City Charter Amendments on November Ballot

On March 12, 2020, the Charter Review Committee concluded its decennial assessment of the City Charter. The Committee recommended that the Charter be amended in seven areas. After public meetings on May 19, June 2, and June 16, the City Council approved Ordinance No. 2020-02, directing that five of the proposed amendments be submitted to the voters of West Melbourne at a referendum election to be held concurrent with the general election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Any amendments approved by a majority of the electors will be adopted and become effective upon certification of the election results. 

The full ordinance can be found here: 

https://www.westmelbourne.org/DocumentCenter/View/8643/ORD2002---Charter-Amendments-web

SUMMARY 

The following table summarizes the proposed Charter amendments. A more detailed analysis of each of the ballot questions can be found here: https://www.westmelbourne.org/DocumentCenter/View/9139/Friday-Memo-2020-Charter-Amendment-Series

No. Title Summary
1 Qualifications and Reporting Structure for the Chief of Police The City Charter provides that the chief of police shall be appointed by the city council, and provides no qualifications for the position. If approved, this amendment will require that the chief of police be appointed on the basis of education and experience, and be certified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement within twelve months of appointment. It will also provide for the city manager to appoint and remove the chief of police, with at least four concurring votes of the city council, and for the chief of police to report to the city manager.  
2 Qualifying of Candidates for Mayor and City Council Member This amendment will correct an error in the City Charter resulting from a previous amendment. The Charter once required that candidates for mayor or city council obtain the signatures of 1% of the qualified West Melbourne voters, as certified for the last general election. At that time, “as certified for the last general election” related to the number of voters to be used for the 1% formula. In 2006, a Charter amendment replaced the 1% formula with a flat 75 signature requirement, but mistakenly retained the language “as certified for the last general election.” The Charter now appears to require that voters must have been qualified as of the last general election in order to sign a candidate petition, inadvertently preventing some voters from signing candidate petitions on the basis of duration of residency or age. This amendment will make clear that any qualified West Melbourne voter may sign a candidate petition.     
3 Filling Vacancies in the Office of Mayor or City Council Member The City Charter provides that when a city council seat becomes vacant due to death, resignation, removal, or forfeiture, the remaining city council members fill the vacancy by appointment. When a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor, the remaining city council members appoint a new mayor from among their members, creating a vacancy on city council which is also filled by appointment. Appointees serve the remainder of the unexpired term for the vacant seat, however long. This amendment allows the voters to elect a replacement at the next general election, even if the seat would not normally be on the ballot for another two years. For example, if a council member is elected in November 2020, and resigns the day after taking office, currently the remaining council members would appoint a replacement to serve the entire unexpired term, until November 2024. If this amendment is approved, the voters would elect a replacement to serve at the next general election (November 2022). This amendment also provides that when a city council member or mayor resigns their seat to run for another office, the resulting vacancy shall be filled by election rather than by appointment.      
4 Compensation for the Mayor and City Council Members The City Charter provides a salary of $450 per month for the mayor, and $400 per month for city council members, with automatic adjustments based on changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The current adjusted salaries are $551 per month for the mayor, and $489 per month for council members. This amendment would increase the salaries to $900 per month for the mayor, and $800 per month for council members. It would also prohibit the mayor and city council members from granting themselves salary increases or new benefits without voter approval.   
5 Powers, Duties, and Composition of the Board of Adjustment The City Charter provides that the Board of Adjustment hears and decides applications for “special exemptions” to the zoning code. This is an obsolete, inaccurate term, and the amendment would replace it with the correct language, “conditional uses.” Also, the Charter requires that at least four of the seven Board of Adjustment members have experience in certain enumerated areas. One type of qualifying experience is being a “professional member of a planning organization.” The use of the word “professional” has resulted in some confusion as to whether a board member must engage in planning as their primary paid occupation in order to qualify. The amendment would eliminate the word “professional” to clarify that a member of the American Planning Association or similar organization may fill that role on the Board of Adjustment, even if they are not actively engaged in a paid planning-related occupation.