Florida Today | By Ralph Chapoco | May 24, 2022
Public Defender Blaise Trettis wants to continue his mission to have a recall provision for school board members included in the county’s charter.
A proposal to recall school board members for their policy decisions was voted down two weeks ago by a majority of commission members present.
About one week later, Trettis sent an email to the Charter Review Commission, seeking to amend an existing proposal already before the commission that was introduced to correct a misspelling in the county’s charter concerning the recall of other elected officials.
That amendment, according to Trettis, would add school board members to the list of other county officials who can be recalled.
“I think it is needed because school board members are the only county officers who are excluded from recall under the existing county charter,” Trettis told FLORIDA TODAY. “All the other county constitutional officers can be subject to recall election in the charter.”
There are actually two nearly identical proposalscurrently before the commission meant to correct the typo in the charter outlining the rules related to recalls for county commissioners and other elected officials. Committee Chair Mike Haridopolos recommended the two proposals receive another hearing because they are so similar.
Proposals still under consideration may be amended at the direction of the committee, affording Trettis an opportunity to keep a school board recall provision in the charter alive, after his original proposal failed.
According to the accompanying agenda packet, Trettis’ newest proposal suggests modifying section 5.2 of the county charter not only to correct the typo that already exists, but also add school board members to the list of elected county officials the electorate may recall.
Absent in the amended proposal, however, is any language allowing for a recall based on policy.
Trettis introduced his first proposal for recalling school board members back in February, invoking strong emotions on both sides of the culture war divide.
Trettis’ original proposal would have allowed school board members to be ousted for malfeasance as well as policy decisions they made while discharging their duties.
That proposal, perhaps more than any other, has led to some of the most passionate debate at the charter commission meetings. In the meetings since its introduction, both supporters and opponents rallied their respective sides and tried to make their case to committee members.
While the mask mandate may have been the original justification, the discussions turned to other issues in the ongoing culture wars plaguing communities throughout the country, from transgender issues to the banning of books and the right to speak at public meetings.
Much of the same was expected nearly two weeks ago when members of the charter review commission convened for their regular monthly meeting. Everyone, from the committee to the public, expected debate to continue until the matter had its third and final hearing.
But with more than 20 proposals still before the commission, Haridopolos decided to expedite matters and called for a procedural change that would allow the review commission to remove a proposal from consideration if a majority of those members present agreed to it by vote.
“My thinking is that if you can’t even get a majority of people at the meeting to agree to consider moving forward with it, then you likely won’t get the 10 out of 15 votes to put it on the ballot,” Haridopolos said.
That day the committee also had several members absent, including some who expressed a willingness to consider the proposed recall provision for the charter. It created an opening just wide enough for opponents to maneuver and kill Trettis’ proposal with a 6-5 vote.
Some members suggested that the would have supported the recall provision had Trettis not insisted on language allowing school board members to be recalled for policy decisions.
Trettis was unwilling to compromise because it violated his central reason for recalling school board members after the Brevard School Board’s imposed a mask mandate on schools in defiance of an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Trettis is now asking the body to reconsider the recall provision with one significant change: It no longer provides a board member’s votes on policy as a rational for a recall.
“There is a massive difference, which is this latest proposal, which I just amended, does not have the ‘up to three votes by school board member’ as grounds for recall,” Trettis said.
He may have the support needed to carry this to the ballot.
“I think all elected officials should be held to the same standard all across the state to be recalled based on Florida general law,” said Pamela Castellana, chair of the Brevard County Democrats, without having read the specifics of the proposal.