Coral Gables voters will decide on seven proposed changes to the city’s charter, including the creation of runoff elections and guidelines for removing commissioners, but when the electorate will make the decision hasn’t yet been finalized.
At a special workshop Tuesday, commissioners voted to put seven proposals from the charter review committee up for a public vote. They delayed a decision on whether the proposals will be on the ballot during this year’s general election cycle, a city special election or done via mail ballot.
Mayor Jim Cason, as he did at the March 29 meeting, argued that a mail ballot would allow people the best opportunity to study and understand the various charter items and vote on their own schedule. He and other commissioners said placing the items alongside a presidential ballot might cause the Gables to get lost in the shuffle.
“People are going to be exhausted when they get to the end of this ballot,” Commissioner Vince Lago said.
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City staff said a special election or mail ballot could cost up to $120,000.
The commission approved nearly all of the proposed changes unanimously except for the item that would change the process for removing commissioners for misconduct. The committee recommended a plan to have a commissioner’s removal be tied to the same standards the governor follows for suspending an elected official who is charged with a crime.
Commissioners Patricia Keon and Jeannett Slesnick voted against that proposal. Keon said she had reservations about fellow commissioners expelling someone who voters elected. If a commissioner commits a crime that requires action by the governor, she said, then the commission shouldn’t be involved.
“I am very comfortable in censuring someone. I’m not comfortable in removing someone from office,” Keon said.
City staff will ultimately present all seven proposals to the commission again as resolutions so they can formally be placed on the ballot.
Another amendment would create a runoff election, so that Coral Gables’ election process would match that of several other municipalities including Miami and Miami Beach. In those cities a candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to win the race. If no candidate gets a majority, there is a runoff election.
Other proposals include:
▪ A change that takes away the commission’s ability to direct or require the city manager to appoint someone to a position but still gives commissioners the ability to direct or request that the city manager remove someone from a post.
▪ Adding a process that allows the City Commission to fill a vacancy if a commissioner dies while in office or cannot serve due to a serious injury or ailment. The substitute would complete the remainder of that official’s term.
▪ A formal designation of an external financial auditor for the city. A yearly financial audit is already required by state law.
▪ A proposal to remove the city’s trial board after years of inactivity. The board was created to hear from employees who asked for a written justification for their firing or suspension.
▪ A more direct requirement for the mayor to appoint a vice mayor and a replacement for the vice mayor.
The City Commission plans to decide April 26 when voters will weigh in on the proposals.