Several Tampa City Council members said Monday that they’re open to compromise with Mayor Jane Castor’s administration on appointments to the city’s police oversight board, setting the stage for a resolution to a sometimes tense struggle over the board’s composition.
Under a proposal discussed at a Monday special council meeting, the mayor would appoint five members to the 11-person Citizens Review Board and the council would appoint five. The council would nominate a member of a civil rights or social justice organization for the final spot, and it would be up to the mayor to confirm that nomination.
Council member John Dingfelder asked the city attorney to also draft a new version of a plan giving the council seven appointments to the board and the mayor four. The updated version will call for one of the mayor’s appointments to be a member of a civil rights or social justice organization, rather than a member of the NAACP in particular.
The council voted in February to give themselves control over seven appointments, taking majority control away from the mayor. But that plan hit a legal roadblock: According to City Attorney Gina Grimes, any changes had to be approved by Castor.
John Bennett, Castor’s chief of staff, said at Monday’s meeting that the mayor’s administration supported a 5-5-1 split and would be open to the council nominating the last member. And council members said they’re ready to move on from the debate.
“We have big issues in this city to worry about,” said council member Guido Maniscalco, who noted that a 5-5-1 plan balances power between the council and the mayor’s office. “I don’t want to go down the road of a lawsuit, you know, more strife and division and fighting, especially going into the budget season, which is right around the corner.”
Council members said they could wait another year to move forward with other changes, like letting the board hire outside lawyers and giving it subpoena power for non-police evidence and witnesses. The American Civil Liberties Union and activists have called for the board to have those powers.
The administration and the council have already agreed on some changes to the board, including citizen interview panels for prospective police officers and monthly alerts for board members on new citizen complaints.
“We’re at the end of the negotiations on this round,” council member Bill Carlson said. “It’s always possible that we can add something else in the future, as my colleagues have said, but in this round we’ve gone back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. This is as far as we can get in this round.”
The public can weigh in on the proposals at Thursday’s City Council meeting.
Some council members suggested holding two more public readings of the new proposals to make sure they’re legally airtight, but council attorney Martin Shelby said a challenge to a new ordinance is unlikely. Other council members said they’re ready to hold a final reading Thursday, take a vote and put the issue to rest — and Bennett said the mayor’s office agrees.
“Whatever we do, let’s just be done with this this Thursday,” Dingfelder said. “I mean, if I can agree with anything that Ms. Grimes came up and said to us a few weeks ago, it’s that this thing has dragged on long enough.”