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County seats panel to study charter

The group charged with scrutinizing Hillsborough County's government and suggesting ways to make it better got its feet wet Tuesday with some lessons on budgets, parliamentary procedure and working in the sunshine. The 14-member charter review board, which will study the county's charter during the next year, has the power to put charter amendments on a ballot for a referendum.

At Tuesday's first meeting, the group selected developer Jim Shimberg as temporary chairman and home-builder James Lee as temporary vice chairman. Permanent officers will be elected at the next meeting.

County Attorney Fred Karl installed the group, then told them that as a public body, they were bound by Florida's strict Government-in-the-Sunshine Law and couldn't discuss charter issues among themselves outside of a public meeting.

The prohibition caused some confusion among members, who weren't sure just what they could do. Karl told Shimberg he shouldn't even call other members to ask about scheduling the next meeting.

Although a schedule hasn't been established, the group hopes to meet in the School Board chambers on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons, with meetings televised on local cable channels. They'll also have to decide on a budget to request from commissioners for clerical and legal help.

Each county commissioner appoints two board members, and 11 of the 14 were appointed two weeks ago. Three more were announced Tuesday.

Commissioner Rubin Padgett appointed community activist Al Davis and retired educator Henry Stokes. Commission Chairman Jim Selvey made the second of his two appointments, Jimmy Dean Page, Plant City district manager for Tampa Electric Co.