Will the 2019 votes by the Electors on Charter Amendments hold since the prior Council did not follow the law

As some of you will recall, members of the public were allowed to vote on amendments to the charter.  At the time Rhett Bullard was mayor and Tracy Woodard headed the committee of the Charter Review. 

 

Karen Hatton, esquire provided the verbiage as it would appear on the ballot, after agreement of the council. Since the changes were initiated by the council, everyone at Town Hall has been searching for an ordinance so both the Attorney and Council could go ahead. (If the Citizens initiated the change in the charter and  a petition was signed by 10% of the Citizens, there would be an amendment to the Charter ). No ordinance can be found; because one does not exist.

 

  This has been tabled for the March Meeting because as our Town Attorney stated.The Town should comply with the wishes of the Citizens

 

Yet we know that the manner in which Attorney Karen Hatton had broken down the criteria, that many stated they were confused on how and what they were voting for. 

 

To make matters worse, when Helen Miller was voted in as mayor in 2019 and the Council hired Attorney Meagan Logan, Ms. Logan did not draft an ordinance to anyone’s knowledge. She however provided the council with proposed wording for the changes to the Charter. And an ordinance could not have been in effect because the Town Council dropped the issues even though the citizens voted some of the issues through a majority vote.

 

Instead Ms. Logan provided the Town Council with four sheets of paper relating to the proposed amendments to the Charter.  Again, the council did not bring up the proposed amendments by error, mistake, omission or design. As such could everything be invalid? 

 

For some reason it appears we at the Journal have the only copy of Ms. Logan’s proposed amendments which is not probable, but who in White Springs ever followed the law.  Former Vice Mayor Tonja Brown confirmed the amendments were dropped by the Council. A copy will be provided Ms. George and/or Ms. Ruise to forward on to our attorney (My printer scanner took a dive today) tomorrow.

Since Town Attorney Joel F. Foreman, provided us with information on the Florida Statute relative to Charter Amendments, let’s review it and I have highlighted the important areas for your ease in reading it.

 

166.031 Charter amendments.

 

(1) The governing body of a municipality may, by ordinance, or the electors  (Citizens) of a municipality may, by petition signed by 10 percent of the registered electors as of the last preceding municipal general election, submit to the electors of said municipality a proposed amendment to its charter, which amendment may be to any part or to all of said charter except that part describing the boundaries of such municipality. The governing body of the municipality shall place the proposed amendment contained in the ordinance or petition to a vote of the electors at the next general election held within the municipality or at a special election called for such purpose.

 

(2) Upon adoption of an amendment to the charter of a municipality by a majority of the electors voting in a referendum upon such amendment, the governing body of said municipality shall have the amendment incorporated into the charter and shall file the revised charter with the Department of State. All such amendments are effective on the date specified therein or as otherwise provided in the charter.

 

(3) A municipality may amend its charter pursuant to this section notwithstanding any charter provisions to the contrary. This section shall be supplemental to the provisions of all other laws relating to the amendment of municipal charters and is not intended to diminish any substantive or procedural power vested in any municipality by present law. A municipality may, by ordinance and without referendum, redefine its boundaries to include only those lands previously annexed and shall file said redefinition with the Department of State pursuant to the provisions of subsection (2).

 

(4) There shall be no restrictions by the municipality on any employee’s or employee group’s political activity, while not working, in any referendum changing employee rights.

 

 

(5) A municipality may, by unanimous vote of the governing body, abolish municipal departments provided for in the municipal charter and amend provisions or language out of the charter which has been judicially construed, either by judgment or by binding legal precedent from a decision of a court of last resort, to be contrary to either the State Constitution or Federal Constitution.

 

(6) Each municipality shall, by ordinance or charter provision, provide procedures for filling a vacancy in office caused by death, resignation, or removal from office. Such ordinance or charter provision shall also provide procedures for filling a vacancy in candidacy caused by death, withdrawal, or removal from the ballot of a qualified candidate following the end of the qualifying period which leaves fewer than two candidates for an office.

 

It may be mentioned that the Journal stated that our County’s Election supervisor had advised that 60% of the total votes cast by the electors/citizen voters shall be construed to have passed an amendment.   However, there are no statutes stipulating a 60% ruling per Attorney Foreman.  Instead it is a simple majority; therefore, requiring 50% plus one (1) vote in order to pass.   Neither are there provisions of general law which require the majority to be sixty percent.  There are no super votes required.