Charter Questions: Part III

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Over the last two weeks, we’ve offered readers a look at the first eleven Town of Fort Myers Beach Charter Referendum questions that voters will see on the March 15 ballot. There will be a total of 21 Charter Referendum questions on that ballot, each one asking for a yes or no response from voters.

Our current Town Charter calls for a Charter Review every 10 years. Late in 2014, Town Council appointed five community members to serve on a Charter Review Committee (CRC). They were Tom Babcock, Chair and Miffie Greer, Vice-Chair, Dan Hughes, Jay Light and Dan Parker. After numerous meetings, lots of discussion and careful reading of the charter, they presented Town Council with their recommendations. After two public hearings, Council agreed to put 21 proposed charter changes on the ballot in March.

This week we will take a look at Referendum questions 12-16.

 REFERENDUM # 12

Sec. 4.04

 ESTABLISHING THAT VIOLATIONS OF THE CHARTER’S NON-INTERFERENCE PROVISIONS CONSTITUTE GROUNDS FOR RECALL.

 SUMMARY:  The Charter provides that council members will direct improvements to operations of Town government through the Town Manager. This amendment establishes that a violation of this requirement for non-interference with Town staff will constitute grounds for a council member’s recall.

Sec. 4.04. Prohibitions.

 Neither the council, nor any individual member of the council, shall in any manner dictate the employment or removal of any employee other than the town manager and town attorney. No individual member of the council shall give orders to any officer or employee of the town. Recommendations for the improvements in the town government operations shall come through the town manager, but each member of the council shall be free to discuss or recommend improvements to the town manager, and the council is free to direct the town manager to implement specific recommendations for improvement in town government operations. Violations of this Section of the Charter shall constitute malfeasance within the meaning of Section 100.361, Florida Statues, as may be amended.

The CRC noted that over the years, there have been numerous violations of non-interference rules. They believed that clarifying that violations are considered malfeasance and can result in removal from office reinforces that the rules are to be taken seriously. The Lee County Charter includes the same language.

REFERENDUM # 13

SEC. 2.01

CLARIFYING THE TERRITORIAL BOUNDARIES OF THE TOWN OF FORT MYERS BEACH.

 SUMMARY:  The Town Charter currently describes its territorial waters as a corporate limit 1,000 feet offshore. This amendment will clarify that the Town boundaries include the waters within 1,000 feet of Estero Island into the Gulf of Mexico.

 Sec. 2.01. Boundaries of the Town of Fort Myers Beach.

The territorial boundaries of the Town of Fort Myers Beach upon the date of incorporation shall include the following areas situated in the County of Lee, State of Florida:

A corporate limit lying offshore from Estero Island, which line is described as follows: all that part of Lee County that is located and situated within Estero Island, including a corporate limit line offshore and the area within 1,000 feet in the Gulf of Mexico and 1,000 feet in the inland bays, and parallel with the shore line of said Estero Island, excluding all of San Carlos Island, Black Island and, structures exclusively attached thereto.

This is a clerical change that removes misleading language.

REFERENDUM # 14

Sec. 4.12

UPDATING REQUIREMENTS FOR KEEPING RECORDS AND MINUTES OF COUNCIL MEETINGS

 SUMMARY:  The requirement to keep a journal in addition to minutes of Council meetings is outdated and will be eliminated by this amendment. Minutes of Council meetings will be maintained in accordance with the Town Council Policies and Procedures Manual.

Sec. 4.12. Rules and journal. 

 The council shall determine its own rules and order of business and shall provide for keeping a journal and minutes of its proceedings. The journal and minutes shall be public records.  The Town Council shall maintain a Policies and Procedures Manual that provides guidelines for how it will operate.

This change will simply align the Charter with what is actually happening. The Town does not maintain a journal, but does record and approve minutes for public meetings. The Policy and Procedure Manual not only provides guidelines for Council members, but also provides important background information for anyone considering becoming a member of Town Council.

REFERENDUM # 15

Sec. 4.08

CLARIFYING THE LANGUAGE REGARDING THE FILLING OF COUNCIL MEMBER VACANCIES

 SUMMARY:  This amendment deletes unnecessary language relating to the filling of council vacancies and establishes a gender neutral statement. 

Section 4.08 Filling of vacancies.–A vacancy on the council, except for the position of mayor, shall be filled by appointment by majority vote of the council members remaining, and said appointment shall be effective until a successor is chosen at the next regular election. In the event that a majority of the members of the council are removed by death, disability, law, or forfeiture of office, the governor shall appoint an interim council that shall call a special election to be held within 45 days following the occurrence of the vacancies to elect a new council. In the event that the mayor becomes unable to fulfill the duties of his office, ceases to be qualified, or is removed from office as provided by law or this charter, the vice mayor of the council shall assume the full powers and duties of the mayor. The vice mayor of the council shall temporarily relinquish his office as council member and shall assume the office of mayor for the remainder of the unexpired term. The council vacancy thus created shall be filled by an interim appointment under the provisions of this charter, to be effective only until such time as the mayor resumes his office or until the expiration of the term of the office, whichever occurs first.

 REFERENDUM # 16

Sec. 4.11

CLARIFYING THAT RESONABLE NOTICE WILL BE PROVIDED FOR ALL MEETINGS

 SUMMARY:  The Town Charter currently requires at least 24 hours notice for all Council meetings. This amendment will delete the 24-hour timeframe and require reasonable notice for all meetings.

Section 4.11 Meetings. The council shall meet regularly at least eight times per year and shall meet no less often than bimonthly at such times and locations within the boundaries of the town as the council may prescribe. Special meetings may be held on the call of the mayor or the town manager and, whenever practical, upon no less than a 24-hour notice with reasonable notice to each member and the public. Action taken at a special meeting shall be limited to the purpose for which the special meeting is called. A special meeting may be held outside the town with proper notice with reasonable notice. All meetings shall be public and shall be scheduled to commence no earlier than 7 a.m. nor later than 10 p.m.

 This change removes the requirement of 24 hours notice for special meetings and replaces it with “reasonable” notice. In the event of a hurricane or other disaster, council will be able to meet with less than 24 hours notice.

Next week, we’ll review the final five referendum questions. For reference, the Town Charter is available online at www.fortmyersbeachfl.gov

Missy Layfield