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Hillsborough County mayor issue loses another round

TAMPA — The group trying to change the Hillsborough Charter to have an elected county mayor lost another court battle Friday.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision to strip the question from the November ballot, calling the language misleading.

Mary Ann Stiles, leader of the group Elected County Mayor Political Committee Inc., said she plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"You can't keep a good girl down," said Stiles, who has been pursuing the initiative for three years.

In their 18-page ruling, the judges said the ballot question failed to inform voters that, if approved, the Charter change would call for holding the first mayoral election this year.

That can't happen, the judges wrote, echoing the view of the lower court. The appellate judges further found that passage of the mayoral proposal would have created a dilemma over how the government would be run until such an election took place.

Currently, an appointed county administrator runs day-to-day operations at the county.

Stiles first sought to get the question on the 2006 ballot, but failed to collect enough signatures from registered voters in time. So she kept gathering signatures using the same petition form — which included a 2008 date for the mayoral election — to get the issue on this November's ballot.

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson, whose office was sued by activist James E. Shirk to get the matter before the court, had asked the court to rule by Sept. 10. He has said he needs enough time to get ballots printed in time for the Nov. 4 election.

He said there is no firm state deadline to finalize the general election ballot, and wouldn't give a drop-dead date for when he must get ballots to the printer.

"Up until that time, we will work to carry out the will of the court," Johnson said. "The will of the court right now is, it's off the ballot."

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Hillsborough County mayor issue loses another round 09/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 1:52pm]
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