Recall attempt doesn't get far
By CARRIE JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
INVERNESS -- The angry cry reverberated through the Citrus County Auditorium last week as the County Commission's debate over mandatory garbage collection intensified: Recall!
One Homosassa man decided to take action. Frank Hill, who lives in Riverhaven, took the first tentative steps this week toward drafting a petition aimed at throwing County Commissioner Jim Fowler out of office.
"He is ignoring the will of the people," said Hill, 66, the owner of a Tampa direct mail company. "I guess that is the bottom line."
But the effort didn't get very far. Hill quickly stumbled upon a little-known fact: There are no provisions for recalling a county commissioner in Citrus.
Under state law, only municipalities and counties with a charter government can recall a public official. Non-charter counties, such as Citrus, either must ask the governor to remove the official or wait until the next election, said Kurt Spitzer, a government consultant.
"A recall is not an option for an elected official in a county government if you're in a county without a charter," he said.
In Florida, counties were created by the Legislature as political subdivisions, Spitzer said. Most, including Citrus, operate under a constitutional structure outlined by the state.
If a charter is adopted, more control is given to residents. Voters can create a more flexible government that allows for nonpartisan elections or makes recalls or referendums possible.
All cities in Florida have charters. There are also 19 charter counties throughout the state, including Hillsborough and Pinellas.
Hill said his efforts haven't been entirely wasted.
"Maybe this will convince people we need a charter for our county," he said.
As a Homosassa resident, Hill said he was angered by Fowler's approval of Halls River Retreat, the controversial 11-acre condominium project.
But it was the outrage expressed by citizens over mandatory garbage collection that convinced him he needed to take action. Fowler is an advocate of the proposal.
"What I'm tired of is the condescending and arrogant manner in which I've seen my fellow citizens being treated at the Citrus County Commission meetings," Hill said.
Fowler won re-election last year. In a three-candidate Republican primary, he squeezed past the runner-up, Joyce Valentino, by just 27 votes. Fowler went on to handily defeat Scott Adams in the general election.
Reached by telephone Tuesday, Fowler was unfazed by Hill's criticism. The loud protests of garbage haulers and disgruntled citizens at the last commission meeting aren't an accurate reflection of the will of the people, he said.
Mandatory garbage collection is in the best interest of the county because it will help officials plan for future waste disposal, Fowler added. County officials estimate the landfill will be used up in 20 years at the current rate.
"There are a lot of other people out there and I doubt seriously the group at the auditorium is a microcosm of the city," he said. "Do people really want leaders who check the political wind before a decision is made?"
Citrus County has explored the possibility of adopting a charter in the past. The League of Women Voters led campaigns to implement a charter in 1997 and 1999. Another effort fizzled in 1985.
-- Carrie Johnson can be reached at 860-7309 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
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