There is a story in Pinellas County, Florida that needs to be told to all TEA Partiers. It is unfolding now and the outcome is what everyone is waiting for.
In 1996, the people of Pinellas County voted overwhelmingly with over 72% of the vote to enact term limits upon the county commissioners and the state constitutional officers. By law, this referendum should have had language written and inserted into the county charter by law no later than January 1, 1997. This did not happen.
Instead, the county commissioners and the state constitutional officers (e.g. supervisor of elections, sheriff) appealed the people’s vote as being unconstitutional. They lost. The county commission voted not to pursue any more appeals and withdrew from any subsequent joint appeals process with the state constitutional officers on May 30, 2000. The language was still not in the charter. Eventually, the state constitutional officers won in the Florida Supreme Court, but that’s not all. On May 10, 2012 the Florida Supreme Court receded its prior decision which allowed charter counties to have their term limits for county commissioners. In other words, any lawsuits that by even remote extension that may have even applied to Pinellas County no longer did. Keep in mind, the county decided NOT to pursue in 2000 and in every lawsuit, the county commissioners and the statutes related to them specifically were not included in any appeal. Not only were the term limits valid in 1996 and 2000 when they voted not to pursue appeals, but they were also valid through the Florida Supreme Court in 2012. Confused yet? The bottom line is that as of May 2012, virtually every county involved had an opinion written by its attorney and sent to the supervisor of elections to enact eligibility requirements for the upcoming primary and general elections.
Pinellas County did not do that. That’s where I and many others enter the picture. Pinellas County had from May 10, 2012 to June 8 (the candidate qualifying date) to alert the supervisor of elections to the eligibility of the county commissioner candidates for office (2 of them) and to alert them to the current status. We are being quite generous about the May 2012 date because since 2000, no ruling ever applied to the county commissioners at all because they were never included in any challenge to the referendum on term limits in 1996.
That is when Save Pinellas was born on Facebook. Save Pinellas forced a public meeting and asked the commissioners to follow the rule of law and step down from their seats if they served more than 8 years. How many commissioners exceeded 8 years already? 4 out of 7 commissioners have overstayed their welcome by many years! It was a resounding “no” to their stepping down.
Not giving up, 3 Save Pinellas members filed suit asking for a declaratory statement which is going on right now. It is imperative that the voters are able to vote on eligible candidates! Save Pinellas and its member s forced the county commission to place this issue on the agenda and at first their answer was to forget the past and move forward (sound familiar?) and have a new referendum. At the same time this public meeting was being held, the attorney filed the suit. Save Pinellas pushed back at the next public meeting and made a statement where we would not support the new referendum. They ended up not voting for a new referendum.
Today, almost an hour of honorable patriots from the U.S. Term Limits organization, North Pinellas 912, TEA Partiers, Pinellas Patriots, the Libertarian Party, the Save America Foundation and regular citizens of all parties spoke before the commission and asked the 4 to resign. None of them did so and it appears that they have no intention of doing so. Did I mention that the person who made the motion not to pursue the appeals process in 2000 is still on the board and running unopposed, again? The party candidates have THAT all sewn up and the people are getting sick of this. The 8 year term limits were voted upon in 1996 and the referendum was called 8 is Enough. Look at the years that have gone by! It’s 2012 for crying out loud!
Save Pinellas filed and became a political committee to educate the public and to have the ability to raise the $30,000 needed to be paid in installments to the attorney – the only attorney by the way who had enough gumption to file this case (many attorneys said no, there were too much politics involved for their taste and they were, basically, cowards). The attorney is a constitutionalist and his name is John Shahan. A good man, a man who cares about the people. His flat fee includes any and all appeals and all investigatory work. The 3 plaintiffs are also brave (a Republican, an Independent and a Democrat).
What has happened? The county’s main stream media, the Tampa Bay Times (was the St. Petersburg Times and is Bill O’Reilly’s #1 rated worst newspaper in the country) will not tell the electorate what is going on – instead they decided to re-debate the issue about term limits and not write about enforcing the law. This is political because the paper is very much perceived by many to be in the back pocket of the county commission, mostly the RINOs who vote on sustainability projects and create ordinances that go against the popular consensus (as evidenced by 540 petition signers against and 21 for a non-related issue). It’s enough to make your head spin. There are 919,000 citizens in Pinellas and their voices should be heard; their votes not suppressed. This is not Venezuela!
Bottom line: the plaintiffs know this is an egregious breach of trust and may be considered a criminal offense. In the meantime, Save Pinellas is struggling to raise funds (we don’t care if it’s five dollars, it matters!) in this campaign cycle. The people are confused because the commission confuses the issue. The law is on our side, yet the corruption continues in the county because ineligible commissioners don’t leave their seats! It is the hope that the judge will rule in favor of the people – let their vote count and not be suppressed any longer.
Many people feel this has been a cover up, an intentional misuse of power regardless of who the scapegoat is. These commissioners took an oath to uphold the county charter and they still haven’t acknowledged the will of the people, all these years later, and even when the Florida Supreme Court says it’s so. The state is waiting for the outcome of the lawsuit, at least that was one department’s answer when we requested an investigation be done. The People seem powerless while the politicians and their arrogance of office continues to infest the county.
I am including some of the links to the blogs that have carried the story here. If anyone reading this wishes to help Save Pinellas raise the funds, we would be most grateful. The address is Save Pinellas, c/o 1028 Peninsula Avenue, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689.
It is time that the local constitution and the state constitution are followed. Glen Beck has always said to start at the local level. We will continue to fight - The People deserve that much.