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Several Pinellas cities, towns seek charter changes on Nov. 4 ballot

Published Oct. 17, 2014

A charter is like a constitution that governs the way a city or town is run. Several municipalities have proposed changes to their charters.

St. Petersburg

A charter change allowing City Council members to express their views on high-level mayoral appointments was approved for the ballot by the council in August.

The change would allow council members to voice opinions on the hiring of a police chief, fire chief or department head. The proposed change wouldn't give the council the power to hire, fire or confirm high-level hires.

Council members unanimously approved the proposal after City Attorney John Wolfe strongly cautioned them against voicing their thoughts on Mayor Rick Kriseman's hiring of a new police chief. Kriseman has not taken a position on the issue.

Largo

Voters will be asked to vote on eight proposed charter changes.

Question No. 1: Should the amended charter which clarifies and amends various charter provisions, corrects clerical errors, provides that the Vice Mayor shall serve a term of one year, allows a current commissioner to be appointed to fill a vacancy in the Mayor's position, removes the Mayor's authority to appoint members of advisory boards with the advice and consent of the commission, and provides the cost for copies of the budget shall be set by ordinance, be adopted?

What it does: For the most part, this is a catch-all proposal designed to correct clerical errors in such things as grammar and punctuation. Two are more serious: One concerns a vacancy in the mayor's seat. It proposes that the commission could appoint a sitting commissioner to fill the post until an election can be held. The other would require city officials to put a copy of the budget on the city's website.

Question No. 2: Should section 2.05 of the city charter be amended to provide that the salaries of the mayor and city commissioners will increase each year at the same percentage as the salaries of city management employees' increase, not to exceed three percent in any year, and to allow the city commission to adopt a resolution reducing any increase in their salaries?

What it does: This would tie the mayor and council member's raises to those of city management employees but would cap commission raises at 3 percent. They could also vote to take a lesser raise, or none at all.

Question No. 3: Should sections 2.07 and 2.10 of the city charter be amended to require a vote of a majority of the city commission to authorize the city commission to conduct an investigation into the affairs of the city or for a city commissioner to conduct an inquiry of city officers or employees?

What it does: Currently, commissioners can conduct investigations of city employees and departments. This would add a requirement that an individual commissioner cannot conduct such an investigation unless he/she has the approval of a majority of the city commissioners.

Question No. 4: Should section 2.12(b)(2) of the city charter be amended to require referendum approval of a lease of city-owned property for a term greater than ten years, instead of the present provision which requires referendum approval of a lease with the term of greater than five years?

What it does: The charter requires a referendum to allow Largo officials to lease city-owned property for more than five years. This would require voters' approval if the lease would be for more than 10 years.

Question No. 5: Should subsection 3.04(15) be added to the city charter to provide the city manager the authority to execute grant applications, grant agreements, and other agreements on behalf of the city, which are approved by the city commission or which otherwise do not require city commission approval?

What it does: If this proposal passed, the city manager would be able to sign grant applications and some contracts after the commission had approved them.

Question No. 6: Should sections 5.02 and 5.05 of the city charter be amended to allow the city commission to make supplemental appropriations of funds during the fiscal year by resolution and to allow the city commission to authorize contracts or leases that provide for payments beyond the end of the fiscal year without requiring the adoption of an ordinance?

What it does: Now, if commissioners need to approve extra expenditures or move money in the budget, they must hold two public hearings that must be advertised in advance. This would allow them to make those decisions at one meeting without advertising the vote in advance.

Question No. 7: Should section 6.01 of the city charter be amended to clarify that the planning board has decision-making authority and other responsibilities as specified by the city commission by ordinance?

What it does: This would codify the duties of the Largo Planning Board, a volunteer committee of residents appointed by the mayor. The board now makes recommendations to the commission on land use and planning issues and makes final decisions on zoning variance cases.

Question No. 8: Should section 9.01(a) of the city charter be amended to prohibit discrimination against any city employee or officer based on age or national origin?

What it does: The charter bans discriminatory action based on race, sex, political, or religious opinions or affiliations. This proposal also would make it a violation of city rules to discriminate in city positions or offices because of age or national origin.

Seminole

Every five years, the Seminole City Council appoints a committee of volunteer residents to study the charter. That committee, convened last winter, suggested 12 changes.

Question No. 1: Governing elections and terms, shall Section 3.02 of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to delete the transition schedule from Section 3.02?

