Death threats take Madeira Beach strife to new level

By Sheila Mullane Estrada, Times Correspondent
(original article – click here)

phone-threatsMADEIRA BEACH — Politics here took a nasty turn last week when someone called City Manager Shane Crawford nine times, threatening to kill him, his wife and her children.

Crawford reported the threats to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the anonymous caller who also threatened to rape his wife in front of her children.

The Sheriff’s Office confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating.

Crawford said Tuesday that he is not sure whether it was one caller or nine different people because the voices were electronically disguised.

“It was creepy, like out of a horror movie,” Crawford said. “It was pretty graphic, nasty stuff.”

The Crawfords, who were out of town when the calls to Shane Crawford’s cellphone were made, said they don’t feel safe in their Madeira Beach home.

Crawford was recently suspended from his job by a newly elected commission that said it had lost confidence in his ability to run the city.

His wife, former City Clerk Cheryl McGrady Crawford, was fired several weeks ago, for not being a certified clerk, though she has worked for the city for more than 20 years.

The commission decided Tuesday not to require certification when it advertises for a new clerk.

The former clerk, Aimee Servideo, had been forced to resign by the previous commission following complaints from city department heads, city staffers and Mayor Travis Palladeno about her treatment of another employee.

Servideo had worked for the city for more than 30 years.

Tuesday, Mayor Maggi Black said Servideo, who is not a certified clerk, wants her job back and insisted that the job qualifications be written in a way that would allow her to apply.

Also, during that Tuesday commission workshop, a resident handed the commission copies of an email that indicates Black, as well as newly elected Commissioners John Douthirt and Nancy Oakley intended to fire both Crawfords even before they were elected.

The email to Douthirt from former Commissioner Elaine Poe, was written two days after the March election.

She warned the commissioner that it was now illegal for the three newly elected commissioners to “meet together.”

Instead, Poe suggests the three meet with her “separately and soon.”

“I did not act as a conduit between the commissioners,” Poe said Wednesday, asserting her right to contact them as a resident.

Poe resigned her post last year amid a bitter fight with the rest of the commission over proposed hotel development projects (she was strongly opposed).

Her email reviewed plans to fire the Crawfords and the city attorney, as well as make other changes.

“Eventually, several employees need to be removed,” Poe wrote in the two-page email, which also called for the new commission to investigate the recreation center operations, the city marina and the public works department.

“This is just the start,” Poe said. “You guys ran on cleaning up City Hall and that starts with Shane and Cheryl.”

Poe, who had given Crawford glowing reviews during the past five years, became bitterly against Crawford after two proposed hotel projects became public.

She filed an ethics complaint with the International City/County Management Association, objecting to Crawford’s personal relationship with his then assistant, Cheryl McGrady.

Since then, the two married and are now contesting their suspension and firing.

Their attorney, Jay Hebert made a “one-time offer” for both Crawfords to be allowed to resign and be given substantial severance packages.

If the commission would accept Hebert’s proposal, he said the city could avoid future litigation by the Crawfords.

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