Public hearings planned in May for proposed Sebastian Charter changes

SEBASTIAN – Sebastian residents will have two opportunities in May to share their thoughts on how the city’s charter should be changed.

Among the proposed changes the Sebastian Charter Review Committee is considering are making City Council terms four years instead of two, simplifying language to remove charter officers, and resolving tied votes of council candidates.

The committee decided to put the council term question to voters during an earlier committee meeting.

The Sebastian City Council is expected to review the committee’s list of proposed ballot issues, at which time the council could approve or deny for the November elections ballots or modify.

“Prepare to have your hearts broken,” said Committee Chair Louise Kautenburg.

The two public hearings have been scheduled for May 12 and 26 at 6 p.m. in the Sebastian Council Chambers.

The committee will also hold one last regular meeting on April 26 at 6 p.m. to address any other proposed changes before the public hearings. Public comment has been permitted at each of the committee meetings.

The charter board on Monday discussed making the language more concise and simple in terms of removing the city’s charter officers. The city has three charter officers – the City Clerk, the City Attorney, and the City Manager.

“It doesn’t present, to me, a clear path,” committee member Ed Dodd said of the current language.

City Attorney Richard Ginsburg suggested that the committee change the language to say that charter officers could be removed with or without cause by a majority vote of the Sebastian City Council.

Elswhere in the charter, it states that the officers serve at the pleasure of the council, Ginsburg explained.

City Clerk Sally Maio agreed with the proposed change.

“If three people on council don’t want you here, you don’t want to be here,” she said. “It’s time to go.”

The charter officers work with an open contract, Maio explained, one that is reviewed and renewed on an annual basis provided the council is satisfied with the work.

The committee also discussed what to do in the event that candidates running for City Council tied. As it stands, if there were candidates who tied in the municipal election, a special run-off election would be held between the tying candidates.

The rationale behind it, according to Maio, was that the voters should have the ultimate say on who represents them.

However, special elections – when not tied to a county election – have become costly for the city, an issue the charter board has tried to address by suggesting council terms be held only on even years.

Both Maio and Ginsburg suggested the Charter Review Committee recommend switching the process back to lot drawings – drawing straws, flipping a coin, etc. – a process the city had for some time before the change to special elections.

“It’s unlikely that it would happen, but it could,” Ginsburg said of a tie.

The board was unanimous in its support to moving back to lot drawings to resolve tied votes.

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