Holmes Beach disbands government study committee

Scott Boyd, Jay Calhoun, David Cheshire, Nancy Deal, Renee Ferguson, Pam Leckie, Ellen Prince, Terry Schaefer can talk a little easier.

Holmes Beach commissioners voted 4-1 Aug. 14 to disband the committee on form of government. Commissioner Jim Kihm was the dissenting vote.

Kihm said he hoped to keep the committee intact as “a resource” because the commission had not yet acted on its recommendation.

In April, the committee recommended the city convert to a “weak mayor-city manager” form of government and appoint a “professional city manager” to manage the city and report to the commission.

Commissioners Rick Hurst and Chair Judy Titsworth said the committee members should be freed from the Government-in-the-Sunshine Law public meeting requirements for committee members.

Under the current charter, the city elects a mayor who does the commission’s bidding and manages employees. The mayor’s salary is $24,000 and it is not intended as a full-time job.

The anticipated salary for a city manager is $120,000, although most agree a manager can offset his/her salary with benefits in the form of grants and other income for the city.

To change the way the city operates, a change to the charter must go before the electorate.

And to go forward with the committee’s recommendation, the commission would need to adopt an ordinance and choose the wording for the ballot.

City attorney Patricia Petruff advised both the commission and a charter review committee — to be elected in the November election — could put forth such an ordinance, according to Titsworth.

Commissioner Rick Hurst and Titsworth favored allowing the new charter committee, once they begin meeting, to craft the ballot question.

“I’m a little concerned they’d be in conflict,” Hurst said about a ballot question from the charter committee and another from the commission.

“And that could confuse the voters quite a bit,” he added.

Kihm, on the other hand, believes the commission has waited long enough.

“The decision would have to go the voters,” he said, adding the recommendation from an “overwhelming majority” of the committee — with Boyd as the only dissenter — was made several months ago.

“I think we should move on it.”

Commissioner Carol Soustek supported Kihm on a motion to consider the ordinance, but it failed in a 2-3 vote of commissioners.

Joshua Linney, who is opposing Titsworth for the mayor’s seat on the November ballot, also pointed to the delay and questioned the commission for not acting sooner.

Titsworth said the commission had addressed its reason.

Two ad hoc committee members, Deal and Calhoun, are vying for seats on the five-member charter review committee.

Others on the ballot for charter positions are: Claudia Carlson, Major Leckie, Sean Murphy, John Rigney, Edward Upshaw and David Zaccagnino.

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