Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tampa Bay Times sees the light on Pinellas term limits

Last week's court decision out of Duval County has turned on the lights in Pinellas. All of a sudden the idea of enforcing Pinellas County terms limits is moving from dismissible to inevitable in the eyes of the county's politicos and opinion-makers.

As reported here, a Duval County judge on Friday ruled against the Duval County Clerk of Courts who was trying to run for a fourth term in spite of Duval's County voter-approved term limits law. The judge pointed to the Supreme Court's May ruling that county term limits are constitutional and -- in no uncertain terms -- declared Clerk Jim Fuller ineligible to run again.

Fuller's argument was the same one being used by Pinellas County politicians defying the Pinellas County term limits law. Click! The light bulb went off over the head of John Romano, columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.

From today's column:

"The county's attorneys are arguing that Pinellas has some unique circumstances and is not subject to the same rules and interpretations the rest of the state is facing.

"I do not pretend to understand the legal nuances involved, but I'm getting the feeling that the county's defense is about as potent as the Rays' offense.

"A ruling handed down by a Duval County judge last week seemed to shoot a lot of holes in the same kind of arguments Pinellas County folks have been raising in recent months.

"The judge said the term limits applied retroactively to Duval's clerk of courts, as opposed to the clock starting with the Supreme Court ruling in May. That doesn't bode well for Pinellas."

Actually, it bodes very well for the citizens of Pinellas, who overwhelmingly voted for term limits and continue to support them. One hopes the clinging commissioners will put the county ahead of their selfish interests and resign before the integrity of the upcoming elections become irredeemable.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"What can I do to defend Pinellas' voter-approved term limits law?"

When faced with the refusal of Pinellas County commissioners to adhere to the voter-approved 8-year term limits law, many citizens react with a frustrated shrug. What can you do?

Fortunately, there is a lot a citizen can do -- and it is worth doing. Politicians in many of the 11 Florida charter counties that approved term limits tried to wiggle free of their limits using lawyers and obfuscation. But citizens rallied around their law and in every county except Pinellas (so far) they have been successful.

Here's how you can help:
  • Firmly but politely ask each commissioner to respect the law and resign. You can send an email to all four scofflaws (Latvala, Morroni, Seel and Welch) here.
  • Urge Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark to do her job and refuse to accept applications for reelection by term-limited candidates. Her office's email address is
  • Educate the public by downloading, copying and distributing these palm flyers (pictured above) that tell the Pinellas term limits story in a nutshell.If the newspapers aren't telling the story yet, it is up to us.
  • Send the link around to this blog ( and ask your family and friends to participate in the poll (upper right-hand corner of page).
  • Educate yourself. Keep up with the latest developments of this case by becoming a friend on the Save Pinellas Facebook page. Also, sign up for email updates from this blog. See the sign up box in the right-hand column of this page, just below the poll.
  • Contribute money to pay for the lawsuit demanding compliance with the law. We can either roll over or fight fire with fire. Donations can be made payable and mailed to Save Pinellas, c/o 1028 Peninsula Ave., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689.
Evil will triumph if good men and women do nothing. Let's get to work.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Judge: Duval clerk ineligible due to term limits

In May, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that county commission term limits are constitutional and also receded from its 2002 decision in Cook that term limits on constitutional officers are unconstitutional. The message from the court that day couldn’t be clearer: county term limits in Florida are constitutional.

Nonetheless, Duval County Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller didn’t get it. Fuller continued to campaign for his fourth term in office in violation of Duval County term limits law.

Naturally he was sued. And today Judge William Wilkes ruled that Fuller is not above the law. He is ineligible and must drop out of the race.

As a constitutional officer, Fuller’s term limit had been nullified by the Supreme Court’s Cook case in 2002 but this year’s Telli case "reactivated" it, Judge Wilkes ruled. Fuller said he would not appeal the decision.

"I think the court fully and properly applied the decision in the Telli case,” Duval County attorney Michael Wedner told the Florida Times-Union.

Today’s ruling turns the spotlight on Pinellas County, where four county commissioners continue to defy voter-approved county commission term limits.

Voters approved the 8-year limits on the county commission and constitutional officers in 1996 by 72 percent of the vote. As in Duval, the Cook decision temporarily nullified the term limits on constitutional officers.

Pinellas County Commissioners have long and erroneously argued that the Cook decision did apply to county commissioner term limits as well. The commission never tested this novel interpretation in court. But now that the Supreme Court has receded from Cook, that argument is kaput. Their new claim per Pinellas County Attorney Jim Bennett is that May's Supreme Court decision in Telli does not apply to Pinellas because the court's ruling only applies "prospectively" not "retroactively."

Today's ruling in Jacksonville explicitly tosses that flimsy argument out the window:

Judge Wilkes: "The Florida's Supreme Court decision in Telli has in effect revived a dormant section [of the charter]. No legislative action must be taken for [the] section ... to take effect."

