Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
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Committee wraps up charter review

MARATHON -- A Marathon charter review committee comprised of five council appointees last week finished its recommendations of updates and changes to the city charter.

The suggestions are to be forwarded to the Marathon City Council for possible implementation.

Among the recommendations are that candidates run for office in March instead of November, and that candidates run for one of the five council seats, the numbers of which are not tied to any particular geographic area.

Rather than having the current at-large ballot system in which the top vote-getters are elected, the candidates would choose whom to run against. Committee members also recommended that runoffs be eliminated and if necessary winners could be "determined by lot," such as by pulling straws or picking a lowest number. A runoff election can cost around $25,000.

The recommended additions to the charter address "interference" between council and city employees, defining it as "the act of interposing oneself, whether verbally, physically or impliedly, to a city employee in a way that hinders or impedes the employee's carrying out his or her duties, or directs the employee's carrying out of his or her duties." Malfeasance was also defined.

New committee member Lynda Berrigan, who replaced John Bartus who was appointed to the council in place of Ginger Snead who resigned, added that "any violation of the charter shall be reported to the city manager," who would determine the validity of the violation.

City Attorney John Herin said he contacted Assistant State Attorney Manny Madruga for elaboration on the criminal definition of malfeasance and on state law and shared that the SAO does not offer advisory opinions nor would it put anything in writing.

Karen Farley Wilkinson, committee chair, wanted to know if the city could have the state deal directly with malfeasance transgressions rather than defining it in the city charter, but Herin replied there had to be a tie-in at the local level.

"The State Attorney is unlikely to prosecute unless it refers to state law," Herin said of the charter.

The committee also clarified the procedures for petitions and referenda, and eliminated extraneous language regarding operation of the city in its first year.

Councilman Mark Senmartin attended the committee meeting and asked members to address the 30-day rule regarding appointment of a councilperson in the event one resigns. He was worried about endless 2-2 votes, but the charter committee demurred.

Committee member Mike Cinque said he would not like to address this currently, explaining that he preferred the council have latitude and "we expect them to do what's right."

The council may address the charter committee's recommendations at its April 8 meeting or in a separate special call meeting.

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