On Monday Mayor Hood will try and get three Council members to install Scott Gabrielson, a good lawyer and a nice guy, as city attorney. Just the fact that she has to try is remarkable; the mayor has long regarded the council members as an afterthought. But try she must, because as of this writing, six days before the scheduled vote, four of the five are against her, and there has been no word on concessions, deals or any other normal politics from either side of the Great Attorney Divide. The trouble started about three weeks ago when the mayor announced Gabrielson would take over for the departing Bob Hamilton on a part time basis. He'd be paid $141,000 plus $41.000 for his troubles to cover secretaries and sundries. Hold on, some council members said. The $41,000 would go to Gabrielson's firm, the very influential Mateer & Harbert, which already has dispatched the founder partner's daughter to the city payroll. Plus Gabrielson would get to hand over legal work to the firm. Plus the firm represents the dominant news source of the region, The Orlando Sentinel. Plus, Gabrielson can keep his other clients. It looked a little too cozy. The mayor postponed the vote. Meanwhile, Hamilton rode out of City Hall on his Harley - literally. Today the office is managed by senior Assistant City Attorney Richard Oldham, one of three staffers who will rotate as acting city attorneys until this matter is resolved. The mayor's office did not return a call seeking comment. In a normal city, the mayor would set up a new deal and try to get the two most persuadable council members to sign on. Council woman Betty Wyman - whom the Sentinel incorrectly reported to be backing the mayor last week - says she told Hood Monday only that she wouldn't vote for Gabrielson with the 441,000 secretary bonus. As of Tuesday, she said she had heard no counter offer. Nap Ford, reported to be in the Mayor's camp, had no comment. Don Ammerman said he'd had a meeting with the mayor cancelled Monday, and thought she might be trying to negotiate with councilmen Ernie Page and Bill Bagley. They could not be reached. Doug Head, the Orange County Democratic chairman and frequent critic of the mayor, outlined one scenario. "They've been so frustrated that the mayor treated them like a rubber stamp for so long. They've been ineffectual but they had nothing to trade with," he says of the council. "Now they've got something to trade with, they're going to try to keep the heat on her as long as they can, if only just ot say they want to be part of the governing process." Hood's soft style may have opened some political breathing room, Head contends. Past mayor Bill Frederick, he laughs, "would have executed them all by now."
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