Groves Council OKs Charter Changes For The Ballot

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved three town charter referendum questions Tuesday to appear on the Aug. 30 primary election ballot.

The questions would ask voters whether they want to change the membership requirements of the Election Canvassing Board to exclude anyone participating in an election campaign, change some portions of town management requirements, and delete the current requirement for the town to secure revenue bonds by referendum approval.

The first question approved for the ballot addresses election canvassing issues. The charter provides that council members not up for election and the town clerk sit on the canvassing board, which reviews and approves the election results.

The proposed amendment would have the clerk and two others appointed by council resolution make up the board. Under the proposed wording, canvassing board members could not be active supporters of candidates in the election.

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher had been approached to be a member of the canvassing board, but had declined, indicating that a constitutional officer cannot be required to be the member of a municipal entity.

Cirullo added that this was the first reading of all three ordinances, and that the council has two more meetings to finalize the provisions.

Councilman Ron Jarriel asked whether two citizens could be members, and Cirullo said there are no restrictions, as long as the appointee agrees, adding that the town clerk is always the third member.

Councilman Ryan Liang made a motion to approve the ordinance on its preliminary reading, which carried 5-0.

The second ballot question would make changes to clarify contracting of town services and also would change the qualifications for the manager.

Town Manager Bill Underwood said he wanted to bring the requirements more in line with other charters in state, and more in line with the way the town operates.

Liang made a motion to adopt the ordinance, which was seconded by Councilman Todd McLendon.

Vice Mayor Tom Goltzené asked whether a provision requiring a supermajority of four council members to fire the manager could be included, but Cirullo said that would require amending a separate section of the charter.

Goltzené added that he would like the same supermajority requirement for dismissal of the town attorney, and Cirullo replied that if the council wants to propose that change for a supermajority, he would recommend a separate ordinance, which could be prepared for the next meeting.

“This ordinance relates solely to the manager,” Cirullo said. “If you want to change the hiring of charter officers, it should be separate. The ordinance before you only relates to the town manager.”

Liang said he thought the supermajority question needed more discussion.

“I don’t want to jeopardize this [ordinance], and discuss the other matter separately,” he said.

McLendon said he would like to see if there are other portions of the charter relating to officers that might need revision, pointing out that the council has one more meeting before the deadline.

Mayor Dave Browning said he had no problem with the ordinance the way it was written.

Goltzené said that he was trying to get past the past, where the council went through several managers in a relatively short time span.

“I hope we see that the past didn’t get us anywhere,” Goltzené said.

Browning asked whether they should send it back for revision, and Cirullo reiterated that the ordinance before them related only to duties of the manager.

Liang said he preferred to go with the ordinance the way it was written.

“If we add the supermajority question, we might get both voted down,” he said. “I’m confident this will go through, but I’m not sure about the other.”

Cirullo asked if there was a motion to amend the ordinance.

“I don’t want to amend my motion,” Liang said. “I would personally like to move forward on this.”

McLendon withdrew his second, and Jarriel seconded the item instead. The motion carried 3-2 with McLendon and Goltzené opposed.

The third question, relating to revenue bonds, would eliminate the referendum requirement for the council to issue revenue bonds, which Cirullo said puts town requirements more in line with state law.

It would not eliminate the state requirement for a referendum to approve general obligation bonds. The charter provides that the council cannot issue a bond that it could not pay off in 36 months.

Jarriel made a motion to approve the ordinance, explaining that the council would like to issue a bond of $5 million or $6 million in order to improve roads, which would be paid off using gas tax revenue.

“The people in this town want decent roads and… we will not get it if we have to pay off bonds in 36 months or less,” he said. “Just with the gas tax alone, we could borrow $5 million or $6 million.”

Jarriel added that property values have recently gone up more than 8 percent, and that new commercial properties on Southern Blvd. would add to the revenue.

Browning said he thought using anticipated gas tax revenue was a good way to get a loan to improve roads.

“It’s an excellent way to leverage a [$5 million or $6 million] loan and only pay it off with gas tax money,” he said. “I have no problem letting people vote on it.”

Jarriel’s motion carried 5-0.