Philip Blumel from Florida Term Limits Blog reports:
May 2nd is approaching and four Pinellas County commissioners are worried. In December, a circuit court judge refused to dismiss the suit against them for violating their legal term limits. Now they face a judge again on May 2 in the final hearing of the case.
In 1996, 73% of Pinellas voters passed 8-year term limits but these renegade commissioners refused to insert the term limits amendment language into the charter as required by law. Then when term limits went into effect 8 years later, they refused to step down. After all, the language isn’t in the charter!
Citizens were outraged and, after friendly court decisions around the state including a unanimous Florida Supreme Court decision that term limits are constitutional, they filed suit. The three plaintiffs on the people’s side represent diverse political, ethnic, professional and geographical faces of Pinellas County. This is appropriate as term limits are not a Republican versus Democrat issue but one of the people versus unchecked political power.
Shortly after the adverse decision in December, the commissioners doubled their legal team adding four additional lawyers. Yes, that’s right, they spending an enormous amount of the people’s money to fight the clearly expressed will of the people. And why? To directly benefit themselves.
In addition to lawyering up, commissioner Ken Welch publicly declared in February that he is seeking another position in local government and may not serve his full term. One of the reasons, he said, is that the judge may decide he cannot serve his full term. The plaintiffs hope part of the reason also is that he knows resigning is the right thing to do. Fellow scofflaws Karen Seel, John Morroni and Susan Latvala should follow Welch’s lead.
Citizens may attend the hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 2nd at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court Street, Courtroom C, Clearwater.For more detail on the case, go here.
Of Florida’s 20 charter, or “home rule” counties, 12 have term limits. Miami-Dade voters just approved 8-year limits last November. In all but one of the dozen, the popular term limits laws are respected and enforced. It is hoped that on May 2 the citizens will triumph and a decade of political corruption in this beautiful county will be swept away.
(Pictured, the three plaintiffs Maria Scruggs, H. Patrick Wheeler and Beverley Billiris.)