SARASOTA — Despite threat of a lawsuit, a split Sarasota City Commission decided to fill two open Planning Board seats Monday, as scheduled, instead of allowing the new commission, which will take office in two weeks, to make those appointments.
The three commissioners — Mayor Kelly Kirschner, Vice Mayor Fredd Atkins and commissioner Dick Clapp — wanted to name those two members themselves, even though it is their last meeting on the commission.
Clapp had asked that the process be moved to the May 2 meeting, because, he said, he wanted to reappoint the two members with expiring terms, Susan Chapman and Chris Gallagher, and didn’t want to risk them not being reappointed by the new commission.
City Attorney Bob Fournier advised against doing that, because it allowed no time for the openings to be advertised so additional candidates could apply.
“It would be tantamount to thumbing your nose at those who wished to apply,” he said.
As of April 29, only one other candidate, Richard Dorfman, had applied to be on the Planning Board.
City code requires an advisory-board opening be advertised 90 days before a member’s term expires. However, that rule has not been enforced in years.
“In my four years in office, we haven’t advertised (any advisory board opening), so we’ll need to void all of them,” said an annoyed Kirschner, who said incumbents interested in reappointment are always reappointed.
But several community members have objected to moving up the appointment, saying it is unfair to anyone who had wanted to apply for the Planning Board.
One such person, Phil Grande, said he had hired an attorney to help him.
Because the commission is going to go ahead with the appointment on May 2, Fournier expects some citizens to attend the first meeting with the new commission and ask that they void the Planning Board appointment.
“If it’s voidable, let’s go forward with (the reappointments) and let the new commission void it,” Clapp said.
Commissioner Terry Turner said it wouldn’t be fair to put the appointed members through that turmoil. Commissioner Suzanne Atwell agreed.
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