Thursday, January 18, 2018
Politics

Court: Pinellas term limits not binding

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County commissioners are not bound by term limits approved by voters nearly two decades ago, an appeals court affirmed Wednesday.

The ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal represents another victory for the four commissioners named in a lawsuit that sought to remove them from office. All four — Susan Latvala, John Morroni, Karen Seel and Ken Welch — have been on the commission for more than 12 years, winning re-election multiple times.

Three Pinellas residents, all of whom voted for term limits in 1996, sued commissioners in 2012 with hopes of shaking up the county's political establishment. In their arguments, they cited a Florida Supreme Court ruling last spring that affirmed voters' right to place term limits on county elected officials. This ruling, they said, meant that the long-dormant term limits should be enforced.

Pinellas Pasco Circuit Court Judge John Schaefer said the Supreme Court's decision did not give term limits a second life and that current county charter provisions that do not contain term limits are valid. The appellate court affirmed that ruling without an opinion.

Maria Scruggs and H. Patrick Wheeler, the two litigants who filed the appeal, have 15 days to file a motion for a rehearing, County Attorney Jim Bennett told commissioners in an email Wednesday. Bennett said he expects that motion to be filed. Once the court rules on it, the order would become final, Bennett wrote.

Scruggs said Wednesday she planned to meet with her attorney to decide their next move.

Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

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