HB charter vote shuts down city manager option for voters

The discussion is closed.

At least, for now.

At the Holmes Beach charter review commission meeting April 11, Commissioner Nancy Deal moved to add an article to amend the city charter to create the position of city manager.

The motion failed 3-2 with Deal, Commissioner Claudia Carlson and Chair Edward Upshaw voting “yea,” and Commissioners Sean Murphy and David Zaccagnino voting “nay.”

Even though the vote received a majority, the city’s charter review process requires a supermajority vote — at least 4-1 — for a charter amendment to be placed on the ballot for voter consideration.

At the April 4 meeting, Murphy made a reverse of Deal’s motion, stating no changes would be made to article 4 of the charter. His motion failed 3-2, with Murphy and Zaccagnino voting “yea,” and Carlson, Deal and Upshaw voting “nay.” Section 4 deals with the qualifications and powers of the mayor.

During the April 11 discussion of Deal’s motion, Murphy responded to his criticism of a research report in 2018 undertaken by an eight-member committee entrusted to review the form of city government that concluded with unanimous support for a city manager or city administrator for Holmes Beach in place of the current strong-mayor form of government.

“I don’t have any question that the people who did the study weren’t qualified or well-meaning,” he said. “At the end of the day, I just don’t agree with it.”

Carlson said that didn’t matter.

“The issue is whether the citizens should have the right to vote on it,” she said. “I think the citizens have a right to vote on it and we don’t have the right to stop them.”

The report made a substantial argument for the city-manager form of government.

Zaccagnino disagreed, saying the citizens voted for charter review commission members whose platforms they supported and, he added, he and Murphy were the top two vote-getters of the five charter review commissioners.

Murphy said at The Islander candidate forum in October 2018 that although some candidates insist on the need to employ a city manager, he was unsure whether a manager would be a positive move for the city.

“I think the people have already spoken about what they feel like and who they wanted to support for what issue,” Zaccagnino said.

Murphy suggested that the people who want a city manager could initiate a referendum on the matter.

According to Florida statutes, the electors can collect signatures on a petition to put an amendment to the charter on a ballot.

In other matters, the CRC unanimously approved a motion to accept a consolidated legal description of the city’s boundaries.

City attorney Patricia Petruff said the recommended change would go to the city commission as an “edit” to the charter, not as a public vote.

CRC members also discussed restrictions in the charter governing how the city vacates public land, such as beach accesses.

The group agreed their concern was with protecting parks, beach accesses and rights of way from sale or lease to entities that might abuse environmentally sensitive areas.

Murphy motioned for Petruff to word a proposed charter amendment stating, “Property owned by the city, currently unencumbered, cannot be dispossessed, except by lease, permit or right of way, for a period of less than 10 years. Any lease should be approved by a super majority of the city commission, and more than 50% support by a referendum of the city’s voters.”

Petruff said she would work on the language and bring it back for a vote at the next meeting.

The Holmes Beach CRC will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday, April 25 meeting at city hall.