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Tampa City Council approves “compromise” proposal on civilian review board

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The Tampa City Council voted late Thursday afternoon to have Chairman Frank Reddick meet with Mayor Bob Buckhorn in an attempt to fashion a compromise on the vexing issue of how many members can the council select to be part of a police civilian review board.

The motion, proposed by Councilwoman Lisa Monteleone, calls for City Council Attorney Martin Shelby to work with the city’s legal staff on a draft ordinance of Buckhorn’s executive order to create a civilian review board. The board would meet monthly to review Tampa Police Department polices and procedures, with the decision about how many selections the council will get to form the 11-member agency still undecided (Buckhorn later said he would be willing to allow the council to have one more selection to the nine-member board, and to select one of two alternates).

The original call to vote on the measure took place at 1 p.m. after over three hours of public discussion, where again the sentiment was overwhelmingly critical of Buckhorn’s decision to give himself the power to name nine of the agency’s 11 members.

But it ended abruptly when several angry members of the public began shouting, “No compromise!” over and over as the board prepared to take the vote. First Monteleone, then Charlie Miranda, and then the other five members of the board stood and left the dais. They came back a few minutes later and said they would break until 4:30 p.m.

In fact, they didn’t come back until 5:00 p.m., where it took only a few minutes to vote straight up on Montelione’s motion.

While community activists have raged for weeks now on what they call the mayor’s high-handed decision, council members themselves haven’t been shy in expressing their disappointment with Buckhorn for not working with them at all in advance of his August 28th executive order creating the civilian review board, an agency that he had earlier expressed little interest in forming previously. However after citizens called on the council to create such a board earlier this year, the board met with Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward on August 3 and asked him to come back in four weeks time to let him review some of the more than 100 similar type boards created around the country.

Buckhorn’s executive order giving him the power to select nine of the 11-member agency. has led to a clash between City Attorney Julia Mandell and City Council Attorney Martin Shelby, with Mandell insisting that the city’s charter gives the mayor sole discretion to have the power to name all of the members of the civilian review board if he chooses.

After Council Chair Reddick questioned Mandell’s independence in the matter, she hired an outside attorney last week to render an opinion on whether or not Mandell had a conflict of interest. That attorney, Gwynne Young from the law firm of Carlton Fields Jorden Bert, ruled that Mandell had no conflict.

Earlier in the public discussion, Council member Guido Maniscalco said he had met with Mayor Buckhorn in the past week to float the idea of a compromise along the lines of what Monteleone proposed today in her motion. He said that the mayor contemplated it, but ultimately said he would prefer to keep it as is.

The Council has not objected to any other part of Buckhorn’s executive action, which calls for applicants to be at least 18 years of age, and agree to submit to a background check and successfully complete the Tampa Police Department’s Citizens Academy.

Lela Abdelaziz, Legislative & Government Affairs Director  for the Council on American Islamic Relations for Florida and a member of Tampa for Justice, said some members of the public began shouting out when Montelione proposed her motion because they felt the board was caving in too quickly.

“From the community’s perspective, it’s like, ‘Lisa, what are you doing?’” she said moments after the ruckus shut down the meeting.

Abdelaziz said that Tampa for Justice members wanted the council to stand behind Chairman Frank Reddick’s original proposal that would allow the council to have seven selections, with the mayor having four selections.

Reddick agrees that it’s high time for the mayor and himself to sit down and talk. “He’s the mayor of this city, and I’m the leader of this council,” he said Thursday afternoon. “It’s a shame that we haven’t reached that point already.”

During the public comment portion of the workshop, there were some familiar faces who have come before the council in the past month to call for an independent civilian review board, but there were some who hadn’t previously spoken.

Such as Diane Hart, an East Tampa community activist. She looked at the camera broadcasting the meeting and said she was directly speaking to Mayor Buckhorn. “Love you dearly, however, I have to disagree with you,” she said. I cannot understand why you would not come to a (con)census, and agree with this body…We’re the people who elected the mayor, we’re the people that you will have to see again if you ever run for anything.”

Several speakers pushed on the Council hard not to acquiesce to the mayor, saying they need to stand with the public who have been calling for more independence on the proposed board.

“For one person to be in a position to select and recommend everybody on this board, it’s amazing to me. There has to be some sort of compromise, ” said Robin Lockett, chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Black Caucus. “You guys, the elected officials, are our employees. That’s the bottom line.”

Michelle B. Patty referenced how the City Council had rejected a zoning change that would have allowed for a mixed-use development to be built across the street from the popular Oxford Exchange restaurant. “They told you what they did not want in their neighborhood, and you voted for the community. You didn’t care whether jobs were being lost, you didn’t care about the restaurant, nothing. You cared about what those citizens from South Tampa told you what they wanted. We’re asking that you do the same thing for us.”

The motion voted on today will come back before council at 5:30 p.m. on October 8.

Meanwhile, the deadline to apply to the civilian review board is October 15 at 5:00 p.m.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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