Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Palm Beach County term limits are now in effect!

In 2002, 70 percent of voters in Palm Beach County approved eight-year term limits for Palm Beach County commissioners. With that vote, the clock started ticking for all the sitting incumbents. Today, eight years later, the term limits go into full effect.

Under the voter-approved law, neither commissioner Karen Marcus nor Burt Aaronson are eligible to run again for the county commission unless they sit out a term first. Thus, they can run again in the future but not with all the advantages of incumbency.

Ironically, three other county commissioners who would have been term limited this year instead went to prison on corruption charges: Tony Masilotti, Warren Newell and Mary McCarty. A fourth, Jeff Koons, avoided prison by accepting a plea deal for his felony extortion charge.

The voters' clear call for term limits in Palm Beach County followed similar 70+ percent victories in Clay and Polk Counties in 2000, as well as a term limits retention vote in Tampa which won with 68 percent. A term limits referendum in Broward County -- currently under seige by a judge and a gaggle of local politicians -- passed by 80 percent in 2000.

The Palm Beach County referendum was the hard work of a cadre of over 150 volunteers and contributors who collected over 46,000 signatures of Palm Beach County voters, or 7 percent of the counties voters. To reach this total of valid signatures, they collected over 65,000 petitions in total and raised close to $65,000.

The last successful countywide petition drive previously was a business-backed effort in 1998 which spent over $225,000, about $330,000 in 2002 dollars, according to the Palm Beach Post at the time.

The difference between this ballot effort and so many others was that there was no special interest backing of term limits. This was a grass roots campaign of the sort rarely seen in today's big money politics.

POLL: South Florida loves term limits

A Quinnipiac University poll dated April 15, 2009, shows that in Southeast Florida, 76% of respondents opposed extending state legislative term limits from eight to 12 years. According to the executive summary, "Opposition is strong among all political groups and throughout the state."

This is right in line with a 2010 poll that suggests that 78 percent of Americans support term limits on the U.S. Congress, including 84 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats and independents.

In 2010 in Cape Canaveral, voters imposed 8-year term limits on their mayor and council members by a 70-30% margin.

Closer to home, citizen opposition in West Palm Beach shot down Mayor Lois Frankel's attempt to get around her city's popular eight-year term limit last year.

VOICES: Why term limits? (2001)

With less than 1,000 of the 46,000 signatures they'd need to put eight-year county commission term limits on the ballot, the Palm Beach County Term Limits Committee made their case for the measure in a 2001 issue of a local newsletter titled Voices of the Florida Taxpayer. The measure passed in November 2002 by 70 percent of the vote:


Since 1994, 50% of all potential commission races (7 out of 14) were uncontested; there were no elections. In 1998 and 2000, Karen Marcus, Carol Roberts, Mary McCarty, Warren Newell and Burt Aaronson went unopposed. In fact, Mary McCarty, who was elected in 1990, has never faced a meaningful opponent in a general election.

Clearly, the voters have little say over who their commissioners are or what they do. Term limits are needed to rejuvenate the election process by 1) requiring elections at least every eight years (imagine that!) and 2) severing the strong tie between incumbent commissioners and local special interests.

It may seem odd at first that there wouldn’t already be far more competition for a job as commissioner, which pays $78,000 annually and includes numerous perks. But there are three main reasons why potential challengers shy away.

• The first is the simple power of the incumbency. The incumbent commissioner generally has much better name recognition and is owed favors from all manner of special interests and individuals who have benefited from their votes.

As Charles Lewis director of the Center for Public Integrity told the Palm Beach Post last year: "Generally, in more than 90 percent of elections, the incumbent wins. That works for county commissioners as well as governors and senators."

• Another major reason is money. The incumbents traditionally raise large amounts of money early in the race from developers, and other businesses and individuals. For one example, in 2000, contribution king Burt Aaronson raised over $115,000 in an election in which he had no opponent. In fact, this action insured he had no opponents! Unopposed commissioners Karen Marcus and Warren Newell both raised about $60,000 each as well.

• A third reason that incumbents nearly always win is that special interests – who benefit directly and substantially from commission votes – are highly organized and follow the commission closely. The mass of voters are not so attentive as the effects of the commission’s decisions on them is more diffuse. Therefore, interests are willing to spend amounts of time and money that ordinary citizens are not and, in many cases, cannot.

Taken together, incumbency seems to mean: "Once you’re in, you’re in for good." Recent history bears this out.

