A 15-member charter advisory panel that will decide the future of Pasco County’s governing structure is in place. And Pasco commissioners approved a contract to pay a private Tallahassee consultant $60,000 to guide its efforts during the coming months.
But the panel’s all white, and nearly all-male make-up came under fire at the commissioners regular meeting in Dade City on March 10. Each Pasco County Commissioner appointed two members, plus an alternate to the panel. Pasco’s five state legislators also weighed in, with one appointment each.
Commissioner Mike Moore got some pushback for his selection of a county law enforcement officer supervised by Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco.
“I have concerns with a member of (Nocco’s) team being on the committee,” said Chairman Ted Schrader. “I think it would be appropriate to replace him with someone else.”
Moore defended Pasco Maj. Mel Eakley as the right choice based on Eakley’s credentials in law enforcement and his service as a military veteran.
“I kind of take offense to saying we don’t want anyone on the board who is an everyday average citizen,” he said.
Schrader said he wasn’t questioning Eakley’s qualifications.
Other commissioners and Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano also questioned Moore’s choice of Eakley.
“Perception is everything, ladies and gentlemen,” said Fasano in a public comment to the commission. He questioned the appointment of anyone “associated with constitutional officers.”
But no one made a formal challenge to Eakley’s appointment.
“I respect Mr. Moore,” Schrader said. “I’m really disappointed in his choice. I think it’s a conflict of interest, but it’s your choice.”
The lone woman on the panel will be banker Candace Glewen. She is a replacement for Commissioner Kathryn Starkey’s first choice of Pasco County School Board member Alison Crumbley. Crumbley declined the appointment upon the advice of the school board’s attorney who cited the potential for a conflict of interest.
Commissioner Jack Mariano appointed a woman, Cami Austin, as an alternate.
Former commissioner Pat Mulieri took the commissioners to task for not appointing a more balanced panel to represent the community. “It is ironic,” she said during public comment. “I was supposed to speak at a luncheon (today) celebrating women.”
The panel will tackle critical issues, such as whether Pasco County should have single-member voting districts, term limits and whether the county’s structure should be changed to have an elected administrator rather than one that’s appointed.
Mulieri wondered: ”Why did the board feel only men could make these decisions?”
She also questioned the $60,000 cost “for a consultant you don’t need. I’m standing here today to tell you it will go to $100,000.”
The cost for services from Kurt Spitzer & Associates potentially could exceed $60,000 if the panel requests additional work or travel beyond the flat fee of $5,000 a month, said County Administrator Michele Baker. The fixed rate includes travel for 12 months for approximately 22 to 24 meetings, she said.
Moore suggested panel members might not need a consultant beyond the early organizational meetings. “That’s a pretty large consulting fee in my mind,” he said. “I think you need to leave it up to the committee.”
Baker said the terms of the contract allow Spitzer to terminate his service with a 30-day notice. It also allows the panel to cancel his services immediately upon written notice.
Moore and Commissioner Jack Mariano floated a proposal to allow panel members to approve recommendations based on a simple majority, but Starkey, Schrader and Wells said the requirement of a super-majority vote was essential.
The panel must meet within the next 30 days.
Its recommendations are due to the commission by June 1, 2016. If the panel recommends a charter government, the matter would go to voters in a referendum on the November 2016 general election ballot.
Members of the Pasco County charter advisory panel
Commission Chairman Ted Schrader appointed Billy E. Brown and John J. Gallagher to the panel, with Cliff McDuffie, as alternate
Commissioner Mike Moore appointed Mel Eakley and Gary Bradford, with Joseph Poblick, as alternate
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey appointed Candace Glewen and Dewey Mitchell, with Dominic Scannavino, as alternate
Commissioner Mike Wells Jr., appointed Steve Booth and Tim Holladay, with Jim Driscoll, as alternate
Commissioner Jack Mariano appointed Chuck Grey and Bill Woodard, with Cami Austin, as alternate
Members of the Pasco County legislative delegation appointed Michael Cox, Robert Eckard, John Kinsman, Randy Maggard and Mike Ryan
Published March 18, 2015