CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION
AUGUST 29, 2017
Nicole Guillet, County Manager
Bryant Applegate, County Attorney
Bruce McMenemy, Deputy County Manager
Grant Maloy, Clerk of Court & Comptroller
Joel Greenberg, Tax Collector
Michael Ertel, Supervisor of Elections
Chief Lisa Spriggs, Sheriff’s Office
Desmond Morrell, Assistant County Attorney
Jane Spencer, Deputy Clerk
CHARTER COMMISSION: District 1 – Josh Strzalko
- Tom Boyko
- Tom O’Hanlon
District 2 - Edward L. Schons
- Colleen Hufford
- Michelle Ertel
District 3 - Robert (Bob) O’Malley
- Robert (Bob) Levy
- Pasha (Posh) Baker
District 4 - Kevin Grace
- Bob McMillan
- Larry Strickler
District 5 - Robert Turnage
- Michelle Smith
- James Dicks
The following is a non-verbatim transcript of the CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING, held at 6:30 p.m., on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, in the Seminole County Services Building at Sanford, Florida.
Tom Boyko led the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Charter Review Commission 2017/2018 Binder was received and filed.
WELCOME AND COMMENTS
Commissioner John Horan, Chairman of the BCC, welcomed the Charter Review Commission (CRC) members and expressed his appreciation for their willingness to serve. He stated no matter what level they come into this particular endeavor with, whether they have been a public official before or never involved, he guarantees they can learn a lot and will really enjoy it. Commissioner Horan explained the Charter Review Commission is an important thing, and they do it every six years under the Charter. It is particularly interesting this year because this year also coincides with the review of the Florida Constitution, which has so many provisions in it that relate to important things like Home Rule and how charters are set up.
Nicole Guillet, County Manager, also welcomed the members and expressed her appreciation for their time and effort. She stated she is on the agenda to talk about Administrative and Financial Support and encouraged the members to call if they need something. Ms. Guillet explained that the County is here on a staff level to provide support and resources. Her office is not here to help the members with policy decisions or to make recommendations. They are here to provide support and any resources that the CRC might need.
Bryant Applegate, County Attorney, introduced the three Constitutional Officers that were present: Joel Greenberg, Tax Collector; Grant Maloy, Clerk of the Court and Comptroller; and Michael Ertel, Supervisor of Elections. He acknowledged that Chief Lisa Spriggs, representing the Sheriff's Office, and Bruce McMenemy, Deputy County Manager, were present. He also introduced Desmond Morrell, Assistant County Attorney, who will be helping along the way until, and if, the CRC decides to hire counsel.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
Mr. Applegate opened the floor for nominations for the Chairman of the Charter Review Commission. He informed the group that under Robert’s Rules, the nomination does not need a second.
Mr. Boyko nominated Larry Strickler; and hearing no other nominations, Mr. Strickler was selected for the position of Chairman.
Chairman Strickler assumed the position of Chairman and opened the floor for nominations for Vice Chairman.
Mr. Boyko nominated Tom O’Hanlon; and hearing no other nominations, Mr. O’Hanlon was selected for the position of Vice Chairman.
FLORIDA SUNSHINE LAW AND
PUBLIC RECORDS LAWS/ETHICS
Mr. Applegate began his presentation entitled “Florida Sunshine Law; Public Records Law; and Ethics” (copy in the CRC Binder) by relaying a story about Joe DiMaggio’s final days of playing baseball and how he did not want his reputation to be tarnished and did not want anyone thinking he was lazy. He then relayed a story about General Dean, who was the highest ranking American soldier that was captured during the Korean War. General Dean wrote what he believed to be a final letter to his wife and two young children that read, "Tell my two young children, the word is integrity. Love, the General." That was what he thought would be his final word, integrity.
Mr. Applegate continued the presentation and discussed the Sunshine Law. He reviewed Article I, Section 24, of the Florida Constitution (Access to Public Records and Meetings) and Chapter 286 of the Florida Statutes (Public Business). He advised that the Sunshine Law applies to this Commission and cautioned that if there is an item that is going to be foreseeably discussed by the CRC as a public body, members cannot talk about it amongst themselves outside of the meetings. He reviewed the four basic requirements of the Sunshine Law and noted that the Sunshine Law applies to meetings and discussions conducted via telephones, computers and other electronic means. He added that staff members cannot be used to exchange information and written reports should not be circulated among Board members for comments, where such comments can be seen by the other members. Mr. Applegate talked about the use of private social media for government business and the need to save tweets, texts, emails, and Facebook if it relates to the CRC. He reviewed Government in the Sunshine Law regarding public access to meetings and what the term “open to the public” means. He then reviewed the Penalties.
