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Question on Hillsborough ballot refers to veto power for a nonexistent position

TAMPA — Hillsborough County voters in November will be asked if they want to strip veto powers from an elected county mayor — a position that doesn't exist.

The county's Charter Review Board voted 13-1 in favor of putting the question on the ballot.

"What we have is a provision sitting in the charter that basically has no purpose," said board member Ralph Fisher.

Supporters of an elected mayor previously collected signatures needed to ask voters whether to establish the post. The veto powers question was pursued separately.

But a court challenge forced a referendum on the county mayor off the 2008 ballot.

The veto question remained. It passed, giving a nonexistent county mayor the ability to veto decisions of the County Commission.

Mary Ann Stiles, a lawyer leading a drive to get the elected mayor referendum on the ballot this year, urged the Charter Review Board to leave the veto powers alone.

But some board members believe the veto power is unconstitutional, and others argued it's ridiculous for the charter to outline duties for an elected official who doesn't exist.

"To give a nonentity such power is to play chess with the voters," said board member James Tokley. "I do not believe that the people of Hills­borough County deserve to be given a chimera. This is not Alice in Wonderland. This is Hillsborough County."

Board member Rochelle Reback said the veto issue could be revisited if the county mayor position is created.

The board also discussed a ballot initiative addressing the issue of the county's internal performance auditor, a position created by voters in 2002.

Some board members argued for asking voters if they want to eliminate the position, saying they would not support any other option.

Others prefer to simply change the scope of the job.

Ultimately, they decided to postpone a decision until a later meeting, saying they want to give Hillsborough County commissioners the opportunity to address the issue. The commission is scheduled to hear a report on the matter today.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Question on Hillsborough ballot refers to veto power for a nonexistent position 07/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:57pm]
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