator Darryl Rouson (D),  is running for the open District 2 seat being vacated by term-limited Jim Kennedy. See our previous coverage of Brandi Gabbard, the other candidate in the District 2 race. The official qualifying period for this seat begins June 8th and ends June 23rd. If no additional candidates enter, then there will be no primary on August 29 the election will  be decided November 7th.

Barclay Harless

After his clear election victory in 2007, Harless took the oath of office as USF student body president in April of that year. An alcohol-fueled incident at a student orientation event three months later led to a USF investigation and acrimony within student government. Harless eventually resigned, less than six months into his one-year term.

A news report at the time indicates that had Harless not resigned, he would have faced impeachment.

Harless said in an e-mail to the Guardian that “the violation was of the student code of conduct not to have alcohol in the student center unless during a scheduled event. The code has since been changed; there is now a bar in the Marshall Center. It was something of a tradition to have a drink with some staff after a long day, the prior student body president had done so with us.”

However, a news report at the time said that when the investigation of the incident began, “Harless left out information about what happened in his office, specifically the actions of other students in the office unaffiliated with student government.”

Harless’ city council campaign website says he was “raised with two basic fundamentals”, one of them being “be direct and honest in dealing with others.” We asked if he now acknowledges that he was less than “direct and honest” in answering questions during the investigation of the incident that led to his 2007 resignation?

“I did take full responsibility for my actions,” Harless responded. “When it became apparent that my story was impeding the work and good name of student government, I believe I did the adult thing and removed myself, ten years ago.”

NB: the above cartoon meant only as humorous reflection on life.
It is not meant to cast negative aspersions on Mr. Harless.

“This was one of the best lessons of my life,” Harless went on to say. “It taught me a lot about myself and doing the right thing from day one. Nothing less than complete honesty is required in public service. As someone employed in banking, I can tell you that the lessons I learned have helped me in maintaining the confidentiality of clients and being upfront when mistakes occur.”

Voters might also expect candidates to be upfront, not just when “mistakes occur.” Since January, the Harless campaign website has said the following under the “Issues” tab on its front page:

“Our campaign is in the process of engaging residents on the issues that matter most. Its from this input that we will build a platform that benefits all residents.”

Given that Harless has now had 5 months of “input-gathering”, we asked what “platform” Harless has built from this citizen input? We asked: if the platform is not finished yet, when will voters get to see your platform and where you stand on issues?

A political platform, whether that of a party or a candidate, is a contract with the people

“We will be releasing the full platform in the future,” Harless responded without answering our “when” question about the date for that release.” There are many moving parts with many of the big-ticket City Hall projects of late. Additionally, my principals [sic] are the same: we must run a fiscally responsible city that is accountable and open with the residents. I will bring a fresh, independent and small business perspective to City Hall.”

Whatever his “fresh perspective” is, it will have to include a focus on the definitely un-fresh St. Pete sewer system, no matter who the mayor is. Mayor Rick Kriseman announced a $304 million master sewage plan in November, but upped the cost to $435 million just last month.

In announcing the new and higher price tag, Kriseman also announced a desire to use a questionable off-balance sheet method for financing the very necessary sewer work. These financing decisions will impact the city’s bond ratings and thus ultimately the citizens’ pocketbooks.

“To know that you represent 37,000 students, whether or not they voted for you, is something that can go to your head,” then Student Senate President Nathan Davison said in 2007 just before Harless resigned as student body president. “I think people get in these positions and feel like they’re a celebrity and that they’re invincible. It takes something like this to bring them back down to earth.”

Harless owns a townhome in the 11800 block of MLK Street North. More is at stake for him now than 10 years ago. Has Harless learned from the self-admitted mistakes of his youth? If elected, will he be “accountable and open with the residents”? Is Harless being so, right now, as a candidate?

As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide. Please like our Facebook page to find out when we publish our articles.

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