Mr. Applegate referred to the Florida Public Records Law/Florida Statutes Chapter 119 slide and pointed out there are over 1,000 exceptions to the Public Records law. He suggested that the members let his office worry about whether it is a public record but stressed that he cannot imagine anything that the members would do that would not be a public record and certainly open to public inspection. He displayed the second Public Records slide and noted this is the official statutory definition. Mr. Applegate continued the presentation regarding Public Records and explained they are not generally required to reformat records to meet the requestor's needs and they cannot ask the reason for the public records request. The records need to be produced within a reasonable amount of time. The Penalties slide was displayed.
Mr. Applegate displayed and reviewed the Use of Emails/Text Messages slide and cautioned that if there is a public records request and an employee has used their private phone for government business, his office will have to go through the private phone and pull out the information. Mr. Applegate began the section of the presentation regarding Voting Conflicts and reviewed Section 112.3143(3)(a); Section 112.3143(1)(c); Who is a Principal; and What is a Business Associate. He informed the Commission that a copy of his PowerPoint presentation was in their binder along with a pamphlet pertaining to the Florida Commission on Ethics. The Unauthorized Compensation, Section 112.313(4) and Misuse of Public Position, Section 112.313(6) slides were reviewed.
Mr. Applegate reviewed the Gifts/Section 112.313(2) slide and gave some examples. With regard to the “anything of value” phrase, Chairman Strickler suggested that he would just say “anything.” He cautioned to not take the chance because it is not worth it. Mr. Applegate pointed out that it avoids an appearance of any impropriety. Mr. Applegate suggested that until, and if, the CRC decides to hire their own counsel, they should feel free to call him at any time if they have any questions on any of these subjects.
With regard to the issue of emails, Bob McMillan stated he thinks everybody here has gotten emails from the Clerk's Office or from the County Attorney's Office. He asked if the CRC members can assume that Mr. Applegate's office has maintained the original copies of those and the members don't have to keep every one of those on their phones forever. Mr. Applegate stated if the emails are from him, he is saving them. Mr. McMillan confirmed with Mr. Applegate that the members should maintain everything that they get. Mr. Applegate stated he is not going to tell anyone to delete anything.
Mr. Applegate stated if and when the CRC decides to hire outside counsel, it always has been a recommendation that they consider attorneys that have no connection to Seminole County, to his office, or to the Constitutional Officers to avoid any appearance of conflict or influence. Mr. McMillan added that they cannot use city attorneys either. Mr. Applegate explained that they will talk more about that if and when the Commission decides to do that. His office will help with the announcement and with the search. He reiterated that his office is here to help to get the Committee started with whatever they need. His office will handle the notices and work together on printing out the agendas for the following meetings. Mr. Applegate turned the meeting over to the Chairman and suggested that they discuss the meeting schedule. He pointed out that past CRCs met once a month or every three weeks in the beginning. If and when they decide to "grind down into it," they may decide to have more meetings.
Chairman Strickler asked Mr. Applegate when their deliberations and final recommendations have to be finalized. Mr. Applegate referred the members to a timeline (copy in the CRC binder) and noted this is to help them along the way. From September to May is the time when a Charter Review Commission will usually develop a proposal, if they decide to propose anything, for the electorate to consider. If the CRC does that in June and July of next year, they are required to hold at least three public hearings. There are requirements that they be at least ten days apart but no more than 20 days apart to allow the public to comment on those proposals. The CRC would then have to make a final decision by August 1, or a few days after that, because the ballot propositions have to be sent to the Board of County Commissioners, who will then send them on to the Supervisor of Elections in order to allow the time for them to be printed on the general election ballot.
Bob Levy asked if the CRC is a recommending board to the County Commission and does the BCC have to accept or reject. Mr. Applegate stated the BCC has to accept it. If there is something that is illegal, that is for the courts to decide. He explained that the CRC's job is to recommend changes to the electorate to be placed on the ballot. Chairman Strickler talked about the last time the CRC meet and noted that he was vice chairman. He stated it was an easy job. The Charter Review Committee at that time thought the county was running very well, all the gears were meshing very well; and they didn't make any new recommendations on the Charter. At that time they had veteran positions, long‑term veteran positions, in the County Commission and elected roles and in the statutory roles. Chairman Strickler pointed out that is different now. He stated he believes the CRC's goal is to represent the taxpayers of Seminole County; and in that regard, he thinks they are going to have more work to do this time because they have a lot of new players and a lot of rumors floating around. The CRC members are the ones that need to control the final recommendations that go to the County Commission.
