Saturday, April 20, 2013

May 2 is D-Day for corrupt Pinellas County pols

May 2 is approaching and four Pinellas County commissioners are scared. In December, a circuit court judge refused to dismiss the suit against them for violating their legal term limits. Now they face a judge again on May 2 in what could be the final hearing of the case. Both sides are again asking for summary judgment.
In 1996, 73% of Pinellas voters passed 8-year term limits but these renegade commissioners refused to insert the term limits amendment language into the charter as required by law. Then when term limits went into effect 8 years later, they refused to step down.  After all, the language isn't in the charter!
Citizens were outraged and, after friendly court decisions around the state including a unanimous Florida Supreme Court decision that term limits are constitutional, they filed suit. The three plaintiffs on the people's side represent diverse political, ethnic, professional and geographical faces of Pinellas County. This is appropriate as term limits are not a Republican versus Democrat issue but one of the people versus the arrogance of unchecked power.
And nowhere is that arrogance more on display than in this West Coast Florida county, home of St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Shortly after the adverse decision in December, the commissioners doubled their legal team adding four additional lawyers. Yes, that's right, they spending an enormous amount of the people's money to fight the clearly expressed will of the people. And why? To directly benefit themselves.
Wow. Is it any wonder people everywhere love term limits?

In addition to lawyering up, commissioner Ken Welch publically declared in February that he is seeking another position in local government and may not serve his full term. One of the reasons, he said, is that the judge may decide he cannot serve his full term. One would hope part of the reason also is that he knows resigning is the right thing to do. Fellow scofflaws Karen Seel, John Morroni and Susan Latvala should follow Welch's lead.
Citizens are invited to attend the hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 2 at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court Street, Courtroom C, Clearwater. Because of citizen interest, the venue might change to accommodate spectators.

Contributions are needed to defray legal costs for the single lawyer on the citizens' side. Please help. Right now, the lion's share of the cost is being handled by just one man, plaintiff H. Patrick Wheeler. Donations can be made payable to and mailed to Save Pinellas, c/o 1028 Peninsula Ave., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689.

For more detail on the case, go here.
Of Florida's 20 charter, or "home rule" counties, 12 have term limits. Miami-Dade voters just approved 8-year limits last November. In all but one of the dozen, the popular term limits laws are respected and enforced. It is hoped that on May 2 the citizens will triumph and a decade of political corruption in this beautiful county will be swept away.

(Pictured, the three plaintiffs Maria Scruggs, H. Patrick Wheeler and Beverley Billiris.)


  1. The next step in Term Limits should be the the broad adoption on all levels of elective government of the SINGLE ADEQUATE TERM. How many years are long enough? Divorce sitting officials from the dirty and distracting business of campaigning and, especially, fundraising. Sign and SHARE if you agree:

  2. It is unfortunate that this issue has come to this. The voters spoke in 1996. What else is there than to carry out the will of the voters. Didn't all of the commissioners swear an oath to do just that? Now hundreds of thousands of tax dollars will be spent defending 4 people who should have done what the people willed them to do to begin with. What a shame and what a waste of taxpayer money. This is a great disappointment when you can vote on a referendum for term limits and that those who we elect and entrust to carry out the will of the people ignore it. Shame on all of you!