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Red-light camera referendum won't make Nov. ballot

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Published:   |   Updated: August 31, 2014 at 11:42 AM

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A proposed ordinance that, if passed, would have banned red-light cameras from the city will not be on November ballots, and the matter seems headed for a special election.

In June, red-light camera opponents Pat and Shirley Miketinac submitted enough signed petitions to Hernando County’s supervisor of elections to have voters consider the ordinance in November. But Brooksville officials say there are legal problems with the ballot language.

Resulting legal maneuvers have led to the city’s delay in submitting ballot language to Elections Supervisor Shirley Anderson.

“The problem is, the (Miketinacs’) ballot (language) is too over-reaching,” City Attorney Cliff Taylor said. “They could have done what it was intended to do if it hadn’t gone overboard.”

The referendum states the red-light cameras would be dismantled immediately if the ordinance passes, which would force the city to breach its existing contract and pay damages to the camera company.

The referendum also prohibits any current or future city council from initiating any red-light camera ordinance, a violation of home rule, Taylor said.

At the city council’s request, Taylor has asked a judge to reject the Miketinacs’ referendum language on constitutional grounds. Taylor late last week said he had not received a response to that request.

That delay led city officials to miss an Aug. 22 deadline to submit ballot language to the elections supervisor.

“I’ve heard nothing,” Anderson said. “It was up to them (Brooksville officials) to give me the language. That’s so I can do what I need to do to have a spot on the ballot.”

Bill Sharpe, a Tallahassee lawyer representing the Miketinacs at no charge, said he will try to force the city to hold a special election on the issue.

“They could have done what was necessary to put this on the ballot,” Sharpe said. “I’m sure there’s hoops to jump through, but that would be a lot easier than going to court.

“It’s not the citizens’ fault that (the city) wouldn’t put it on the ballot, but the citizens will wind up paying for it. Maybe they’ll think of that the next time these folks run for office.”

Asked why he decided to help the Miketinacs at no charge, Sharpe said it was because they, and others, “have been stonewalled at every turn.”

“Let the people vote,” he said. “These (red-light cameras) are so unpopular all over the place, but I’m not sure there’s been much of a challenge at this level. The thing to do is let the voters decide if they want them up or not.”

Brooksville Mayor Kevin Hohn, who has supported red-light cameras, said that if a judge deems the Miketinacs’ ballot language constitutional, there may be no choice but to hold a special election.

“I would certainly support that,” Hohn said.

City Attorney Taylor predicted a special election likely would not be held until 2015.

Another wrinkle was added recently when a group called Keep Florida Roads Safe filed a motion in circuit court to consolidate a suit it filed against the Miketinacs with the city’s request to the court.

Taylor characterized the group’s motion as a distraction to the city’s efforts, because it brings personalities into the matter, which the city wants to avoid.

“We don’t want the personal fight, just the legal fight,” the city attorney said.

Shirley Miketinac vowed to stay in the fight.

“We’ll take it one step at a time, one hearing at a time,” she said. “If it goes to a special election, maybe we can set up a legal fund to prevent this from being a burden on the taxpayers.

“A lot of people worked very hard to get this on the ballot. It’s for the people of Brooksville. We just hope the right thing will happen.”

mdbates@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5290

gfox@tampatrib.com

(352) 544-5283

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