It wasn’t always so. Back when it simple and inexpensive to run for office, county commission races were nearly always contested. In fact, according to the Palm Beach Post, between 1962 and 1992 no commission races went unopposed. This is the political vitality that Palm Beach County needs to recapture.

"We already have term limits…they’re called elections!"

Oh really? Since 1994, 7 of the 14 potential races went unopposed – that means no elections were held. Term limits would require that voters weigh in – at least every eight years — on who represents them.

Dist. / Commissioner / Elected / Term / Last Gen. Election

1 Karen T. Marcus 1984 5th Term Unopposed in 2000
2 Carol Roberts 1986 4th Term Unopposed in 1998
3 Mary McCarty 1990 3rd Term Unopposed in 1998
4 Burt Aaronson 1992 3rd Term Unopposed in 2000
5 Warren Newell 1992 3rd Term Unopposed in 2000
6 Tony Masilotti 1998 1st Term Opposed in 1998
7 Addie L. Greene 2000 1st Term Unopposed in 2000

Palm Beach County thanks you!

The following individuals assisted in the successful 2002 citizens referendum to limit the terms of Palm Beach County Commissioners to eight years in office. Your hard work under the hot Florida sun and/or financial contributions permitted voters -- by a 70 percent vote -- to put in place the term limits which are going into effect this year. Thank you!

