Ocoee appoints Charter Review Commission
Editor in Chief
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Wharton Smith Inc.
The newly appointed Charter Review Commission is, among other tasks, expected to close loopholes exposed by Ocoee's recent election.
Ocoee city commissioners Tuesday appointed a Charter Review Commission to examine and clarify the city's charter and draft amendments for the public to vote on. The commission was convened after the March municipal election demonstrated the city had some election vulnerabilities.
The Charter Review Commission includes members from each district along with two alternates and a member chosen by the mayor. Joining the commission are Lou Forges (District 1), Thomas Lowrie (District 2), Derrick Chacone (District 3), Jim Sills (District 4), and Adam Lovejoy (mayor’s appointee). Fanny McTavish and Kelton Butler serve as alternates.
Fishback Dominick attorney Richard S. Geller, the government law expert who gave the May 2 presentation to the commission on the legal rationale for moving the June 13 special election for District 4 city commissioner to March 2024, was tapped to facilitate the charter review process.
“It’s a great honor, and I will work diligently with the members of the commission,” Geller told VoxPopuli.
[How can you tell if you’re a bona fide resident of Ocoee?]
Members will work on an accelerated schedule, meeting approximately twice a month, to prepare charter amendments to be added to the Ocoee municipal ballot for the March 19, 2024 election.
A key issue that the commission is expected to address is Ocoee residency and the length of time a person must live in the city before being eligible to run for office. Currently no time is required before one is eligible to run, although candidates must have their primary residence in the city when they qualify. That no-time-required loophole led to an unprecedented situation in the last election when a candidate from Orlando rented an apartment and mounted a campaign for District 3 commissioner.
[Records show Ocoee District 3 candidate primary residence is Orlando]
Although the candidate lost in a landslide, garnering just 167 votes, the Charter Review Commission will be looking at closing that loophole and bringing Ocoee’s charter in line with other cities, like Winter Garden, Oakland and Windermere, all of which have 12-month residency requirements for office.
The commission is also expected to examine when sitting officials resign one office to run for another. In the Ocoee municipal election, former District 4 Commissioner George Oliver resigned to run for mayor in January, but held his seat until Mayor Rusty Johnson was officially sworn in on March 21.
Johnson has often wondered, during commission discussions, at how that was possible. He has frequently said when he gave up his commission seat to run for mayor in 2015, he had to vacate it immediately.
The charter review process is open to the public. The commission will meet in the Commission Chambers. Check ocoee.org for dates and times.
In other news …
The city commission heard a first reading of an ordinance to cancel the June 13 special election for District 4 city commissioner and reschedule it for March 19, 2024, during the presidential primary. Although the commission unanimously passed a resolution that did the same on May 2, Geller recommended that the commission follow up with an ordinance to give the decision the legitimacy of law. In his presentation, Geller assured the commission that courts would uphold the commission’s legislative decision against any challenge. A second reading, with public comment, is scheduled for June 6.
The Orange County Clerk’s branch office in Ocoee will open on the third Saturday of each month for passports, payments, marriage licenses and ceremonies, beginning June 17, for the remainder of the year. The office is located at 475 Story Road, and will be open 8 a.m. to noon on July 15, August 19, September 16, October 21, November 18, and December 16.