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Largo preps eight charter amendments
Commissioners discuss suggested changes for the Nov. 4 ballot
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LARGO – Along with considering candidates for five seats on the Largo Commission, voters also will be considering several changes to the city charter Nov. 4.

The changes will be outlined in at least eight questions on the ballot. The process for updating the charter began with a citizen charter review committee, appointed by the commission to meet on a monthly basis starting April 2013.

In April of this year, the committee members presented their recommendations, which were drafted into amendments and ballot language for approval June 18.

So far, the commission will ask Largo voters to consider the following substantive changes to the charter:

• If commissioners should receive salary increases at the same percentage as city management employees, unless commissioners opt out by resolution

• If a majority vote should be required before commissioners can conduct an investigation into city business or a city employee

• If a referendum would be required to approve a lease of city-owned property for more than 10 years instead of five years, as is now the threshold

• If the city manager should have the authority to execute grant applications and agreements that do not require commission approval

• If the commission can make changes in fund appropriations by resolution instead of city ordinance

• If the planning board should have decision-making authority as currently specified by ordinance

• If the city would prohibit employee discrimination based on age or national origin

The first question on the ballot will ask voters to consider a number of clarifications, updates or corrections to clerical errors. The corrected sections include one that designates a vice mayor’s appointment to one year, another that allows a commissioner to be appointed to fill a sudden mayoral vacancy and one that allows the cost of copies of the budget to be set by ordinance.

Commissioners agreed with the ballot language so far, but Mayor Pat Gerard questioned why one of her recommendations, which had the support of the commission, wasn’t included.

Currently, the charter gives the mayor the power to appoint residents to the city’s various boards “at the advice and the consent of the commission.” The task of reviewing applications for board appointments and recruiting residents to serve has proved arduous, Gerard said.

“This was a bad idea to begin with,” she said.

In drafting the ballot questions, City Attorney Alan Zimmet had left the language as is, reasoning that the charter did not prohibit the mayor from delegating her appointment power to other commissioners. Gerard had thought the language would be removed entirely, allowing the appointment process to be defined by legislative policy outside of the charter.

The commission agreed with Gerard, asking Zimmet to make the slight change to the charter as part of the first question on the November ballot.

“Between now and the election, we have to come up with a better policy,” Gerard said.

The commission tabled approval of the charter amendments and the corresponding ballot questions until after Zimmet writes new language regarding appointments. The first reading of the ordinance to approve both will be Tuesday, June 24; the second will be Tuesday, July 15.
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