Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
October 2, 2019
The 7-member 2019 Charter Review Committee (CRC) of the City of Fernandina Beach, FL, convened for the first time on October 1, 2019. As their first acts they unanimously elected Arlene Filkoff as chair and Richard Clark as vice chair. Filkoff, a former City of Fernandina Beach Mayor and Commissioner, currently serves as Executive Director of Fernandina Beach Main Street. Clark has a career in government and served as city manager in Des Moines, Iowa before retiring and moving to Fernandina Beach recently. Other committee members include: Bradley Bean, Margaret Davis, Tammy Kosack, Jon Lasserre, and Kevin McCarthy.
City Attorney Tammi Bach, who convened the first meeting, will staff the committee, along with her assistant Katie Newton, who serves as committee secretary.
Bach briefed the committee members on the Sunshine Law and public records requirements. She also stressed that the City Charter is to the city what the U.S. Constitution is to the nation, meaning that issues regarding growth, conservation, etc. should be left to other governing documents, such as the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code.
The City Charter was last reviewed in 2007. As a result, commissioner terms were lengthened from 3 to 4 years, and the time of elections was changed from the spring to coincide with the state and national election cycle in November. Although both the committee and the City Commission supported removal of term limits for commissioners, voters did not agree when the question was posed to them via referendum.
CRC members expressed a desire to proceed through the charter article by article to identify problems, concerns or areas for clarification. They also suggested that consideration be given to adding a Code of Ethics and a Citizens Bill of Rights. They will discuss adding provisions relating to recall of elected officials and citizen referendums.
For their first working meeting, scheduled for October 22, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. in City Hall Commission Chambers, Committee members asked Bach to arrange for a briefing at from a Florida League of Cities representative on trends in local government charters around the state, in addition to best practices. At that meeting, CRC members have asked for discussion about changes recommended in the 2007 CRC report, but not implemented. They also indicated that they would like to consider the possible addition of a Citizens Bill of Rights. They will begin reviewing the Charter itself at that meeting.
The CRC will meet the fourth Tuesday of each month at 3:00 p.m. in City Hall Commission Chambers, unless otherwise noticed. All meetings are open to the public. Citizens who desire to provide written input to the CRC may address their emails to City Attorney Tammi Bach, who will distribute the comments to committee members.
The current City Charter is available electronically at MuniCode by clicking here.