The Pinellas County Commission has finalized its list of Charter Review Commission members. After receiving more than 30 applications for the committee, 13 members have been approved by the County Commission.
Not surprisingly the Democratic-led commission has approved several prominent members of the party to the board. That includes former Darryl Rouson staffer Barclay Harless, attorney Johnny Bardine, former St. Pete City Council and Florida House candidate Josh Shulman and local party leader Tom Steck. Attorney Keisha Bell and James Sewell are also Democrats.
While there is a conservative showing on the CRC, county commissioners averted a Tea Party push that seems likely to have been a step for ultra-conservatives to lobby for term limits.
Chief among those applicants was H. Patrick Wheeler, one of three people who filed a lawsuit against four county commissioners who had each served at least 12 years on Commission and won re-election several times.
Wheeler continues to make term limits a huge issue, citing a 1996 vote in which more than two-thirds of voters approved limits. Term limits were ruled unconstitutional for county offices in 2002. Another judge later ruled in favor of term limits only to have the original 2002 ruling upheld by a judge in 2012.
“I wish to ensure that the Charter complies with State Law and U.S. Law to count these 348,340 citizens to have their votes count, which currently is being denied,” Wheeler wrote in his CRC application referring to the 1996 vote. “The Florida Supreme Court has stated and voted that this referendum is legal … it is imperative that this issue be resolved for all Pinellas County Citizens.”
Wheeler did not make his way onto the CRC. Nor did Tea Party activist Barbara Haseldon, who frequently mentioned term limits throughout commissioners’ campaigns and the Greenlight Pinellas initiative in which she was the spokesperson for opponents.
Also not selected for the board was former Libertarian candidate for governor Adrian Wyllie, who has also supported term limits.
The commission also failed to appoint former County Commission candidate Macho Liberti, who supported term limits.
Pinellas is one of 20 Charter counties in Florida. The board meets every eight years to review the charter and recommend amendments.
It consists of one county commissioner, one member of the legislative delegation, one city-elected official, a constitutional officer and nine citizens. Long represents the County Commission on the board while Ahern represents the legislative delegation. Ken Burke serves as the constitutional officer while Sandra Bradbury is the designated city-elected official.
The group is mandated to meet by the third week in August. A report to citizens is due next July with any Charter amendments to appear on the November 2016 ballot if applicable.
The deadline for applications was June 1. Commissioners and other groups nominated appointees with those nominations approved by the County Commission at its meeting Tuesday.