Three citizens have launched the Save Pinellas lawsuit in Pinellas County to compel the commission and supervisor of elections to comply with the voter-approved law. Get involved!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Polk citizens celebrate victory over arrogant commissioners

It is a new day in Polk County, where voter-approved term limits continue to function without the cloud of a commission-led legal effort hanging above them.

As one citizen, Craig Foster of Winter Haven, noted in a letter to the The Ledger, just prior to this week's primary elections:

"August 14 will be an historic moment in Polk County. We will be replacing two county commissioners because the citizens of our county united a second time to impose term limits upon them.

"Those very commissioners spent our own tax dollars against us. As The Ledger reported, the commission used the office of the county attorney to fight us. But we prevailed."


Now there is only one county left in the state of Florida that continues to battle its citizens over term limits: Pinellas.

We will win if we put up a fight. Please help! Here's a list of ways you can help restore rule of law in Pinellas County.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Corrupt Pinellas commissioners defy voter-approved term limits

Of the 20 charter counties in Florida, voters in 11 have overwhelmingly approved term limits for their county commissions. Ten of them recognize and respect the law.

The exception is Pinellas County.

In 1996, 73 percent of voters in Pinellas approved a countywide referendum that limited their county commissioners and county constitutional officers to eight years in office. Since then, a split Florida Supreme Court in Cook (2002) decided that counties don’t have the right to impose term limits on constitutional officers. But the Pinellas County commission decided the Cook decision applied to them as well even though the Supreme Court never ruled on commissioner limits in Cook or any other decision.

Until this year. In May, the Supreme Court not only clearly affirmed the constitutionality of county commissioner term limits, but also overturned its previous ruling in Cook regarding constitutional officers.

There is no longer any question whatever about the legality of county term limits in the state of Florida. Sarasota County – the only other county that was defying their voter-approved term limits law – accepted the Supreme Court decision and is now enforcing their popular 8-year term limits.

And yet, the Pinellas county commissioners continue to claim the law does not apply to them. The commissioners do not believe this is true. They simply want to keep their well-paid positions of power and are willing to brazenly defy the law – overwhelmingly approved by the people -- in order to keep them.

In Pinellas County, 8-year term limits are currently in the charter. It was never amended to remove them. There is no court ruling that nullified the county commission term limits. On the contrary, there is now a Florida Supreme Court ruling explicitly affirming them.

It is not as if the voters are calling for their repeal. In 2009, a Quinnipiac poll showed that 79 percent of voters in the greater Bay area believe that their politicians should be term limited. Furthermore, the polling suggested that 78 percent prefer that the proper term limit is eight years and opposed longer limits.

Pinellas County commissioners should act honorably and obey the law. The four who have exceeded their legal term limit should resign before being forced to do so by the courts.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Calabria to Pinellas: Voters should have their say

This essay appeared in the Aug. 2 editions of the TBN Weekly News as a letter to the editor in response to TBN's July 24 editorial, "Voters should have their say."


The title of this editorial is exactly correct and no thinking person would disagree.

The editorial makes several valid points relative to every newly elected office holder anywhere in the country. There’s no doubt that they all face a learning curve, which has always been the case.

However, Pinellas County faces a different and unique set of challenges that must be addressed. The facts relative to those challenges are clear based on the voters having had their say in 1996 when they passed the “Eight is Enough” charter amendment by more than 72 percent of the voters. While that amendment became part of the charter in 1997 it was challenged in court and the Pinellas County Commission has ignored the amendment ever since.

The Supreme Court in 2002 took up the challenge and made a decision that was completely misread by the Commission. As a result, the commission has ignored the legally passed and adopted 1996 charter amendment.

On May 12, 2012, this year, the current Supreme Court “receded” from that earlier decision and declared that term limits enacted by county charters are constitutional based on the “home rule” provisions of the Florida Constitution. That decision applies to all 67 Florida counties, including Pinellas County.

Unfortunately, the majority of our county commission has chosen to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision, which resulted in a lawsuit filed by residents of the county and is in the courts today.

The question we face today is whether four commissioners have the right to ignore a Supreme Court decision and effectively suppress the voter’s overwhelming approval of the “Eight is Enough” Charter Amendment passed in 1996.

Our system is based on the rule of law, not the rule of men. Unfortunately, four members of the commission seem to think that they are above the law and, based on their conduct, have chosen to ignore and defy the Florida Supreme Court for their own personal benefit.

Current Pinellas County Commissioners are paid between $87,000 and $99,000 a year, including benefits and “perks,” which they are clearly determined to protect, despite the court’s decision, which is now the law in Florida. That compensation is well in excess of what most county residents enjoy, particularly with respect to those of us who are retired.

While we may debate and discuss the “need” for term limits in Florida, nevertheless we are all required to obey the laws in Florida, including the 1996 charter amendment as it was passed and became effective in January 1997, more than 15 years ago.

Dan Calabria
South Pasadena

(The graphic above was created by South Pinellas 912 member Jonathan Chambers for use by any citizen working to hold our elected officials accountable to the law).