Lawsuit seeks to limit county commissioners to two terms

But this isn’t the first time term limits have come before the state.

In 1996, a referendum was passed that would limit commissioners and select other elected officials to two terms.

In 2003, the Florida Supreme Court found the term limit amendment to be unconstitutional.

Now, 16 years after the original hearing, the issue is back on the table.

With the November elections looming, current county commissioners, including Vice Chairman Ken Welch, may not even be on the ballot.

Of the seven commissioners, four would be out of a job if the ruling were upheld: Susan Latvala, Karen Seel, Chairman John Morroni and Welch.

But Latvala and Morroni aren’t up for re-election until 2014, guaranteeing them at least two more years in the courthouse.

Seel is running unopposed.

But Welch will face candidate Maria Scruggs in the Democratic primary for District 7 on Aug. 14. The winner would then face Republican William Walz in the November elections.

A June 29 editorial in the Tampa Bay Times posed a major issue with the passing of the referendum so close to the elections: If Welch and Seel were omitted from the ballot, Scruggs would win the primary by default and a special election would be necessary to replace Seel.

However, this may not be necessary…yet.

On May 10, the Florida Supreme Court issued the “Telli” decision, which dictated that term limits must be upheld for county commissioners in Broward and Sarasota counties. However, the new ruling doesn’t apply to Pinellas County because of the 2003 hearing.

At the July 10 county commission meeting, county attorney James Bennett advised the commissioners to postpone placing a term limit amendment on the 2014 ballot until the outcome of the trial.

In other words, Latvala, Seel, Morroni and Welch may be safe for another election.

  • Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch

The November Pinellas County elections could feature some brand new faces running for county commission if a term-limiting lawsuit passes.

County commission candidate Maria Scruggs, former Tarpon Springs Mayor Beverley Billiris and H. Patrick Wheeler have filed a joint lawsuit that would limit the number of terms county commissioners could serve to two.


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