Vincent Jay West, Palm Beach
Robert and Rachel Adams, Boynton Beach
Steve Templeton, Royal Palm Beach
Dean Taffel, West Palm Beach
David Floering, Lake Worth
George Blumel, Atlantis
Ideal Baldoni, The Villages
David Brunell, West Palm Beach
Fred Gielow, Boca Raton
Robert Franke, Jupiter
Don & Sandra Fenton, Boynton Beach
Harold Toppel, Boca Raton
Sylvan Levy, Boca Raton
Dennis Lipp, Loxahatchee
Jim Alsis, Lake Worth
Edward L Denison, Boca Raton
M. L. Barley, Islamorada
Keith Skivington, West Palm Beach
Marv Lettenmaier, Palm Beach Gardens
Rudy Silc, West Palm Beach
Charles and Ruth Schisler, North Palm Beach
David and Martha Schiltz, Delray Beach
Sidney M. Lanier, West Palm Beach
Rod Hartless, Palm Beach Gardens
Jeanne and Joseph Bauman, Boca Raton
Jack Apgar, North Palm Beach
Lusia Bosso, Riveria Beach
Gernie Moorhead, West Palm Beach
Mary Kay Monen, Lake Worth
Gerhard and Helga Lurtz, Loxahatchee
Bill Hayes, Palm Beach Shores
Warren And Lillia Gray, West Palm Beach
James and Sundae Frevert, North Palm Beach
Lee Spencer West, Palm Beach
James and John Paglialungo, Greenacres
Victor Spagnuolo, Boynton Beach
Jerry And Paula Pendergast, West Palm Beach
Wallace and Diane Bostick, Wellington
Randy Nielsen, West Palm Beach
Carmen And Andy Kunze, West Palm Beach
Jan Price, Palm Beach Gardens
Steven P. Pitts, Royal Palm Beach
Dr. Rick Bruns, Fort Lauderdale
Thomas Mints, Boynton Beach
H. Fred Meyer, Chagrin Falls
June Shepherd, Atlantis
Jack Hardy, Davie
Margaret Turner Rechner, Delray Beach
Rufus and Blossom, Beckles Wellington
G Gary Pollock, Delray Beach
Fred Furtado, Atlantis
Bettie L. Cooney, Atlantis
Richard Linn, West Palm Beach
Helen C. Schoel, Lakewood
Spencer Murfey, Winermere
Jo Ann McKerrow, Atlantis
Wales and Pat Martindale III, Atlantis
Janet and Robin McLeod, West Palm Beach
Billie Jo Swilley, Boynton Beach
Corinne Cascio, Boynton Beach
Patricia Ann Morris, West Palm Beach
Mildred Cestone, Boca Raton
Betty Davenport, Boynton Beach
Robert Ross, Boca Raton
Frayne & Janet Combs, Delray Beach
Sheila Hill, Boca Raton
Paul Himmelrich, Deerfield Beach
Dorothy and Austin Verity, Jupiter
Bill Gerlach, Mangonia Park
Lillian S Bernhard, Delray Beach
Ronald Nelson, Palm Beach Gardens
Joe Stelle, West Palm Beach
Stuart G Young, Delray Beach
Richard and Patricia Hellawell Boca Raton
Joe Schaefer, Palm Beach Gardens
Karen Hurley, Palm Beach Gardens
Richard Van Gemert, Delray Beach
Thomas and Marianne Vellis, Atlantis
John F and Kathleen McDermott, North Palm Beach
George and Margaret McNeill, Jupiter
Mark M. Smith, West Palm Beach
Frank and Diana Bubb III, Boca Raton
Raymond and Julia Terry, Boynton Beach
Judi W. Ake, Boca Raton
Michael Scherer, West Palm Beach
Sallye Vonk, Delray Beach
John W. Bieger, Boca Raton
James and Louise Vernadakis, Boynton Beach
Ralph Neil Logan, West Palm Beach
Daniel E Stedem, Atlantis
Jack Furnari, Boca Raton
Edward Tedtmann, Boynton Beach
John W. Galbraith, Charlottesville
Henry and Marie Weigl, N Palm Beach
James and Nancy Finley, Delray Beach
Bernard Baltic, Lakewood
Howard and Stephanie Messeroll, Boynton Beach
Theodore Radford, Jupiter
Dieufaite and Nerlande Guerrier, Boynton Beach
William Schloss, Palm Beach Gardens
Michael DeLoye, Boynton Beach
Doris Darling, Delray Beach
Robert and Rita Desrochers, Boca Raton
Gayle A Momchilovich, St Paul
Anne Owsley Isleboro,
Arthur Manetta, Boca Raton
William and Hao Popp, Deland
Paul R Farago, Portland
Ron Price, Palm Beach Gardens
Kenneth Eddowes, West Palm Beach
Walter & Nancy Teninga, Village Of Golf
Jack Merkl, Boca Raton
Philip Blumel, Atlantis
Jonathan S Shafer, Hypoluxo
Sandra Blumel, Atlantis
Bill Sadler, Boca Raton
Rose Marie Marhefka, Boynton Beach
Richard and Barbara Susco, Lake Worth
Rick Shepherd, West Palm Beach
Daniel Vogt, Ocean Ridge
Ray Flow, Lantana
John Earley, Loxahatchee
John Parsons, Jupiter
Joseph Sussen Jr, Boynton Beach
Al Harper and Betty Butler, Jupiter
Lydia Walker, Lake Worth
Joseph Piccirillo, Jupiter
Pamela And Judd Hilton, Jupiter
Mike Sahm, Lighthouse Point
Karl N. Dickey, Boca Raton
Ann Peoples, West Palm Beach
Sally F Beach, Boca Raton
Dorothea and Lou Madrigrano, Boca Raton
Jack Starr, Boynton Beach
Marilyn Norton, West Palm Beach
Kelley H Armitage, Jupiter
Elise LaTorre, Delray Beach
Gene McDonald, Las Vegas
Bradley W Cline, Lake Worth
Robert Weakley, Palm Beach Gardens
James P Miriana, Boynton Beach
Barbara Winther-Hansen, Boca Raton
Ken Robertson, West Palm Beach
John Ramon Armando, West Palm Beach
Marta Revilla, Boca Raton
Jack Strong, Lake Worth
Susanne Skinner, West Palm Beach
Bob Tinghitella, West Palm Beach
John Brooks, North Palm Beach
Bruce Creamer, Palm Beach Gardens
Norman Johnson, West Palm Beach
Don Parlamento, Lake Worth
Mike Jimenez, Dania
Phillip Faulk, West Palm Beach
William P Gorman, Riviera Beach
William Andrea, West Palm Beach
Frances Fitzgerald, Wellington
Brian Blumel, Palm Springs
Daron Thompson, Lake Park
David Pachsc,o West Palm Beach
Jay Lowe, West Palm Beach
Susan Pine, West Palm Beach
George Greenberg, West Palm Beach
Bill Timmsen, West Palm Beach
Ed McJobian, Boca Raton
Audrey Leas, West Palm Beach

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Broward Appeals Anti-Term Limits Decision

Broward County is appealing last November's legal decision that nixed the county's voter-approved county commissioner term limits law.

As reported in a previous post, Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips -- wife of the term-limited ex-Mayor of Fort Lauderdale Jim Naugle -- overturned the county commission term limits that were passed in 2000 by 80 percent of voters. The decision was a victory for local politicians and power brokers led by local attorney Bill Scherer.

