Attorneys: Panel Can't Term Limit School Leaders; Charter Review Commission Plans to Tackle Subject

Article excerpt


A proposal to term limit Clay County School Board members and the school superintendent by amending the county charter would, if approved, violate the Florida Constitution, according to School Board attorney Bruce Bickner.

The term-limit idea is one of a package of proposed amendments being considered by the county's Charter Review Commission, which reviews and makes recommendations to voters of possible charter revisions.

In February, County Attorney Mark Scruby told the review panel it has no authority to make such a recommendation about board members or the superintendent. And Bicker echoed that sentiment at the March 18 School Board meeting.

Bickner said School Board members and the superintendent are independent constitutional officers and, according to Florida Supreme Court rulings and Attorney General opinions, not considered part of county government.

The charter panel's amendment recommendations are sent to the County Commission, which is bound by the charter to put them on the ballot. But in this case, Bickner said, "that would be an illegal act. ... If they do they are open to a lawsuit and I am absolutely certain they would lose."

Currently, the charter cites the sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, clerk of the Circuit Court and supervisor of elections as elected constitutional officers whose "powers, duties and functions shall not be altered by this Home Rule Charter." But their funding is part of the county budget adopted by the County Commission.

The School Board and superintendent are not mentioned in the charter.

Panel member Thomas Nazworth Sr. said he does "not believe" School Board members and the superintendent are constitutional officers, noting that the charter does not describe them as such. …