Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dingfelder considering return to Tampa City Council

TAMPA — Former City Council member John Dingfelder, who lost his recent bid for a County Commission seat, said Tuesday he may try to return to the council in Tampa's March elections.

His candidacy would call into question a new city rule that prevents council members who don't finish their term from running in the next city elections.

Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena resigned from the council in June to run for the Hillsborough County Commission. Two days after both lost, the council passed its new rule.

Dingfelder said he likely would take the city to court and ask a judge to decide whether the law barring him from running in March is constitutional and can be applied to a council member who left the board before the law was enacted. He wants the opinion before he formally enters the race.

"I don't want this hanging over any campaign I would be running," he said. "I think the court would decide on my side and say, 'Wait a second, you left and then three or four months after that they passed this.' "

Dingfelder represented South Tampa in the District 4 seat for nearly eight years, earning a reputation as a defender of neighborhoods and pressing for a green building ordinance.

"I really loved the work, and many people are saying I did a good job," Dingfelder said. If he runs in March, he said he'll seek the at-large District 1 council position.

That would pit him against University of South Florida student Christopher Cano; West Tampa businessman Guido Maniscalco; and current council member Curtis Stokes, who helped push the law barring Dingfelder from the elections.

Council member Charlie Miranda, who frequently clashed with Dingfelder and Saul-Sena when they were on the council, came up with the rule earlier this year after the two announced their commission runs. It was rejected in May by a 4-3 vote.

Among the no votes: Saul-Sena and Dingfelder. Back then, Dingfelder questioned the constitutionality of the law and pointed out that in recent years the city has paid at least $600,000 in attorney fees after losing three lawsuits based on constitutional challenges.

Four months after Dingfelder and Saul-Sena left the board, council member Joseph Caetano suggested bringing back Miranda's proposal, and Stokes seconded the motion. Stokes has been on the board since July, when five council members selected him to finish out Saul-Sena's term in the citywide District 3 seat.

Five days after the rule passed, Stokes announced his candidacy for the citywide District 1 council seat.

Saul-Sena and Dingfelder both said they felt the rule targeted them.

Caetano said Tuesday it's true that he often didn't like the way Saul-Sena and Dingfelder voted when they were on the council.

But that's not why he wanted the ordinance.

"It was to prevent something like this from happening. You don't like the city, you leave and go run for something else, you lose and you want to come back. It's not fair to the constituents who elected them to serve a whole term," Caetano said.

When the council approved the rule, Dingfelder said he had no intention of running for the board.

He said he changed his mind when former state Rep. Sara Romeo withdrew from the District 1 race on Saturday. Romeo decided to focus on a nonprofit she heads that has a $3.7 million housing contract with the city. If she had been elected to the council, she would have had to resign from her job at Tampa Crossroads or forfeit the contract.

Dingfelder said without Romeo in the District 1 contest, there's no great candidate for the job.

"I absolutely would have supported Sara wholeheartedly because she would have been a great City Council person," said Dingfelder, who attended her campaign kickoff in June. "But with Sara pulling out, there is a viable seat to run for."

Maniscalco said he thinks Dingfelder should respect the new council rule.

"He has the right and the freedom to jump in in four years without any problems. Why do it now?" Maniscalco said. "He had his heart set on County Commission. For him to go back to the city, I don't understand it."

It's unclear what would happen if Dingfelder filed to run for the council without getting a judge to consider the rule prohibiting him from the election.

Asked whether the city would sue to keep Dingfelder off the ballot, City Attorney Chip Fletcher said: "We'd have to make that decision when we get there. My obligation as city attorney is to enforce our ordinance, but my expectation is that the elections supervisor would not accept qualifying documents that did not meet the standards established by the city."

Fletcher said he believes the law is constitutional.

"There are cases where a 'cooling-off period' like this has been applied to folks after they've left office," Fletcher said.

Janet Zink can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

Dingfelder considering return to Tampa City Council 11/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 11:44am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign


    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays say they don't want to be satisfied with hovering around .500

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to briefly get back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home


    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence


    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”