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Largo, Fla.,
moves to fire trans city manager

Largo, Fla.,
moves to fire trans city manager

City officials in Largo, Fla., on Tuesday began the process of firing their longtime city manager, less than a week after he announced his plans to transition from male to female.

The hastily conducted 5-2 vote, held amid a tumult that included the arrest of Equality Florida's executive director for handing out protest leaflets, begins a three-step process to remove Steve Stanton from his job of 14 years.

Stanton, 48, confirmed last week that he is transsexual. With a solid reputation as a forceful and energetic leader, he had hoped to keep his $140,000-a-year job in the Tampa-area city as he underwent the gender reassignment process.

"It's just painful to know seven days ago I was a good guy and now...I have no integrity," Stanton told the commission as nearly 500 people looked on live and via closed-circuit TV. "My challenge here has always been that someday I was going to leave this organization. So I am going to do it with a smile on my face."

Stanton had planned to disclose his plans in June, when his 13-year-old son is scheduled to be out of town. But a local newspaper, acting on a tip, confronted him, and he was forced to make the disclosure ahead of schedule, said Simon Aronoff of the National Center for Transgender Equality, which along with Equality Florida is taking up his cause.

Florida is among the 41 states that lack transgender bias protections, and Largo in 2003 voted down an ordinance that would protect residents on the basis of gender identity. But it did approve nondiscrimination policies for city workers that include gender identity, said Aronoff, whose group is encouraging Largo officials to remember that fact "and hopefully just let this thing not go forward."

To fire Stanton, city commissioners have five days to follow Tuesday night's vote with a second that yields a written resolution. Stanton, who is on paid leave while the city begins the legal process, has another five days to respond.

Stanton isn't sure what he will do but said he had no plans to sue the city, the St. Petersburg Times reported. "In so many ways I am Largo," Stanton told commissioners. "It's like suing my mother."

Mayor Patricia Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods cast the dissenting votes. "He's done a great job for us," Gerard said. "He's done what we asked him to do and taken the heat over and over and over again, and now we're going to turn on him."

Commissioner Mary Gray Black, who introduced the resolution Monday to fire Stanton, said Stanton's announcement "caused stress, turmoil, distraction, and work disruption" among other city employees.

"I do not feel he has the integrity, nor the trust, nor the respect, nor the confidence to continue as the city manager of the city of Largo," Black said.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the transgender rights group, in a statement called Tuesday's vote "another in a long, shameful line of examples of why Congress must introduce--and pass--the Employment Non-Discrimination Act." That bill is expected to be reintroduced in the new session.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, was passing out protest leaflets among the overflow crowd in the City Hall lobby when police demanded she stop, the Times reported. She was charged with resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and disturbing others' assembly, a misdemeanor, the paper said.

Commissioners had given Stanton generally good reviews for his management of the city's $130 million budget and roughly 1,200 employees. They gave him an $11,000 annual pay raise in September, with Black casting the lone dissenting vote. (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate. AP contributed to this story.)

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