Charter amendment e-mails revealed

Bill Shearon
Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon

In their efforts to form the Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach (CNOBB) group, several e-mails were exchanged that expressed an intent to empower Mayor Bill Shearon and others by getting three proposed charter amendments placed on the November ballot.

Last week, six CNOBB members were named as defendants in a Sunshine Law lawsuit. Subsequent public records requests made by paralegal Michael Barfield indicate CNOBB members are concerned that Vice Mayor John Chappie might use the state’s resign-to-run provision and challenge Shearon in the November election.

CNOBB members also expressed concerns about the legality of the charter amendment process they initiated with a petition drive last week.

Stronger mayor?

On June 10, CNOBB founder Bill Vincent sent an e-mail to future CNOBB member Reed Mapes that said, “I had a lengthy telephone conversation this morning. Mayor Shearon suggested I contact (you) regarding an initiative I am pursuing. Both the mayor and I believe you might be interested and would certainly be of value to our group.”

On June 24, CNOBB member John Metz sent an e-mail response to Mapes about empowering the mayor with a charter amendment that addresses charter interpretation and/or a strong mayor amendment.

“If we are giving the mayor back his power, I would include the power to hire and fire any employee or contract person without limit,” Metz wrote.

“Giving him back the powers he has under the charter should not be hard and will give us some working time and allow us to get rid of the lawyer (City Attorney Ricinda Perry) and then change the form of gov’t,” Mapes wrote.

Bradenton Beach’s weak mayor form of government prevents Shearon or any other mayor from firing any contracted, salaried or hourly city employee. By majority vote, the commission can terminate a department head or a charter official such as the city clerk, city attorney or police chief. Only a department head can terminate a regular employee.

One of CNOBB’s proposed charter amendments seeks to prevent the city commission from adopting ordinances and resolutions that interpret the city charter. This is aimed at commission-initiated proposals adopted in recent years supporting the commission’s stance that the charter says department heads answer to the commission as a whole and not to the mayor exclusively. In 2016, the commission adopted a resolution preventing the mayor from controlling meeting agendas. CNOBB members have discussed rescinding these past commission actions.

Opposing Chappie

On July 23, Mapes and CNOBB members Janie Robertson and Michael Harrington exchanged e-mails about Chappie challenging Shearon.

The qualifying period begins Aug. 28 and ends Sept. 1. If Chappie challenges Shearon, his current Ward 4 commission seat will become vacant immediately after the election, whether he wins or loses. That seat will then be filled by a commission-appointed replacement who would serve the remaining year of Chappie’s two-year Ward 4 term.

On Jul 22, Robertson wrote, “If Chappie were to challenge for mayor, he should not be allowed to hold his ward seat past the qualifying date and not allow Bill V. (Vincent) to qualify to fill it at the election. This could happen this election and then someone such as (Jan) Vosburgh or (Jim) Lynch could be appointed over Bill V. I fear this move is already in the works. Diabolical. Consult with Metz on this.”

On July 23, Robertson added, “This is a huge problem we have.”

In response, Mapes wrote, “One option would be to not allow a sitting commissioner to run for mayor. I’m not sure that would be legal, but respect for their position would be to complete their term.”

The initiative process

CNOBB’s efforts to amend the city charter without following the normal charter review process includes asking city voters to eliminate the city’s four geographical commission wards and reducing candidate residency requirements from two years to one.

On Aug. 1, Mapes e-mailed several CNOBB members and attorney Bob Hendrickson about the charter amendment process.

“There is legal court precedence requiring the city to do this, and even if what we want is illegal, it must go on the ballot and fight it in the courts afterwards if it passes,” he wrote.

On Monday, City Clerk Terri Sanclemente delivered the signed CNOBB petition signatures to the Supervisor of Elections office for signature verification. Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett was also presented with a 14-page memo that addresses the city’s concerns about legality and procedural compliance. These concerns will be addressed at the Thursday, Aug. 17, commission meeting.

The CNOBB e-mail exchanges have not been error-free. On July 25, Martin sent an e-mail to CNOBB members that said, “Oh my God I just did a ‘reply all’ and you had Terri and Ricinda on the list. Please if you’re going to communicate with them do it in a separate format do not include us in it. God only knows how they’ll take this.”