In November 1996, over 500,000 Pinellas County voters voted for term limits for our constitutional officers and county commissioners. The problem in Pinellas began even though the voters voted for term limits and this was the law for Pinellas County at the time, the law never made it into the charter.
In September 2003 the Florida Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for voters to set term limits for their constitutional officers (sheriff, clerk of the courts, tax collectors, & property appraisers) and their county commissioners, therefore constitutional officers and county commissioners remained in office as long as they were winning elections. A break-through for the voters, in May 2012, the Florida Supreme Court said oops, we were wrong, we are going to reverse our ruling. Voters can set term limits for their constitutional officers and county commissioners.
After that ruling all of the other “home ruled” counties in Florida adhered to the Supreme Court’s ruling with the exception of Pinellas County! Pinellas County Commissioners, Susan Latavala, John Moroni, Karen Seele and Ken Welch, not only remained in office, they used their political influence and our tax dollars to challenge the two citizens, who challenged them on how they can simply ignore the votes.
Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, Jr., Coretta Scott-King, Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Viola Liuzzo, James Bevel, Diane Nash, Congressman John Lewis and many more, my co-plaintiff Patrick Wheeler and I are as different in thought, ethnicity, age, political affiliation as those civil rights giants referenced. And like those referenced, we have a belief in something bigger than the both of us. We believe it is our responsibility to not allow the struggle and the deaths that ensued for the right for all Americans to vote to be in vain in Pinellas County, Florida.
Maria L. Scruggs