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East County Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018 1 year ago

Manatee County oversight committee charter passes

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Volunteers asked to oversee school district's spending of referendum funds can get to work.
by: Amelia Hanks Community Reporter

Robert Christopher, chairman of the citizens’ financial oversight committee, said he is ready to concentrate on what he volunteered to do for the School District of Manatee County.

On Sept. 25, by a 4-1 vote among School District of Manatee County board members, the charter for the citizen’s financial oversight committee finally passed.

The one dissenting vote belonged to board member Dave Miner.

“I don’t know what Miner’s problem is,” Christopher said.

As part of taxpayers agreeing to the 1-mill referendum in March, it was stipulated a citizens’ oversight committee had to be formed to oversee the use of those funds.

The 18-person committee formed in May and wrote up its own charter, but the school board didn’t pass the charter until Sept. 25. That left the committee in limbo.

Some school board members said they had a problem with the fact the charter didn’t specify a term limit for volunteer members.

Miner said he didn’t vote for the charter because its purpose was not clear.

“I frankly did not understand specifically what we were asked to approve,” Miner said. “Without having a clear understanding of what was to be adopted, I will not give it my consent.”

Miner earlier had drafted his own charter for the committee, which he said had a clear objective. He said he wants to reassure his constituents the committee can accomplish its purpose.

Miner also said that he was making sure the committee didn’t waste funds given to it by the district by trying to oversee other millage money, like money from the half-cent sales tax.

“We gave them a jurisdiction,” Miner said. “You’re wasting money on something that’s being done by others. Certainly, we shouldn’t use this money to satisfy Mr. Christopher’s curiosity.”

Christopher, who said he was only pursuing tasks intended for the committee, wondered whether Miner had a personal issue with him.

“All of our past interactions have been friendly,” Christopher said. “I think he’s just playing up to his constituents.”

Chairman Scott Hopes said Miner’s line of questioning of Christopher at the Sept. 25 school board meeting was “adversarial.”

Christopher said the committee just wants to get to work.

“We will be a very productive committee,” Christopher said. “Even without a charter, we’ve been attending meetings. We can get back to doing what we volunteered to do.”

Norm Neilson, a committee member, didn’t understand why simply approving a charter could get so difficult. 

“We just take a look at the finances and let (the school board) worry about the rest,” he said.

School board member Gina Messenger said the reason the charter took so long to pass wasn’t because of one school board member holding it back, but because of the way government works.

“I know it was on the agenda for a while,” Messenger said. “I think we gave the committee some suggestions and they took those into consideration and brought a new charter back to us a few times. It’s really just the wheel of government that runs slow.”

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