DADE CITY — Dade City commissioners agreed Tuesday to consider a proposed ordinance that would prohibit taking a vote on items at workshops.
The ordinance follows a controversial 3-2 vote at an Oct. 21 workshop to split the job of city clerk and finance director into two positions. The workshop was held a day before a regular commission meeting. Jim Class has held the combined position for more than 21 years.
City Commissioner Scott Black introduced the measure that would allow the commission to take only official action at regularly scheduled commission meetings and only if they are scheduled for discussion on the agenda.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to direct City Attorney Karla Owens to draw up the ordinance for consideration at a future meeting.
Before taking a vote at the Oct. 21 workshop, Black, Commissioner Bill Dennis and City Manager Billy Poe appealed to the other commissioners to wait until the regular commission meeting the next day before taking a vote.
Instead, Mayor Camille Hernandez, Commissioners Jim Shive and Eunice Penix voted to split the city clerk/finance director position.
Black objected to taking the vote at a workshop. Hernandez said that she had already checked with Owens about the issue earlier in the day. Owens said that in her opinion it was legal as long as all the commissioners were present and she was present.
Black said that there was no precedent during his 24 years on the commission to take such action at a workshop.
Black and Dennis were unsuccessful in their attempt to nullify the decision at the next day’s commission meeting.
Black said he was asking Owens to draft an ordinance that outlined when the commission was able to take action.
“I think we put our attorney in an uncomfortable position in asking her to look for legal loopholes to allow us to do things. I think one of the jobs we ought to have her doing is encouraging us to exercise restraint at times,” he said.
The commission needs to be transparent, Black added. “If we take action at a workshop — the public doesn’t always come to the workshops. They know that the second and fourth Tuesday night they can come here and see business being transacted in a transparent nature. We don’t want to be perceived as sneaky or sly or trying to slip things past without proper advertising, proper discussion and having the public here and the press here. As you know some of the press wasn’t even here at the commission workshop where we made this decision. I think we need to govern ourselves a little better in this.”
Black also said that issues should not be brought up under commissioner items for action, but should be put on the agenda in advance unless they are emergency items.
“Things we have been bringing up lately have not been emergencies,” he said.
“I think were making a mountain out of a molehill to be honest with you,” said Shive. “I think there’s been ample discussion. This topic has been on the board for the last five or six years. I don’t believe that our city attorney had any problem telling what her legal opinion was. I think she was asked three times; in fact, she got tired of answering the question. So in saying that I would like to ask our city attorney tonight, did we do anything illegal?”
Owens responded: “No.”
“If we didn’t do anything illegal, I really don’t see a reason to change,” Shive said about the proposed ordinance. “To me it’s starting to sound like sour grapes, to be honest with you.”