Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Disinterested Public Saddens Charter Review Committee

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Disinterested Public Saddens Charter Review Committee

Article excerpt

In terms of importance to Clay County residents, the county's

Home Rule Charter probably ranks right behind the U.S. and

Florida constitutions.

The charter, which must be reviewed every four years,

establishes the structure and responsibilities of county

government, determines the manner and frequency of elections and

decides how taxpayers' money will be handled.

Yet it attracts little public interest.

Take a public hearing Monday night to discuss three proposed

charter amendments, for example. Except for a dozen Charter

Review Commission members, the meeting room at Orange Park Town

Hall was nearly empty.

"The apathy in this county is incredible," said Kurt Beier of

Orange Park, a retired civilian employee at the Naval Aviation

Depot in Jacksonville and one of only a few residents to attend.

Commenting on the poor attendance, Chairman Steve McDermaid

said the panel's meetings since it was appointed by the County

Commission in November have been advertised and well-publicized.

The only conclusion he could draw for the dismal turnout, he

said, was that the "county has not incurred much gossip as a

result of our meetings."

McDermaid and other members said it was discouraging to see so

few people attend a public hearing on a document that affects

everyone in the county.

But no matter how much advertising or media attention is

focused on the review panel and the amendments, commission

member Lillian N. "Tigger" Megonegal said, folks in Clay County

simply don't like to go to public meetings.

"You could give toasters away and these people are all that

would be here," said Megonegal, gesturing toward six people in

the audience, including a reporter.

The three proposed charter amendments, which will be placed on

the general election ballot in November, would:

Remove the comptroller's function from the clerk of court's

office and transfer the financial duties to the county manager's

office. The proposed shift in power stems from a long dispute

between county commissioners and former Clerk of Court John

Keene, who recently resigned amid a grand jury investigation

into allegations of misuse of public funds. …

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