FUTURE MEETING SCHEDULE
With regard to the schedule for future meetings, Chairman Strickler stated he would prefer to meet more often and get a lot more done up front assuming they are going to have a lot of work to do. He added that if they don't, they can come up with a nice package much earlier in the game than they otherwise would. He stated he is throwing that out there as a recommendation just to get some conversation going. Discussion ensued with regard to scheduling conflicts, and Chairman Strickler stated they have to have a quorum. Mr. Applegate advised that under the Charter, a quorum is a majority of the members. Discussion ensued relating to which day of the month meetings will be held, the time, and how often meetings will be held each month.
It was the consensus of the CRC to schedule the meetings on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.
GENERAL DISCUSSION (continued)
Mr. McMillan stated that one of the things they are supposed to do is have public hearings without an agenda other than to hear from the public as to proposals they would propose to the Charter Commission. He believes it is important that the CRC establish those early enough in the process so there is time for that. He suggested that maybe by the next meeting, they could have some idea as to when they should ask the public to come in and tell the Commission what they think or what issues they see are out there that they might want to discuss. He pointed out that when they go to public hearings that are on the schedule, the proposals are already done; and they are taking proposals to the public (in those three public hearings) to find out whether they want them forwarded and put on the ballot or not. Mr. McMillan suggested that is a little late for hearing any ideas from the public.
Mr. Applegate stated that under the new law, on the agenda you have to have a public comment period at every one of the meetings. He stated that he will, if the Chairman agrees, have a notice prepared and posted on the County website and downstairs stating that the Charter Review Commission will meet on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. in Room 3024. At every meeting, they have to allow public comment. He stated the CRC can have as many public hearings as they want, where they advertise in the paper; but the Charter requires at least three once they decide what the propositions are. Mr. McMillan stated he is talking about the ones where you advertise and say we will be accepting proposals, not simply commenting on what the CRC is doing. With regard to public comment, Mr. Boyko asked if the comment would be about the subject the CRC is discussing or something new; Mr. Applegate responded someone from the public could certainly bring up another matter.
With regard to the meeting schedule, James Dicks confirmed that they are going skip September 4. He advised that November 7 is Election Day and January 2 would be the first Tuesday in January. He suggested those dates may be a problem for some. Chairman Strickler advised that they can set the dates as they see fit as they go along, that this is just to get it on some calendars. Discussion ensued.
It was the consensus of the CRC to not schedule a meeting on September 4, November 7 and January 2.
At the request of Chairman Strickler, each Board member introduced themselves and gave a brief professional background.
Mr. Applegate referred to the book that his office prepared and explained that it has a lot of information about Seminole County, the organizational chart, and other information; but the bulk of the book is the charters for all 20 charter counties. His office thought that would be helpful; and as the CRC begins its discussion, if they want to see what other counties have done, the information is at the ready.
Mr. O'Hanlon stated he loved the discussion about having two public hearings and announcing that to the public so they can get their feedback. He wondered how soon they can start that process. Chairman Strickler stated they can start that as soon as they want to. He explained that he thinks they have got to start with some ideas themselves in order to plant some seeds to get some people to feed into that. It won't be automatic. Discussion ensued about when the previous CRC had the public hearings. Mr. Boyko stated he thinks that the first thing they did last time was to poll the members of the committee to find out if they had anything that they wanted to add to the Charter review. Then they would discuss that item and also open it up to the public. Mr. Applegate clarified that the regular meetings are noticed by placing them downstairs on the County's board and on the County's web page. The public hearings are advertised in the newspaper. Mr. McMillan stated in light of that information, he believes at the next meeting everybody on the Commission will have reviewed all of the other charters that they want to review and everything else they want to review. If they have any ideas, they can bring them forth. He doesn't know if everyone is as familiar as they might want to be to start bringing up issues today, but there will be time between now and the next meeting to review this and talk to whomever they want to talk to that isn't on this Commission as to anything they are interested in bringing forth for discussion. Then they can discuss when to set up the meetings, the public hearings, to let the public know that the Commission is ready to listen to any ideas that they might have that they would want the Commission to discuss in the future.
Mr. Boyko wondered if the public approaches the members individually, do they want to "carry their ball" or do they want them to appear here and present it. Chairman Strickler stated they could do it either way. He stated he does not believe they want to dictate that. Edward Schons asked about becoming more familiar with the different agencies and different responsibilities of the County and wondered if the members should reach out individually to people like Mr. Ertel. He wondered how they should do that or whether they should do it. Chairman Strickler pointed out the Charter itself is a 22‑page document and suggested that everyone read it. He added that the Charter tells the categories. He thinks the goal of any charter is to make sure that the taxpayers are getting the best that they can get from the public servants under that charter, which are the County Commission and the Constitutional Officers basically. He believes the CRC's goal is to identify things that will better guarantee that all of the gears are running smoothly and they are not going to get all clogged up. The Chairman pointed out that the only thing that has changed since the last Charter Review Committee is they have got a lot of new players and they will have more in the future, so they have got to think about those things as they move through the process. He stated he has been thinking about this for a month, and there is no way they are going to be able to do this the way they did it last time because a lot of things need to be put in writing and discussed; and they need to make sure that whoever the players are in the future, they are playing well together on the taxpayers' behalf.
