DADE CITY — Dade City commissioners will no longer take official votes on city issues at workshops.
The commission unanimously approved an ordinance that requires any official votes on items be conducted only at regularly scheduled meetings. The amended ordinance also ensures scheduled opportunities for public comment at regular council meetings.
The commissioners also directed City Manager Billy Poe to instruct other city boards to have a scheduled time for public comment.
A controversial vote at an October workshop prompted the commission’s new rules. At the workshop, commissioners voted 3-2 to split the job of city clerk and finance director into two positions. The vote took place a day before the regularly scheduled commission meeting.
The combined position of city clerk/finance director had been held by Jim Class for more than 21 years.
Commissioner Scott Black objected to the vote, saying that the action could not be taken because it was a workshop. Mayor Camille Hernandez said that she had already checked with City Attorney Karla Owens about the issue earlier in the day. Owens, who participated in the workshop by phone, said the vote was legal.
Black said that there was no precedent during his 24 years on the commission to take action on an issue during a workshop.
Black, Poe and Commissioner Bill Dennis appealed to the other commissioners to delay the vote until the regular meeting. Hernandez and Commissioners Jim Shive and Eunice Penix voted to split the position.
On Nov. 12, Black asked Owens to draft an ordinance that outlined when the commission was able to take action.
“I think we put our attorney in an uncomfortable position in asking her to look for legal loopholes to allow us to do things,” he said. “I think one of the jobs we ought to have her doing is encouraging us to exercise restraint at times.”
Black said the commission needed to be transparent. “If we take action at a workshop — the public doesn’t always come to the workshops,” he said. “We don’t want to be perceived as sneaky or sly or trying to slip things past without proper advertising, proper discussion and having the public here and the press here. As you know some of the press wasn’t even here at the commission workshop where we made this decision. I think we need to govern ourselves a little better than this.”
Class surprised the commission by submitting his resignation Dec. 10, leaving the city to accept a job as a senior manager in the finance department at the Pasco County School Board. He left Jan. 10.
His resignation left the city scrambling to find a finance director and a city clerk.
Referring to the events, Black said: “I just think it’s very interesting to note the casualties that resulted from our making this decision.”