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Ocoee delays appointments to Human Relations Diversity Board until after March 14 election

Outgoing Commissioner Larry Brinson, Sr. calls decision “problematic.”

Rosemary Wilsen makes a motion on Feb. 7 2023
Ocoee Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen made a motion at the Feb. 7, 2023, meeting to delay HRDB appointments, saying she wanted to "extend the courtesy" of nomination to commissioners coming in after the March 14 election.

With a municipal election five weeks away, the Ocoee City Commission decided Tuesday that sitting commissioners will not appoint new members to a recently restructured advisory board. In a 3-2 vote, commissioners delayed making appointments to the Human Relations and Diversity Board (HRDB) until after either the March 14 election or a to-be-announced special election to fill the seat vacated by District 4 Commissioner George Oliver III, who resigned to run for mayor.

Mayor Rusty Johnson and Commissioners Richard Firstner and Rosemary Wilsen voted in favor of the measure while Commissioners Larry Brinson, Sr. and George Oliver opposed it.

Johnson and Firstner are both seeking re-election.

The move came as a surprise just as District 1’s Brinson, who is not seeking re-election, was about to announce his nominee to the board. Wilsen of District 2 interrupted Brinson, saying it was “highly inappropriate” for the current commission to nominate new board members and that she wanted to table the nomination process to give incoming commissioners and the winner of the mayoral race the “courtesy” of naming members to the HRDB.

Wilsen, who requested during the Jan. 24 meeting that HRDB appointments be rescheduled until Tuesday’s meeting because she was still seeking nominations from her district, made the motion to continue to delay until after the election. Firstner, who represents District 3, seconded it.

Brinson strongly disagreed, saying the task was before the commission now. “We are here to conduct the business of the city. As long as we are here, I will not be a lame duck commissioner. I refuse to be. It is highly inappropriate to even make that suggestion.”

He said the city commission restructured the HRDB in December and new appointments had already been delayed once. He added that such delays prevented current board members, many of whom didn’t know if they were still on the board, from performing their duties.

“We’re saying to this board, because we can’t make a vote, they can’t conduct the business of the advisory board on which they sit,” he said. “I don’t know why people don’t find that problematic. That is problematic.

“The board, the last time they met, they said they said they would not vote on anything because they were not sure of the outcome of their status,” Brinson continued. “And here we are trying to push this down the road again. I don’t understand that.”

Oliver acknowledged that Wilsen’s point had “validity,” but he recommended that the commission make new appointments immediately. The commission, he said, was “still there to discharge a duty, and that duty should be done whether we’re here a day, a week or a year. It doesn’t matter. The incoming commissioners or mayor should take what’s given to them by the outgoing administration.”

The HRDB relinquished production of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, which was a longtime board project, to Ocoee’s Support Services department. During Tuesday’s city commission meeting, Wilsen also assigned the responsibility for organizing and judging the annual student Black History Month Essay Contest, another signature HRDB project, to support services.

The city commission restructured the HRDB after months of turmoil on the board over its mission, programming and budget that had spilled into the public with name calling, disarray in its budget presentations and public accusations of wrongdoing. The board chair resigned in October.



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