Voters will decide how to fill Plant City commission vacancy

PLANT CITY — Voters will have the last word on whether vacancies on the City Commission can be filled by appointment rather than a special election.

In a 4-0 vote Monday, commissioners approved a resolution to add to the November ballot a question of whether the city's charter should be amended to allow appointments.

The decision came as Commissioner Dan Raulerson is running for the state House.

Raulerson, who has eight months left on his three-year term, plans to resign his commission seat in November, which would create a vacancy on the five-member commission. He wasn't present for Monday's vote.

Raulerson's successor would need to run back-to-back campaigns to stay in office — first in a special election in mid January and then again in a regular City Commission race in April.

And the special election would cost the city $15,000.

"You would have to start campaigning all over again two weeks later," Commissioner Rick Lott said.

Rather than have candidates run back-to-back campaigns, he said, it makes more sense to spare taxpayers the expense of the special election.

Political analysts are divided on the issue. Some back Lott's assessment, saying appointments can save money while serving to quickly fill a vacancy. Others argue that appointing someone to an elected position can give the appearance of circumventing the electoral process.

At Monday's City Commission meeting, the vacancy issue seemed to generate little buzz either way.

Commissioners discussed the issue a couple weeks ago but haven't brought it up since, and the vote followed a public hearing at which nobody testified.

Commissioners said they would ask either the city attorney or city manager to develop a list of possible appointees. Commissioners said they might prefer a former commissioner to fill the vacancy.

"It would be nice to have someone who knows the ropes and knows the Sunshine Law, who doesn't have to go through the training," Commissioner Mary Yvette Thomas Mathis said.

Rich Shopes can be reached at (813) 661-2454 or rshopes@tampabay.com.

Voters will decide how to fill Plant City commission vacancy 07/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 4:30am]

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