Shortly after the decision was announced, Broward County announced it would appeal the decision on behalf of the voters.

Prior to the decision Andrew Meyers, chief appellate counsel for Broward County, argued that the state constitution gives Broward broad authority through its home-rule charter to structure local government "as they see fit."
Broward County attorneys say that Judge Phillips decision was flawed because it relies on a Supreme Court case, Cook (2002), which dealt with constitutional officers, like the Sheriff, which are covered in a different section of the Florida Constitution. Broward's brief is due in late March.
If Judge Phillips decision is upheld in the 4th District Court of Appeals, Broward plans to petition for a Florida Supreme Court review. The Florida Supreme Court has never ruled on county commissioner term limits.
If the 4th District Court upholds, it would also provide a basis for politicians in Palm Beach County to challenge the voter-approved law, but not directly. The politicians would first have to decide to sue the voters.
(Pictured: Broward County interim county attorney and chief appellate counsel)

NEW TIMES: Political judge had 'personal bias' against term limits

As noted in an earlier post, Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips couldn't resist mocking the idea of term limits in her Nov. 2, 2010, written decision to shoot down Broward County commissioner term limits.

"Term limits are available at this time, each election and the voters have the undeniable right, pursuant to the Constitution, to re-elect or vote them out or, as seen recently in the county, by indictment."

To this, New Times' Bob Norman responded: "Not very objective there, Judge Phillips. It's clear from these fallacious words alone she has a personal bias against term limits. Voting and term limits aren't one and the same. Ask George Washington about that. Also, she's obviously wrong to say that voters have a say over indictments -- that's federal and state prosecutors' jurisdiction."

He goes on: "This is a clear victory for attorney Bill Scherer and maybe for John Rodstrom, who was term-limited in 2012 and is the guy truly behind the lawsuit."

Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom, his friend and political ally attorney Bill Scherer, term-limited former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle and his wife, Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips, are all fixtures in Broward County politics. Naturally, they could be expected to oppose term limits and, unfortunately, had the power to overturn the clearly expressed will of 80 percent of Broward voters.

Politicians, Judge Nix Broward County Term Limits

In 2000, Broward County voters approved term limits for their county commissioners by an 80% vote. Since then, politicians have chafed under the looming limits which go into full effect in 2012.

They knew the voters still support term limits by a wide margin, so how can they overturn the law and keep their jobs?

The answer: Sue the voters.

And so far, it’s working. On Election Day 2010, Broward Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips ruled for a gaggle of local politicians that the Broward county commission term limits are null and void and that term limits can only be mandated by a state constitutional amendment, not by an amendment of the county charter by the people.

There is no question the politicians found a friendly judge. Judge Phillips is the wife of former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle, a term-limits opponent who was term-limited out of office in 2009.

In addition to her legal decision, Phillips adds to her ruling a personal disapproval of terms limits, claiming that “term limits are available at this time, each election and the voters have the undeniable right … to re-elect or vote them out.”

In her ruling, Phillips claims to be bound by the Cook v. City of Jacksonville and DeBlaker v. Eight is Enough in Pinellas, 823 So.2d 86 (Fla. 2002) case. In this controversial case, the Supreme Court of Florida voted 4-3 to toss out term limits for constitutional officers in Duval and Pinellas counties saying that because some disqualifications for office are set by the state constitution, additional ones cannot be added by individual counties.

However, that case dealt with constitutional officers – covered by article VIII section 1(d) of the Florida Constitution – not county commissioners. Constitutional officers include the sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, supervisor of elections, etc. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of county commissioners (section 1(e)), hence Phillips decision is novel. It is currently being appealed.

Please note also the Broward case only applies to the Broward term limits law and, even if the Phillips decision is upheld, does not apply to any other counties’ law except for Broward’s. The Supreme Court has never spoken on county commissioner term limits, but it will. This case is NOT over.

(Pictured above: Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips hobnobs with Florida politicians, including husband Jim Naugle and former Gov. Charlie Crist.)

Supreme Court Dissenters Say Home Rule Means, Well, Home Rule

While the Florida Supreme Court’s Cook decision regarding constitutional officers does not apply to county commission term limits, the dissent in that controversial 4-3 decision does offer insights that do. The Florida Constitution permits home-rule charters to be adopted by counties and clearly states that “The governing body of a county operating under a charter may enact county ordinances not inconsistent with general law.” Broward County, like Palm Beach, are home-rule charter counties. As there is no inconsistency of county term limits (on officers or commissioners) with state law, the dissenters say it is within the counties’ right to enact them:


I cannot agree with the majority that the Florida Constitution prohibits charter counties from enacting term limits for county officers. To the contrary, the constitution explicitly grants broad authority to charter counties over charter officers, and, consistent with that grant, imposes no restrictions on a county's authority to regulate those officers.

