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Court will hear Rowden case

Before pondering the merits of Diane Rowden's removal from the Hernando County School Board, the Florida Supreme Court wants more information.

The court has asked that attorneys for Rowden and for Gov. Lawton Chiles argue their positions Sept. 2.

That's good news, according to Rowden's attorney, Jackson Brownlee.

"You get into trouble reading things into what they do," Brownlee said of the court. But "at least they think the issue is worthy of oral arguments."

In April, Chiles asked the court to advise him whether a school board member is a county official, who can be removed from office only by the state Senate, or a district official, who can be removed from office by the governor.

Chiles' attorneys say Rowden was a district official who was properly disciplined when the governor removed her from office in February.

But Rowden is suing Chiles, claiming that she was a county official, who can be suspended by the governor, but can be removed only by the state Senate.

When Rowden filed her lawsuit, an attorney for the governor said if a judge ruled in her favor, the ruling could overturn her ouster and throw the issue of her removal to the Senate.

Rowden was removed from office after she was convicted of secretly discussing public business with other School Board members.

Although the Supreme Court's call for oral arguments delays the case further, Rowden said she is pleased at the request.

"I'm obviously not a lawyer, but I feel good about that," she said. "Obviously, they want to hear more."

Ron Sachs, the communications director for the governor, says Chiles too would be pleased at the request for oral arguments.