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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Hurried vote irks Dade City official


Published:

DADE CITY — Two Dade City commissioners failed Tuesday in their attempt to nullify a 3-2 decision splitting the city clerk/city finance director position, a job held by Jim Class for the past 21 years.

Commissioner Scott Black questioned the unusual move of taking a vote on the issue during a Monday workshop. Mayor Camille Hernandez said that she had checked with city attorney Karla Owens prior to the workshop. Owens said the vote was legal.

Black said after Monday’s workshop that there was no precedent during his 24 years on the commission to take action on an issue during a workshop.

Commissioner Bill Dennis and City Manager Billy Poe had appealed to the other commissioners to wait until Tuesday’s regular meeting for the vote. Hernandez overruled their appeals and continued with the vote, with Black and Dennis voting against splitting the position.

After splitting the position, Class would continue as city finance director.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Black asked Owens to clarify her opinion on taking the vote.

Owens said the meeting met all the requirements of government in the sunshine.

“I stand by my opinion,” she said “I’ve been doing this for almost 28 years. I feel comfortable enough that if somebody were to take us to court on that, I’d feel perfectly comfortable defending that. … It doesn’t matter that the city has never done that before.”

She added: “I know this is controversial and I know people are upset but I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m just telling you what the law is.”

The commission discussed hiring Deputy City Clerk Joanna Akers for the city clerk position.

City Commissioner Jim Shive made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Eunice Penix, that Akers be hired for $34,914 with an effective date of Nov. 1. The figure reflects a 9 percent raise of $2,882.

Akers, who attended the meeting, told commissioners she was interested but wanted to discuss the position. The motion was amended and approved to allow the city manager to negotiate with Akers. The issue will be considered at the Nov. 12 commission meeting.

Black said Wednesday the issue was not handled correctly.

“Two people have mentioned transparency as a need for doing this,” he said. “The public was not anticipating any action even if it was advertised. ... Transparency is a better way to do business and to allow the public to know what is happening. I think [Hernandez, Shive and Penix] would rather have done it quietly without a lot of people involved in it. It’s not a precedent I think we should have set.”

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