Mr. McMillan asked Chairman Strickler about tours. Chairman Strickler stated he has received at least two invitations. Mr. McMillan stated he believes that is why Mr. Schons brought it up and is asking if the Committee has done those as a group. Chairman Strickler stated the Committee last time did not because it was not offered, and everyone knew there were not going to be any changes made. There weren't any issues to talk about. He added that last time was his first time on the Charter Review. He does not know about prior to that. The Chairman advised that he would say to avail yourself of the opportunity to reach out to the Constitutional Officers and say can you give me a tour. Discussion ensued with regard to a group tour. Mr. McMillan stated he was on the last Charter Review Commission and was probably staff or sat in on every Charter Commission since the Charter was adopted, and he does not remember there ever being a tour of anything. Mr. Applegate advised it would be fraught with problems doing it as a group. It would have to be noticed, and they would need to deal with minutes and public access. Mr. McMillan remarked that a member can talk to a Constitutional Officer one on one any time they want. Chairman Strickler stated it is simple stuff like "since you took office, what improvements have been made." It could be technology or what kind of service measurements they have or what the budget is or what the cost is per the numbers. He stated there are all kinds of things that they can be asking about and should be asking about. The Chairman suggested they do it one at a time if they are going to do it at all.
With regard to the Sunshine Law, Mr. McMillan pointed out that two or more of the Committee members can get together and have lunch as long as they don't talk about the business of this Commission and there is not a violation. His advice to the Commissioners or anyone else was always that they could get on the bus together and go out to visit wherever it is that they were going to go visit and then try to convince the press or anyone else that they didn't discuss anything at all about a rezone. Mr. McMillan stated no matter whether they all sat there and did absolutely nothing and never opened their mouth, they won't believe it. He cautioned that they should not put themselves in the situation of saying we didn't discuss anything that was going to come before the Commission notwithstanding the fact that we spent ten hours alone in a conference room somewhere. They will never win that debate and their credibility will always be under attack, so the best defense is just don’t put yourself in the situation where anyone can believe you have been talking about business.
Mr. Applegate advised that you can bring it to extremes and if some of the Committee members are great social friends, he is not going to tell them that they cannot be social to each other in a social setting over the next 15 months or whatever. He suggested they do have to be prudent and emphasized that they just cannot talk about this business.
Mr. O'Hanlon asked what the expected approximate duration of the meetings will be. Chairman Strickler stated he would plan on an hour and a half. He thinks they can organize it and tighten it up and would rather get it closer to an hour but will say an hour and a half for planning purposes. Mr. O'Hanlon suggested they, as a group, set the rules for public hearings. By that he means he has been in too many situations where they need to limit the public time for speaking to a certain amount of time; and at the CRC's discretion, they could speak longer. He added that at most places, it is two to three minutes. He does not believe they will have any issues with this Committee, but he would like a rule set before there is an issue.
Chairman Strickler asked if there is a legal issue with that. Mr. Applegate advised that as they go along, they can establish their Rules of Procedure to conduct the meetings and to conduct the public hearings. As they move along, they can adopt all of those rules. He stated if they don't hire an attorney, certainly he can help with that. He added that it is usually proper decorum for three minutes for a speaker unless they represent an organization, and then it is six minutes. He reiterated the Committee has the leeway to decide how they want to do it. Mr. O'Hanlon stated he would like to make that a motion and have it on their books before it happens. Mr. Applegate recommended that at the next meeting, they will have an agenda and they can put on some of the items that are being discussed. That will allow more time to think about those things. Chairman Strickler agreed with getting it done early rather than late so anyone that wants to participate will know the rules coming in.
With regard to public participation, no one in the audience spoke and public input was closed.
Colleen Hufford stated in the month of October, they have five Tuesdays and pointed out that if they are not meeting on November 7 due to the election, it puts them out five to six weeks between the meetings. Ms. Hufford suggested that at the next meeting they could pick an alternate date on those odd times that they have talked about because they don't want to go that long. She suggested that might be a good time to have a public hearing. It was suggested that be added as an agenda item at the next meeting.
Mr. Applegate advised that he will be happy to provide a draft Rules of Procedure that can be sent out to all of the members. He reminded them to not discuss it among themselves; and at the next meeting, they can tweak it as the Committee sees fit.
Motion by Mr. O'Hanlon, seconded by Ms. Smith, to adjourn.
All members in attendance voted AYE; and Chairman Strickler declared the meeting adjourned at 7:31 p.m., this same date.