The threshold question before this Court is whether charter counties have the authority to enact citizen-initiative term limit amendments to their county charters. A separate issue is whether the Florida Constitution expressly prohibits term limits for county officers. The majority opinion glosses over the issue of charter county government authority and, in my view, jumps straight to a flawed analysis of constitutional preemption that directly conflicts with the broad powers granted to charter counties by the Florida Constitution.


First, article VIII, section 1(g) grants broad home-rule authority to charter counties:

CHARTER GOVERNMENT. Counties operating under county charters shall have all powers of local self-government not inconsistent with general law, or with special law approved by vote of the electors. The governing body of a county operating under a charter may enact county ordinances not inconsistent with general law. The charter shall provide which shall prevail in the event of conflict between county and municipal ordinances.

Article VIII, section 1(d) also expressly provides for county officers:

COUNTY OFFICERS. There shall be elected by the electors of each county, for terms of four years, a sheriff, a tax collector, a property appraiser, a supervisor of elections, and a clerk of the circuit court; except, when provided by county charter or special law approved by vote of the electors of the county, any county officer may be chosen in another manner therein specified, or any county office may be abolished when all the duties of the office prescribed by general law are transferred to another office. When not otherwise provided by county charter or special law approved by vote of the electors, the clerk of the circuit court shall be ex officio clerk of the board of county commissioners, auditor, recorder and custodian of all county funds.

The autonomy of local governments is at the heart of these 96*96two sections of the Florida Constitution, and the two sections vest broad authority in charter counties regarding charter governments and county officers. This broad language was obviously intended to allow charter counties wide latitude in enacting regulations governing the selection and duties of county officers. For example, article VIII, section 1(d), specifies that county officers may be elected or chosen in some other manner, and that any county office may even be abolished. By these provisions, it is apparent that the framers intended for charter counties to be self-governing in both providing for county officers and in providing for the manner in which county officials will be selected. Additionally, article VIII, section (1)(g), specifies that charter counties exercise their powers in a way that is "not inconsistent with general law." The term limit provisions in the charters in these cases are not inconsistent with any provision of general law relating to elected county officers. Given this grant of broad authority and consistency with general law, I can find no legal justification for concluding that charter counties should not be allowed to ask their citizens to vote on eligibility requirements of local elected officials, including term limits, since they could abolish the offices completely or decide to select the officers in any manner of their choosing.


I also disagree with the majority's position that article VI, section 4(b), which lists the state elected offices that have mandatory term limits, somehow operates to exclude charter counties from exercising their authority over county officers by imposing term limits. First, article VI, section 4(b) enumerates elected offices of statewide importance, a provision which has no bearing on local county officers. Second, there is no wording in article VI, section 4(b) (or anywhere else in the Florida Constitution or the Florida Statutes) that indicates that the named officers in article VI, section 4(b) are subject to term limits to the exclusion of all other government officers, state or local, in the State of Florida. If anything, article VI, section 4(b) provides a model and framework upon which charter counties may institute similar term limits for county officers, pursuant to the constitutional provision: "Counties operating under county charters shall have all powers of local self-government not inconsistent with general law, or with special law approved by vote of the electors." Art. VIII, § 1(g), Fla. Const. (emphasis added).

The majority also makes the distinction that article VI, section 4(b) is unique because it names the only constitutional "disqualifications" applicable to county offices in the Florida Constitution. I feel that the majority artificially puts an inordinate amount of emphasis on the word "disqualification." While term limits are eligibility requirements that may "disqualify" some incumbents, the same limits actually act to "qualify" others to hold office. Further, while we referred to term limits as a "disqualification" in Advisory Opinion to the Attorney General—Limited Political Terms in Certain Elective Offices, 592 So.2d 225, 227-28 (Fla.1991), the reference to term limits as a "disqualification" cannot logically be stretched to mean that the absence of a reference to county offices in article VI, section 4(b) precludes term limits from being enacted at the county level.

Accordingly, I would affirm the First District's decision in Cook and the Second District's decision in Eight is Enough.