Your presence is kindly requested at the January 20th Charter Review Board meeting.* Here’s why:
We have a lot to celebrate and give thanks for in Sarasota. Sarasota County is a “home rule” county—one of 21 counties in the state of Florida with a County Charter. Sarasota County instituted a local constitution, or County Charter, in 1971. Amendments to our County Charter can be initiated by citizen petition, the County Commission or the Charter Review Board. The CRB works on behalf of the citizens of Sarasota County to review and recommend changes to the County Charter for improvement of County government. Charter amendments are put to referendum for voter approval. It’s a system which has served us well. But in the past decade we’ve seen numerous proposals, each one defeated, which would have undermined citizen powers through the County Charter amendment process. Bob Waechter has been one of the principals in such efforts, proposing changes which would constrain effective citizen engagement in local government. Waechter is at it again.
You might remember Bob Waechter. He was caught on videotape purchasing a debit card in the name of a fellow Republican—a candidate for County Commission he wanted to defeat. He made donations to Democrats with the card. Mr. Waechter was charged with felony identity theft. Thank goodness for security cameras. Without the videotape, we’d have to rely upon the former Sarasota GOP chair’s conscience to kick in and let us know the donations were fraudulent. How long would that take?
Mr. Waechter has a prior felony conviction. He also happened to host our State Attorney’s election fundraiser. This conflict of interest was noted, and the FBI asked the State Attorney to permit them to take over the case. Nothing doing—State Attorney Ed Brodsky declined, saying it was a state matter. The hammer of justice falls softly if you happen to have endorsed and raised money for the State Attorney. Waechter faced up to five years in prison under state sentencing guidelines if convicted of stealing a political rival’s identity and making fake campaign donations in her name. Brodsky kept the case and permitted Waechter to plead to a misdemeanor. But I digress.
Now Mr. Waechter is being given 20 minutes to make a presentation to the Charter Review Board on Jan. 20th. Mr. Waechter has also stated that he may be serving as a “placeholder” for someone else to present. Either way – whether it is Mr. Waechter presenting or his proxy, our community has reason for concern, as it appears the anointed presenter will advocate that Charter Review Board members be appointed rather than elected, and perhaps argue to limit citizen input at CRB meetings. Outrageous.
In the past decade, Mr. Waechter and his cronies advocated imposing timing restrictions on citizen petitions to amend the County Charter. Other proposed changes have included requiring amendment referendums to pass by 60 percent instead of a simple majority and eliminating special elections (so citizen initiated amendments would have to wait up to two years to go to ballot). All moves to limit citizen input in local government.
Outrageous indeed that an individual who has demonstrated complete contempt for fair play and integrity in local elections is being given generous time to advise our Charter Review Board. Here’s a New Year’s resolution for our Charter Review Board: Represent us. We’ve had enough of Mr. Waechter.