Are Pinellas commissioners outstaying their welcome? A lawsuit says they are
6:32 PM, May 2, 2013
2:07 PM, May 3, 2013
"Our vote is being put in the trash can," said Patrick Wheeler, a plaintiff in a pending civil lawsuit against Pinellas County.
Wheeler said he clearly remembers casting a vote back in 1996, a vote in favor of term limits for Pinellas County Commissioners at 2 terms, 4 years each. He was just back from serving 23 years overseas working for the C.I.A. "I came back to the U.S. to live, and I had the privilege of actually voting in hand, and to think my one vote is being stolen."
Wheeler has joined Maria Scruggs and Beverly Billiris in filing suit against Pinellas County, specifically naming Commissioners Karen Seel, John Morroni, Ken Welch and Susan Latvala. The suit lays claim that even though the referendum was passed in 1996, the four commissioners in question have stayed at least one term too many because language on term limits was never inserted in the county charter.
"I think a lot of it will come down to a credibility issue," said Plantiffs' attorney John Shahan. He blamed the Pinellas County Attorney's office for the charter lacking the language on term limits.
No county officials would speak to ABC Action News Thursday. None of the commissioners in question were in court Thursday and did not return phone calls from ABC Action News.
An attorney claiming to represent the interests of the commissioners said in court the complaint should be thrown out. "We contend this honorable court is without jurisdiction for this action," he said.
"We can not allow these politicians to build their own little nest and then graduate to D.C. We'll compound the problem, so we must clean up at the local level," said Wheeler.
The judge finished hearing arguments from both sides late Thursday afternoon. He told the court he will come down with a ruling on or before May 17th.