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    Council revisits rules on firing top officials

    An Oldsmar charter proposal to make it easier to fire and hire key officials will go on the ballot.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000

    OLDSMAR -- The City Council has changed direction on a recommendation that would make it easier to fire Oldsmar's city manager, city clerk and city attorney.

    The proposal was smothered in August when council members declined to even discuss it. Only council member Ed Richards supported it. But the recommendation, which would change the requirements needed to hire and fire the charter officials, was revived by council members Tuesday.

    "I'm glad you all got the moral fortitude to go back and do it," Richards said at the meeting.

    The City Charter requiresfour of the five council members to hire and fire a charter official. The proposal at hand only would require three of the five members.

    Voters have the ultimate say in changes to the charter, which is the city's governmental blueprint.

    "Initially we discussed it, and the council didn't seem too keen on putting it before voters," said Mayor Jeff Sandler. "I have heard a lot of comments from people who have basically told me that they think it is time to revisit the issue."

    The proposal was made in May by the Charter Review Committee, a volunteer panel. During an August work session, the recommendation couldn't get out of the starting blocks because Richards' motion to discuss it died for lack of a second.

    Before an issue can be discussed, a council member must make a motion to discuss it, and that motion has to be seconded by another council member. Routinely, motions for discussion receive a second out of courtesy.

    Sandler said he had wanted to second Richards' motion all along. But when no one chimed in to make the second, Sandler said he figured that was a clear indication there weren't enough votes to approve it.

    "I didn't second it because it was obvious to me that it wouldn't pass," Sandler said Wednesday. "I kind of felt like it shouldn't have died the way it did. When I thought about it again, I regretted not seconding it."

    That's why, Sandler said, he brought it up for discussion again at the meeting Tuesday. Council members voted 3-2 to ask City Attorney Tom Trask to draft an ordinance that would put the issue before voters.

    Council members David Tilki and Brian Michaels voted against it but did not state their reasons.

    Council member Ed Manny said he voted for the proposal despite not seconding the motion to discuss it in August because he, too, has heard from residents that they were in favor of the change.

    Although he doesn't favor the change, he felt the issue should go to voters.

    "I've had enough phone calls on it that I think it needs to go to voters," Manny said Wednesday. "I still don't support it. But if that's what people want, that's what they'll get."

    Sandler said his effort to put the issue on the ballot does not mean he is unhappy with the charter officials. He said he has always felt a three-fifths vote is what should be required to hire or fire charter officials.

    "I've heard all the arguments against it, and I just don't buy into them" he said.

    The review committee recommended other changes to the charter. Most of those changes also died for a lack of second during the August work session. The changes that the council did approve to send to voters were mostly housekeeping measures.

    Sandler also has spearheaded an effort to change the part of the charter that requires council members to appoint a review committee every three years. Based on Sandler's recommendation, voters will decide in March whether to change that period to every 10 years.

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