What it does: In 2010, voters agreed to change council elections from March to November. With the coming election, the first in November, the transition is complete. The amendment is asking whether to remove the transition language from the charter as it is now unnecessary.

Question No. 2: Shall Section 3.06(a) of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to provide that the City Manager is the only person who is authorized to appoint or remove any City Administrative Officer or employee by deleting the language "or any of his subordinates are"?

What it does: This section of the charter bans council members from forcing the city manager to hire or fire any employee. The change would limit that prohibition to the city employees the manager hires.

Question No. 3: Relating to vacancies, shall Section 3.07(c)(1) of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to change the time to 60 days, until the office may be scheduled for a regular election when the voters will fill said office for the remainder of the term of office?

What it does: Now, the council has 30 days to fill a vacancy on the council for the unexpired term of the seat. This would allow the council 60 days to fill it.

Question No. 4: Relating to vacancies, shall Section 3.07(d) of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to change five members to (4) four members that are required to be removed from office before the Governor shall appoint an interim council?

What it does: Under this section of the charter, if five of the seven council members vacate their offices at the same time, the governor would appoint an interim council to call a special election. Under this proposal, the governor also would appoint an interim council if four council seats came open simultaneously.

Question No. 5: Regarding qualifications and duties, shall Section 3.09(c)(5) of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to add "of the City Attorney"?

What it does: This section requires the city attorney to recommend a replacement, during his or her temporary absence or disability. The amendment would make it clear that duties referred to in the section relate to those of the city attorney.

Question No. 6: Shall Section 5.02(b) of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to provide that the City Manager may be removed by an affirmative vote of (4) four members of the City Council?

What it does: The charter says the city manager may be fired by a majority vote of the council. This amendment would require a vote of at least four of the seven council members.

Question No. 7: Relating to an acting city manager, shall Section 5.03 of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to delete "letter" and replace with "written communication" and to delete "shall return or his disability shall cease" and add "returns from said absence or disability"?

What it does: This charter section sets forth what happens if the city manager is absent or disabled. The proposal would simply change wording. Under the current wording, the city manager must designate by a "letter" filed with the council a substitute. If the absence or the disability extends beyond 90 days, the council could decide to appoint someone else as acting city manager "until the manager shall return or his disability shall cease."

Question No. 8: Shall Section 6.03(a) of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to provide that City Council conduct all City elections in compliance with the terms and conditions set forth by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections?

What it does: Under the current charter, the city council decides how municipal elections will be held. This would require the city to conduct elections according to Pinellas County Supervisor of Election rules.

Question No. 9: Shall Section 6.04(d) of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to provide that if (2) two or more persons receive equal number of votes for the same office, such persons shall draw lots to determine who shall be elected to the office, and deleting Sections 6.07(e) Runoff Elections and (f) Reserved in its entirety?

What it does: Now, a runoff is required if two candidates tie. This would eliminate the runoff election in favor of drawing lots to decide the winner.

Question No. 10: Shall Section 6.05 of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to provide where there is a vacancy for which no candidate qualifies, the vacancy shall be temporarily filled, by appointment of a majority of the new City Council, until the next regularly scheduled election?

What it does: The current charter says the council shall appoint someone if no one runs, or qualifies to run, for the seat. This proposal would add language that the person who is appointed will only serve until the next scheduled election.

Question No. 11: Shall Section 10.03 of the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to provide that the Charter Review Committee shall be composed of (7) seven members, to serve until the ballot language deadline date to the Supervisor of Elections for the next regularly scheduled election, and further by deleting the language "no less than (5) five nor more than (9) nine"?

What it does: The current charter requires that a panel of five to nine citizens appointed by the council review the charter at least every five years. This would change the number on the charter review committee to seven.

Question No. 12: Shall the City Charter of the City of Seminole, pursuant to Ordinance No. 11-2014, be amended to restate the Charter in its entirety in gender neutral terms and to eliminate unnecessary language and to insert clarifying language?

What it does: This is a housekeeping proposal designed to clean up language by inserting gender neutral terms in all appropriate parts of the charter.

Kenneth City

Kenneth City is proposing a charter amendment that would do away with term limits. Currently, the four council members are elected for two-year terms but must leave office after three consecutive terms. They are eligible to run again after sitting out for a year. The mayor serves a three-year term and must leave after two terms. After sitting out one term, the mayor can run again.

The proposed change would leave the length of terms as they are, but eliminate the six-year limitation on continuous service.

A yes vote would eliminate term limits. A no vote would keep the six-year limits.

Reporter Charlie Frago contributed to this report.