Live Oak —
After months of reviewing the charter of the city of Live Oak, the chairman of the charter review committee presented their recommendations to the Live Oak City Council at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday night. The council voted 3-2 to review the recommendations. Councilors Jacob Grantham and Keith Mixon voted against. The council will then make a final decision based on the recommendations on what, if any, will appear on a ballot during an upcoming election.
The purpose of the committee was to review the current city charter and establish a recommendation to the Live Oak City Council on changes that need to be made, if any.
Committee chairman Tommie Jefferson told the councilors the committee did not reach a unified recommendation, however.
The first recommendation dated Dec. 23, 2013 contained the signature of four of the five board members. The second recommendation dated Jan. 6, 2014, contained just three signatures. Jefferson and vice-chairman Stefan Blue both refused to sign the second recommendation.
“Because there is still some unresolved issues, I feel as (the) chairman, some things were voted upon and never rescinded, and was not added to the new revisions,” Jefferson said. “We have two recommendations. One has four signatures and the other has three.”
He continued, “I refused to sign the last one because, I felt that we have not come to a consensus of being unified within that committee.”
On Monday night, Jefferson called a special committee meeting to continue discussions regarding the Live Oak chief of police position and the signing of the second recommendation. However, committee members Jeanne d’Eauede, Kevin Greene and Wendell Hill did not attend. By law, since there was no quorum, the committee could not move forward with the meeting.
d’Eauede, Greene and Hill had stopped by Live Oak City Hall to sign the recommendation on Monday afternoon, which was the instructions given to the committee at the last meeting. Jefferson said he called the meeting to clarify the recommendation before presenting it to the council.
“We’re not ready to move forward as a committee for these recommendations to be put into your hands,” Jefferson told the council Tuesday night. “My recommendation is that we forward you (council) no recommendation.”
Council President Adam Prins asked Jefferson if he had more time, would he be capable of garnering a unified recommendation.
“We would trust and hope so,” Jefferson said.
“What concerns me is that you called a meeting and three of the members didn’t show up. Which leads me to believe that three of the members may be done participating,” Prins said.
“If we give you more time, do you feel that you can accomplish anything or are you going to waste time?” councilor Bennie Thomas asked Jefferson.
“Well it’s going to depend on who it’s going to be,” Jefferson said.
“If people don’t show up to go back to city business, how are you going to accomplish it? You can’t,” councilor John Yulee said. “There’s no need to just continue wasting time.”
Heated exchanges over taking recommendations
Prins asked the council to consider taking both recommendations and reviewing their work to determine what will be placed on the ballot.
“I say we take those that they compiled, we look at both of them together and we draw from that what will go on the ballot,” Prins recommended.
Mixon then offered a motion to terminate the committee and start the process over.
Grantham said according to an instructor from a recent class he took, the way the charter review committee was established was “completely wrong.”
“You aren’t supposed to have a chair. You aren’t supposed to have a co-chair. You aren’t supposed to have the city clerk as a facilitator, you’re supposed to have a professional facilitator,” Grantham said. “We went about this the wrong way in setting it up.”
Grantham suggested bringing in a professional facilitator to guide the meetings.
“We haven’t even looked at these recommendations and we’re trying to start over,” Prins said.
The discussion was quickly heated when Mixon began questioning Jefferson on the committee’s process of gathering information.
“We had nobody there with a professional expertise of the five,” Mixon said as he stated his concerns with the board. “I’m not criticizing that, I’m just asking how they came about doing their task.”
Jefferson, who sat on the last charter review board, said they went about the meetings and gathering information the same way as the previous committee did.
“We did the same thing. We went and talked with you all about what you were looking for, then we itemized ourselves what we wanted to look at, and so that’s how we picked some of the things we did,” Jefferson said. “Mainly, we were trying to understand what you all were looking for.”
Mixon began drilling Jefferson, asking if he was aware of how many counties in Florida elect a police chief, use a city administrator and elect a city clerk.
“Some of that I do know, but that’s irrelevant,” Jefferson said.
“This man just dedicated several months to doing what he thought we asked him to do, and your line of conversation towards him is starting to bother me,” Prins intervened. “If you could make a point I would appreciate it.”
“The point, you got five laypersons to come back and you have a part, you don’t have total consensus. So, we’re asking the city of Live Oak to change a form of government based on three or four persons opinion of reading a charter,” said Mixon. “There was no expert testimony (or) interviews to draw from to make those decisions. I wouldn’t do that. That’s why I said I think we should terminate this committee and start over.”
Mixon continued, “I appreciate everything these folks have done, all the contributions they made and every hour they put in. I’m simply saying I don’t think they have enough information to bring back a recommendation of this caliber.”
“If you wanted professionals, you go out and hire professionals,” Jefferson said. “You asked us to do something and you came to several meetings. If you are concerned now, you should have been concerned then.”
“The idea was for the laypeople of the community to be involved in the foundation of the city of Live Oak,” Prins added. “We’re all lay people, too, and ran for office and got elected. By that logic, we shouldn’t be here either.”
A motion was made by Mixon to terminate the committee and start over. The motion failed 2-3, with Prins, Thomas and Yulee voting against.
Thomas then made a motion to accept the recommendations for review and abolish the committee. That motion passed 3-2 with Grantham and Mixon voting against.
Some of the recommendations that are to be reviewed by the Live Oak City Council from the charter review committee are: keeping the mayor position as is; the police chief be an elected position and the Live Oak Police Department become an accredited department.