False alarm: March 10 ‘Emergency?’



From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: An “emergency meeting” of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners has been scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Friday, March 10, for the purpose of voting on a resolution supporting proposals to incorporate Hobe Sound and Indiantown.


BCC Rules of Procedure authorize emergency meetings to be called by the Chair, the County Administrator, the County Attorney, or any two Commissioners “for the purpose of discussing/resolving Emergency issues such as natural disasters threatening the health, safety and welfare of Martin County citizens.” See pages 6 and 7 of the BCC’s Rules of Procedure below.


 It is not clear how a resolution supporting incorporation of Hobe Sound and Indiantown meets the definition of an “emergency.” 


This matter was brought up at the last commission meeting, when supporters of incorporation spoke at public comment and requested support from the BCC.  That commission meeting had been moved to a different date with little public notice,  apparently because Commissioner Ed Ciampi was going to be absent on the scheduled meeting date.


Now it appears that Ciampi’s absence has created an “emergency” for supporters of incorporation, since Commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Fielding have already expressed their opposition to the proposed resolution.  If Ciampi is absent, Commissioners Doug Smith and Harold Jenkins will not have enough votes to adopt the resolution they are advocating. 


Heard and Fielding question whether it is legal or ethical for Commissioners to use the power of their office to support a matter that will be voted on by the public in the affected jurisdictions.  They say the BCC should not take an official position on whether incorporation is a good plan for residents of Hobe Sound and Indiantown.  This is a decision that should be made by the affected residents.


Smith says the resolution does not directly support the incorporation referendum question but supports only approval by the Legislature of a measure to put incorporation on the ballot for the voters to decide.  He has not explained why it is an “emergency” or how it addresses issues threatening the healthy, safety and welfare of Martin County citizens.


It is questionable whether two days’ notice is sufficient under the BCC’s own rules, which require “the most reasonable notice allowable under the circumstances.” 


A news release was issued by the County yesterday, but I am unable to find an agenda or a copy of the proposed resolution to be voted upon.


This appears to be a continuation of the new majority’s effort to limit public participation and to cater to special interests.  At the State of the County address last month, Smith announced that County administrators and staff are running things so smoothly, there’s no need for anyone outside the Administration Center to even ask what’s going on.


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