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Charter review panel mulls putting auditor slot on ballot

TAMPA — A November ballot already crowded with political races and proposed constitutional changes could grow longer for Hillsborough County voters.

A review panel has tentatively agreed to ask voters to reconsider actions they previously approved — creation of a county internal performance auditor, and giving an elected county mayor veto power over commission decisions should that post ever be created.

Technically, the Charter Review Board members voted Monday to hold a required pair of public hearings on the questions. But they did so by margins that indicate the questions could make the ballot.

One would ask voters, who approved creation of the county's internal performance auditor position eight years ago, whether they think the post should be eliminated since it has been a source of controversy.

County commissioners voted to fire the second person to hold the job, Jim Barnes, last month after questions about his competence.

Board members voted 12-1 to take the question to public hearing. Ten members of the 14-person review panel must approve placing the question on the ballot. One seat is vacant, but is expected to be filled.

"The internal performance auditor's office seemingly has been embroiled and embittered since it was initiated," said review board member James Tokley, adding that the clerk of the circuit court can do the work.

The Charter Review Board is appointed every five years by county commissioners to consider possible changes to the County Charter, its constitution of sorts. The same board, with mostly different members, is the group that put creating an auditor on the ballot a decade ago.

Board members also voted 11-2 to hold public hearings on whether to ask voters to remove a provision that would give an elected county mayor veto power if that position is created. Voters approved that measure two years ago.

The public veto vote in 2008 had been paired with a companion ballot question on whether to create an elected county mayor. That question was thrown off the ballot in court, but the veto question remained and passed.

Supporters are gathering petition signatures from the public to get the mayor question on the ballot in November.

"Why would they do that now before the elected county mayor is on the ballot?" asked Mary Ann Stiles, leader of Elected County Mayor Political Committee Inc. "That's just pure arrogance."

Review board members said that, with no elected county mayor in the charter now, the veto provision makes no sense.

"We need to clean up the charter," said Beth Leytham.

The review board also voted 7-6 to consider expanding the County Commission from seven members to nine, but the close margin of the vote suggests a tough fight for supporters.

Charter review panel mulls putting auditor slot on ballot 06/08/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 12:40am]

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