TWO CHARTER AMENDMENTS TO BE DECIDED NEXT NOVEMBER
It's been a long time, and streaked with controversy and allegations of forgery and other impropriety, but Wednesday the Polk County Commission voted unanimously to place two proposed amendments to the county charter on next November's general election ballot.
The very nature of the proposals promise to generate much debate over the next year and a half.
One would effectively abolish five currently elected offices --- sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, clerk of the courts, and supervisor of elections --- and make them mere elected department heads, thus giving the county commission much more control over their offices. The second would limit the terms for service in those positions to a maximum of eight years. A third proposal, which would have mandated slashing the salaries of commissioners, was not set for placement as there were ruled to be not enough signatures on the petitions submitted to Supervisor of Election Lori Edwards. That is being challenged, and a hearing to order a recount is scheduled for next week.
The amendments were promoted by a citizens' group known as the Home Rule Charter Committee, led by crudmegeon/activist Dewey Smith. Smith was indicted by a grand jury in February, who accused him of violating campaign contribution laws and submitting petitions that he was aware continained forged signatures. The criminal charges are still pending.
The question of local term limits is interesting, as one judge has ruled that such limits for local officials is unconstitutional. However, such a case has never made it to the Florida Supreme Court, so there is presently no binding case law on the subject. But to me, the idea of giving the BOCC much more control over what up to now have been constitutionally elected offices is more troubling. It'll be interesting to hear the arguments, regardless.