Anti-corruption group disappointed with Dade City charter changes

By Sarah Blazonis, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018, 6:49 PM EST

The leader of the Pasco County chapter of Represent.Us said the group is disappointed that, as of right now, an ethics code will not be included in a revised version of Dade City’s charter.

  • Dade City revises its charter every 10 years
  • Committee approved rules allowing ethics ordinances to be passed
  • Concern is ordinances can change between administrations

“They did have an opportunity…to include an ethics provision within their charter,” said Elise Mysels, the head of the chapter.

For several months, Dade City has been working to revise its charter – something it does every ten years – with the help of a city commission-appointed advisory committee.

“They have painstakingly analyzed every provision of the charter, determining whether or not the provision needed to be amended,” said City Commissioner Nicole Deese Newlon.

Newlon said there was a consensus among that committee that an ethics code should be included. However, commissioners voted against putting that on a special ballot at a recent meeting.

Instead, the commission could pass an ordinance laying out general ethics guidelines.

Mysels said she and members from her group attended meetings on the charter revisions to push for an ethics code that would include enforcement measures and a citizen-run ethics board to investigate complaints against officials.

“An ordinance is the next best thing,” Mysels said. “Having it in the charter is the longevity aspect. If, indeed, the city still is going to have an ordinance, that would be wonderful. We would still be pleased with that. But…it doesn’t allow the permanence.”

That’s because ordinances can change from administration to administration, while the charter is only revised every ten years.

“I share their concerns about some of the things not being listed in the charter,” said Newlon, who said there were a number of revisions she was in favor of not being put to a vote.

According to Newlon, the advisory committee proposed 30 changes to the charter and highlighted what they felt were the most important to the commission. The commission then looked at what it felt would be the best way to implement measures such as the ethics ordinance.

"My view was more along the lines of, if there's any question, I think we should put it to the voters and ascertain via the voting box whether or not they want to include it in the charter," said Newlon.

Newlon said there is still a chance the ethics code question could appear on the ballot in April, but that would require vocal public support at upcoming meetings.

The city commission is expected to vote on what measures to list on a possible special ballot at Tuesday’s meeting.