Charter Review Committee Meeting Minutes
Minutes of the September 23, 2019 6 p.m.
Charter Review Committee Meeting
This meeting of the Lady Lake Charter Review Committee was held in the Commission Chambers at Lady Lake Town Hall, 409 Fennell Blvd., Lady Lake, Florida. The meeting convened at 5:05 p.m.
A. Roll Call
Members Present: Lynn Davis, Lowell Barker, Nora Choquette, Donna McGlone, Dennis McGee, Robert Nyce, and Jean Olivier White
Thad Carroll, Growth Management Director; Derek Schroth, Town Attorney; and Nancy Slaton, Deputy Town Clerk
Commission Paul Hannan and Commissioner Tony Holden
Town Attorney Derek Schroth reported that this committee was formed with the authorization of the majority of the Commissioners. He stated that Commissioner Hannan has been requesting a review of the Charter for nearly ten years.
Mr. Schroth reviewed the process, stating that if the majority of the members of this committee would like the charter to be amended, the recommendations will go before the Town Commission. If the majority of the Town Commission agrees, they can then, by ordinance, put the language of the amendment(s) on a referendum for the voters to approve. An alternative is that ten percent of the voters can petition to have any amendments put on the ballot for referendum.
B. Introduction of Members
Each member introduced themselves and presented a brief history of their backgrounds and their current endeavors.
C. Appointment of Chair
Member Dennis McGee motioned to nominate Member Robert Nyce as Chairperson. Member Nora Choquette seconded the motion. The motion passed by an all in favor vote of 7 to 0.
D. Appointment of Vice Chair
Chairperson Robert Nyce made a motion to nominate Member Dennis McGee as Vice Chairperson. Member Lynn Davis seconded the motion. The motion passed by an all in favor vote of 7 to 0.
E. Overview of Town Charter
Chairperson Nyce asked Mr. Schroth what was expected of this committee and if any particular sections of the Charter need to be looked at.
Mr. Schroth replied that Commissioner Hannan asked that Article IV, Legislative, be reviewed regarding the length of the Commissioners’ terms and whether there should be term limits. He stated there are currently no term limits and the terms are for two years. There have been arguments on both sides of this issue over the years.
Chairperson Nyce confirmed with Mr. Schroth that there has been no previous formal review of the Town’s Charter since it was established in 1987. He also asked if there was any accumulation of suggestions for changes by the public or others.
Mr. Schroth stated that there have been several matters brought up by the Commissioner Hannan and Commissioner Holden. Another issue that came up in the past had to do with Article III regarding the Town Manager’s administrative role in the Town government, and Article VIII, Prohibitions. Under Prohibitions, only the Town Manager has the authorization to appoint or remove officers or employees without interference from the Commissioners, although they are free to discuss their views and opinions with the Town Manager.
Member McGee stated that he read the Charter and it is concise and the language is easy to understand. He also asked the general purpose of this committee.
Mr. Schroth replied that the purpose of this committee is to do a general review of the Charter, as there has never been a review. He stated the resolution establishing this committee states it is desirable for such an advisory committee to study the Charter and identify any areas that may be ambiguous, unclear, not in the best interest of the Town, and to make recommendations for amendments or revisions, if any. Mr. Schroth stated he will ask the Town Manager and the Commissioners if there have been other issues that have come up over the years to give the committee more direction.
Chairperson Nyce commented that most small towns or boroughs where he comes from in Pennsylvania have a strong Mayoral form of government and he was surprised that the Mayor of Lady Lake does not play a significant role in the administration of the town. He asked Mr. Schroth if this is common in Florida. He also asked if there is any difference between the designation of a town or a city in Florida.
Mr. Schroth confirmed that this is common whereby the Mayor has the distinction of the title and runs the meetings but has the same vote as the other Commissioners. He stated there is no difference between a town or city, just a preference by the town or city when it was chartered.
Mr. Schroth stated there are 11 articles in the Charter. He reviewed each one as follows: Article I — Creation of Powers, Article II — Corporate Limits, Article III — Administrative, Article IV — Legislative, Article V — Mayor/Commissioners, Article VI — Compensation, Article VII — Financial Procedures, Article VIII — Prohibitions, Article IX — Initiative and Referendum, Article X — Elections, and Article XI — Transitional Provisions.
Mr. Schroth noted that under Article VI, Compensation, the Commissioners decide what compensation they receive, and he confirmed with Commissioner Hannan that it is currently $600.00 per month, or $7,200 per year. He pointed out that under Article VIII, Prohibitions, it strictly prohibits Mayor or Commissioner interference with the Town Manager’s administrative powers to hire or fire any personnel. He stated that under Article XI, Transitional Powers, the Town Charter goes by home rule whereby the Town can regulate to the extent that they do not contradict constitutional or state laws.
Chairperson Nyce stated he was surprised to note that the Town Manager section is established before the Commissioners in the Town’s Charter, whereas it is opposite that in a lot of municipalities. He stated governance would normally be established prior to administration.
Mr. Schroth confirmed his statement and stated that he does not believe the order matters, although it is the other way around for the surrounding municipalities of Clermont, Leesburg, Wildwood, and Fruitland Park.
Mr. Schroth then reviewed aspects of the Sunshine Law and public records law. He stated that the members of this committee cannot discuss any business having to do with this committee outside of the public meeting, whether it be in-person, by email, etc. He stated that if committee members receive any kind of correspondence concerning their role here, it must be sent to the clerk as it becomes public record. Members can still speak to each other outside of the meetings, just not regarding anything to do with committee business or the charter.
