TAMPA — Tallahassee attorneys filed a lawsuit against Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson on Monday, claiming he improperly placed on the 2008 ballot the initiative question concerning election of a county mayor.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of registered voter and local political activist James E. Shirk, says the county mayor question cannot legally be placed on the 2008 ballot because it was valid, according to the petitions signed, for only 2006.
Additionally, the suit says the ballot title and summary are misleading as to the true powers that would be conferred on the county mayor if Hillsborough voters ratified the initiative question. The suit says a county mayor, as defined in the petitions, would have exclusive power to appoint assistant administrators and execute contracts, powers which now require the consent of the seven-member County Commission.
Johnson in April 2006 approved the proposed petition to amend the county charter by replacing the county administrator with a nonpartisan, elected county mayor. In the following weeks in 2006, the Taking Back Hillsborough political action committee began collecting signatures on petitions indicating the county mayor question would appear on the ballot "in the next general election."
The Taking Back Hillsborough group failed to collect enough signatures to place the question on the 2006 ballot, according to Johnson's office. But after the group continued to collect signatures, Johnson certified in October that the county mayor question could be placed on the 2008 ballot.
Now, Shirk's Tallahassee attorneys, Jennifer S. Blohm and Ronald G. Meyer, seek an injunction eliminating the county mayor question from the 2008 ballot.
"We will seek a hearing for an injunction very soon, certainly in the month of July," Blohm said Monday.