BB charter committee convenes, takes lead from city attorney

Bradenton Beach is looking to level the playing field in its charter.

The 2018 charter review committee, which held its first meeting June 8, is tasked with reviewing the charter for consistency with the amendments approved in 2017 and any new amendments for the charter on the Nov. 6 ballot.

CRC members Mary Bell, Debra Cox, Annie Leister, Dan Morhaus and Randy Milton were appointed in May and took part in a required Government-in-the-Sunshine class before convening.

Bell is serving as chair and Leister as vice chair.

Resident “Bicycle” Jim Hassett and former Commissioner Janie Robertson attended, as well as Mayor John Chappie and Commissioner Ralph Cole.

The committee was formed to review the 2017 amendments and review the new proposals from Keep Our Residential Neighborhoods, a political action committee. KORN’s charter amendments have already been approved for the November municipal ballot.

Perry added her opinions on the proposed KORN amendments, saying they might not benefit the city.

She said the CRC would review the charter section by section and discuss whether further amendments are needed. She then would write up the agreed changes to be added to the November ballot.

Following the June 8 meeting, Hassett said he is concerned Perry could be giving “a perception of undue influence” over the committee’s decisions.

“It’s difficult, because I do believe she cares,” Hassett said.

Perry told committee members that one of the 2017 amendments eliminated the four-ward structure of the city. She suggested the ward system could be changed or reinstated.

Leister said the lack of wards concerns her because representation could become concentrated.

Bell asked to see data from the supervisor of elections on voter population in the city before considering restoring ward representatives.

Additionally, Bell suggested the committee look at a list of previous elections to see how many people ran from each ward.

Perry said she would request data from the SOE for the next meeting.


Form of government
Perry said Bradenton Beach is directed by the city commission and has a “weak mayor” form of government, which means the mayor has an equal vote to the rest of the commission and can only speak with other commissioners at open meetings.

She said one of the KORN initiatives would be to hire a city manager for the administration of the city.

Cox asked Perry if the commission and staff are overwhelmed with their responsibilities.

Perry responded that city officials and employees “wear a lot of hats,” but the system works.

The group reached consensus not to recommend changing to a city manager form of government and instead opted to include ballot language from the Florida League of Cities specifying a weak-mayor form of government and enumerating the associated duties as a ballot initiative.


Filling vacancies
Perry said the current process to fill a commission vacancy is mirrored after the county, state and federal government’s process. She said one of KORN’s ballot items would require an open commission seat be filled by election.

She said if the power to appoint was removed from the commission, a special election could be costly and time-consuming.

Perry said also, if only one person applies for a vacant seat, an election still would be required.

She suggested the committee wait until they discuss bringing back the ward structure before making a decision on commission appointments.


Perry said concerns over the definition of a “resident” arose after the 2017 vote changed the residency requirement for candidates to 12 months.

“Now it becomes even more important to demonstrate what a resident is,” Perry said.

Bell suggested relying on voter registration to define a resident.

Morhaus, who attended the meeting by phone, said homesteading can’t be used to determine residency. Additionally, he said some renters are residents.

He said he had to show proof of voter registration to be on the CRC.

The committee reached consensus that a candidate should meet three out of five or a similar number of conditions to be considered a resident.

The CRC will continue its review at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 21, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.


BB attorney questions commissioner residency
During the first 2018 Bradenton Beach charter review committee meeting June 8, city attorney Ricinda Perry described — but did not name— a seated elected official who receives his or her tax bill in Canada, had a Canadian license tag on a vehicle until recently and owns two properties in the city — one a rental and the other uninhabitable. She said the properties are not homesteaded.

Perry was speaking of Commissioner Randy White, who was elected to a two-year term in 2017.

White is a registered Bradenton Beach voter and met the requirements imposed by the charter to seek elected office.

But, Perry continued, saying the charter doesn’t define a resident and no action can be taken by the city against him. She implied he may not be legally elected.

Perry said her investigation of White is pending, and the committee will continue to review criteria to establish residency requirements within the charter at its next meeting.

Perry was instructed by the commission to lead the charter review committee talks. As city attorney, she serves at the will of the commission and mayor.

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