Chairperson Nyce asked that members communicate through the Clerk’s Office, and Mr. Schroth agreed that it was a good idea.
Member Davis confirmed with Mr. Schroth that she can talk to others about the Charter, just not other members.
Mr. Schroth replied that members can talk with the Commissioners, management and other staff.
F. Meeting Schedule
Chairperson Nyce confirmed with Mr. Schroth that they should set the next meeting date, rather than a series of meetings. He stated he would like to get information from the Town Manager and the Commissioners prior to the next meeting, and have any information sent to the members from the Clerk’s Office.
The members agreed to meet again on Monday, October 28, 2019, at 5 p.m.
Chairperson Nyce reiterated his request that Mr. Schroth gather information on any specific issues regarding the Charter that have been brought up in the past and forward it to the members through the Clerk’s Office. He suggested that the members be prepared to address the three issues brought up at this meeting regarding Article III, Administrative; Article IV, Legislative regarding length of terms and term limits, and Article VIII, Prohibitions.
Mr. Schroth pointed out that if the committee decides to explore changing the Town Manager’s powers under the Charter, the members should also refer to the Prohibition section as well. He stated other provisions may need to be reviewed if something that substantial is considered.
Commissioner Hannan spoke from the audience to ask if the members of this committee could communicate directly with the Commissioners.
Mr. Schroth replied affirmatively that members could communicate individually with Commissioners or others, just not as a group if not in a public meeting.
Chairperson Nyce stated that the Commissioners could also communicate with either himself or Mr. Schroth and the communication could be passed through the Clerk’s Office for circulation.
Member McGee specifically asked Commissioner Hannan what his issues are with the Town Charter.
Commissioner Hannan replied his biggest issue is with the term of two years for Commissioners. He stated most other municipalities have four to six year terms. He stated it takes at least a year for a new Commissioner to understand what is going on, and then they have to run for re-election in another year. Commissioner Hannan stated that most other municipalities have an automatic Charter review every ten years; it has been 40 years for Lady Lake, and he thinks this should be changed.
Member McGlone asked if other municipalities have had any difficulty finding or keeping candidates for the office of Commissioner if they have longer terms.
Commissioner Hannan replied that a Commissioner can quit his position at any time. He stated that running for re-election is not easy as it takes a lot of time and effort even though it is non-partisan.
Chairperson Nyce asked where an automatic review of the Charter would be inserted in the Charter if this was a recommendation.
Mr. Schroth stated he believed it would go in the last section, Article XI, Transitional Provisions.
Mr. Schroth took a moment to confirm with the Deputy Town Clerk that this meeting was publicly noticed that one or more Commissioners may be in attendance. This was confirmed.
Commissioner Holden remarked that the Town has a police disciplinary review board. He stated he would like to see a citizen’s review board established for general employees, to include Department heads, in case anyone felt they were not dealt with fairly.
Chairperson Nyce asked Mr. Schroth whether the current format for the Disciplinary Arbitration Panel for police officers could be used for establishing a review committee for employees. This was confirmed.
Member Davis asked which Ward each member represented.
The Deputy Town Clerk replied that the resolution establishing the Charter Review Committee states the committee should be comprised of a member of each of the five Wards, and two local business owners. Representation is as follows: Member Davis represents Ward One, Member Choquette represents Ward Two, Member Barker represents Ward Five, Chairperson Nyce represents Ward Four, Member McGlone represents Ward Three, and Member Olivier-White and Member McGee represent local business owners.
Member McGee asked if the other members had any specific concerns after reviewing the Charter. He stated it appears that the Town Manager’s powers appear to be nearly all encompassing. He asked if there was any provision in the Charter for evaluating the job the Town Manager is doing.
Mr. Schroth stated that pursuant to the Town Manager’s contract, the Commissioners complete a written review of the Town Manager annually and it is discussed at a public meeting.
Commissioner Hannan confirmed that he does not know how the Town Manager interacts with the employees, and he has always had an issue with this although he has confidence in how he interacts with her.
Member McGlone questioned why the Town Manager is also the Town Clerk and has been for years. She asked if this was a budgetary issue. She stated she has no complaints as she has worked with her quite a bit over the years.
Mr. Schroth stated that when Ms. Kollgaard agreed to take on the Town Manager position, she requested to retain the position of Town Clerk since Town Managers do not normally keep their positions more than three to five years. He stated that it is in Ms. Kollgaard’s contract that she can go back to being Town Clerk if she is terminated as manager. The new manager would then decide her status as the Town Clerk. Mr. Schroth stated she is actually the longest serving municipal manager in the county. He stated this is legal under the Charter and there are no prohibitions, although some municipalities have a distinction between dual office holdings.
Member Olivier-White asked if there has been any talk of making this change in the past.
Mr. Schroth replied that he is not aware of any discussion of this issue prior to this meeting.
Commission Hannan reported that the Commissioners interviewed several applicants when the previous Town Manager was fired ten years ago and then Ms. Kollgaard threw her hat in the ring for consideration.
Chairperson Nyce interjected that he did not want to get into personalities and just wanted to look at the issues. He stated the first issue that occurred to him was he did not like the order of the Charter as it seems to set the precedent of what is first.
Mr. Schroth agreed that it appears that Lady Lake is the only municipality whose Charter is ordered that way.
H. Public Comment
Mayor Richards asked if there were any comments from the audience. There were no comments.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:49 p.m.
s/ Kristen Kollgaard, Town Clerk
s/ Jim Richards, Mayor
Minutes transcribed by Nancy Slaton, Deputy Town Clerk