Anna Maria’s charter review committee is in a quandary. In fact, the entire structure of the city’s election system might be in a quandary, according to committee chair Howard Payne.
And there’s no way to fix the problem until the November 2013 election because voters must approve any change to the charter.
The quandary is that after this year’s newly elected commissioners — newcomer Nancy Yetter and incumbent Chuck Webb — are sworn into office at the commission’s Nov. 15 organizational meeting, the commission must elect a chair. According to the city charter, the commission chair is the deputy mayor, who automatically becomes mayor in the absence of the mayor.
And because, when Mayor Mike Selby declined to seek another term and no one filed to run for the office, the next commission chair will be the new mayor.
The question, according to charter review committee member Jim Bennington, is: What happens if no commissioner accepts a nomination to be mayor?
“We could be stuck without a mayor,” he said.
Maybe not, opined Howard Payne, an attorney and committee chair.
“The way I read the charter, Mayor Selby could remain as mayor if no one wants to be commission chair,” said Payne.
City attorney Jim Dye agreed.
In his opinion, the charter makes no provision for such a situation and, therefore, Selby would continue as mayor until a new mayor is either appointed or elected.
“And I don’t think the commission can legally appoint someone as mayor over their objections,” Dye added.
Advisor Tom Aposporos, who chaired the 2002 and 2007 charter review committees, supported Dye’s view.
“The charter says the mayor serves until a successor is sworn in,” Aposporos said.
The majority of commissioners have said they would decline any nomination as commission chair.
Commissioners John Quam, Dale Woodland, Yetter and Webb have all said they could not accept being commission chair-mayor because of the time the mayor puts into the job.
Bennington said the city might get lucky this time, as it “appears as if one commissioner might accept the mayor’s position.”
Bennington was referring to Commissioner SueLynn, who previously was elected mayor 2002-06.
She has not said she would decline a nomination as commission chair, but at the same time has not been enthusiastic about the possibility.
And that’s the other issue the committee is facing.
Commissioners have a vote, the mayor does not.
Were SueLynn to become mayor, she would lose the voting rights she has as a commissioner.
Becoming the mayor is not what a commissioner “signed up for,” Dye said.
Is it right to take a commissioner away from a voting position and put them behind a desk without approval of the electorate? Dye asked.
Dye, however, did not completely rule out the possibility that the commission could draft someone to serve as mayor if that person was willing to take the job.
He’ll put more study into the issue and report back at the commission’s next scheduled meeting Oct. 31.
“That might be an appropriate date for this bunch,” quipped Payne to laughter from committee members in regard to Halloween.
SueLynn has declined to comment on whether she would accept a nomination as commission chair-mayor.
There are pros and cons to each side, she said, but added, “It looks like I’m the only one left.”
The committee also discussed increasing the compensation for mayor and commissioners. No compensation increase has been given elected officials since the 1990s.