Davenport Charter election may be decided tonight


Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 7:37 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 7:37 a.m.

DAVENPORT - Tonight at 6, three nights after a group of residents presented a petition asking for a special election, city commissioners will meet at City Hall to decide what to do.

The group, Davenport Concerned Citizens, arrived Monday with a petition bearing 701 signatures requesting a popular vote on three proposed charter amendments.

The proposed amendments to the city charter would allow residents to vote on a sewer and wastewater treatment facility; limit commissioners to two-year terms; and restore a simple majority vote for commissioners to remove a city manager (since 2009, the vote has had to be unanimous).

Davenport Concerned Citizens seeks to exempt houses with working septic tanks from mandatory hook-up requirements to a controversial sewer system project nine years in the making.

The group also asked city officials reconsider the decision to move forward with a $9.3 million sewer and wastewater treatment facility.

The group claims city officials are interfering with the rights of citizens by not bringing charter amendments to a public vote.

Virginia Cassady, a municipal lawyer with Shepard, Smith & Cassady of Maitland, spoke for the group at Monday's meeting and called the city's charter inconsistent, ambiguous and illegal.

"Davenport is attempting to place undue burden on its citizens and is attempting to thwart a vote," she said.

Cassady also said state statutes regarding charter amendments override local ordinances, making rules for proposing the amendments - such as requiring a panel of five registered voters on the citizen committee - irrelevant.

Florida Statute 166.031 requires petitions be signed by at least 10 percent of registered voters, or 151 voters in Davenport, to bring charter amendments to a vote. Provisions in the state law do allow municipalities to outline the charter amendment process.

The city clerk must verify the signatures before moving forward.

Mayor Peter Rust and Commissioners Bobby Lynch and Tom Fellows voted for the sewer project. Vice Mayor H.B. Robinson and Crystal Williams voted against it.

"You say we don't listen to you but I've sat through countless meetings," Fellows said to the group. "I've had my integrity questioned and been talked down to so don't tell me I don't listen."

"This is a very tough time in our city," City Attorney Kirk Warren said Monday. "We all know that and want to make the best decision possible."

Margarita Cambest reports on Lake Alfred and Davenport. She can be reached at 863-401-6969 or margarita.cambestt@newschief.com.

This story appeared in print on page A1

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