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City Charter Review Committee Holds Organizational Meeting

 

Last updated 6/25/2020 at 10:49am

The Lake Wales Charter Review Committee held its organizational meeting Wednesday, June 24, and all five members expressed a willingness to kick in with twice monthly meetings to get the job done by December. The charter details how the city is governed, and any suggested changes will be put to the voters in April 2021.

The committee elected consultant and publisher Chevon Baccus as chairperson and college administrator Andy Oguntola as vice chairperson. Other members are all attorneys – Sara Jones, Keith Wadsworth and Jim Weaver. Each city commissioner appointed one member.

The first meeting was online, but committee members agreed to hold in-person meetings in the future to encourage more public participation. Interested persons also will be able to register to attend online at https://www.lakewalesfl.gov/834/Virtual-Public-Meeting-Registration

The current charter can be accessed at http://lakewales.elaws.us/code/charter. The city has set up a special email account – lwcharter@lakewalesfl.gov - to receive public input, comments and questions. City Clerk Jennifer Nanek will forward any emails out to committee members to discuss at future meetings.

The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, July 16 at the city administration building at 201 W. Central Ave. Future meetings are tentatively scheduled for every other Thursday after that. Before the first regular meeting charter committee members will be reviewing the existing city Charter and Code of Ordinances and charters from other cities and receiving staff and citizen input about which sections of the Charter may need revision.

The last full charter review was in 2010; Baccus is the only returning member of the committee. That Charter Review Committee started its work in December 2010 and recommended 14 changes; voters approved 12 of them in April 2011 during the city election, with a 27 percent turnout. In 2019 just under 60 percent of Lake Wales voters approved a charter change to go to 3-year terms for the mayor and city commissioners.

At their organizational meeting, committee members viewed a video describing the Florida Sunshine Law regarding open, public meetings along with ethics and public records requirements. Outside of their regular meetings, committee members are not permitted to discuss anything they might eventually vote upon. They will use the special city email account to archive any public records or communications from the public about the charter.

The Charter Review Committee must get its recommendations by December to the city commission, which must hold two hearings by the end of January on which items they want to place on the April ballot. Commissioners may accept all of the committee's recommendations or reject any they do not wish to put before voters.

 

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