Our View: Dire Failures In Century’s Charter Review Process, But It Can Be Salvaged

June 4, 2023

There have been dire failures in the process to rewrite Century’s charter, but the process can be salvaged moving forward.

A recent charter review committee meeting was held “to review the final draft of the Proposed Charter”, according to a public notice. The town clerk said the notice was posted outside town hall and “shared around town” on May 1, and we have photographic proof that it was posted at least at town hall by May 2. But the media was notified until after our questions, two days prior to the meeting.

“To review the final draft of the Proposed Charter”, the advertised purpose of the meeting, was not the focus of the meeting. Most of the meeting centered around discussion of, an approval of, a July 29, 2022, “Final Report” from the charter review committee memorandum – not the draft charter. The public had no way of knowing that a nearly 10-month old document would be discussed, certainly not keeping with the spirit of Florida’s Sunshine Law. The draft of the charter was discussed only briefly and approved only at the insistence of the town clerk.

NorthEscambia.com has made numerous public records requests in reference to charter documents over the years. We’ve attended essentially every minute of every charter review meeting in person on or the phone over the past several years.

We were blindsided by this recent poor notice, not because  we were left in dark, but because the citizens of Century were left in the dark as to what the charter committee was doing. Citizens deserve to know, and the town has a legal responsibility to make that happen.

Our records requests have been answered with various versions of the draft charter, while other versions were being read aloud from at council and charter review meetings. Less than a week before the meeting, we were provided yet again with the wrong version, but received a new version less than three days prior.

The “Final Report”, ultimately the focus of last week’s meeting, was never provided to us or the public. During the meeting, it was referred to as the “memorandum”, but the contents were never spoken aloud.

We questioned why during the meeting and were told it was the clerk’s fault for not providing the requested material.

In an unusual move just before the end of the meeting, NorthEscambia.com made a verbal public records request of each member of the charter review committee in possession of this ‘memorandum” and draft charter to provide us with a copy, citing Florida Statutes Chapter 119 “Public Records”. At that point, charter review committee chair Mary Bourgeois provided her physical copy, and we advised the other members that our request had been fulfilled.

The committee was meeting to approve the draft charter because last summer they finished what was their last meeting to date without ever formally approving their work product. The draft and the memo were forwarded to the town council by their consultant. The council sent it off to their attorney who returned a version that dropped a strong mayor and instead opted for a town manager without any power for a mayor.

The council rejected the attorney’s version, deciding to start over with a review. Somewhere along the way, someone decided to call the charter review committee back in to bless the final draft from last year.

To put it frankly, in our opinion, parts of the process have failed, but the end result is going to be the important part.

Let’s be super clear. Century’s current charter is a relic of days gone by, some 40 plus years of days gone by, and must be updated if the town is to survive.

The charter is the incorporation document for the town that outlines its powers and duties. After state law, the charter is the rule of the land in Century. The charter review committee was tasked with a rewrite, or updates, beginning meetings in 2019 with hopes of potentially making the ballot in 2020. The pandemic dashed those hopes.

After the pandemic, the charter review committee went back to regular meetings, but the town council was forced to cut the number of members due to lack of participation from 11 to six so they could have a quorum (majority) of members.

The town council’s work to review the charter section by section has made remarkable progress, thanks to their hard work and the groundwork of the charter review committee. Charter review members put countless hours into their draft not only in meetings but also in research.

NorthEscambia.com will continue to follow the progress. We expect the process henceforth to remain fully in the sunshine and abundantly clear to citizens.

The future of Century hangs in the balance.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


8 Responses to “Our View: Dire Failures In Century’s Charter Review Process, But It Can Be Salvaged”

  1. Citizen on June 5th, 2023 1:09 am

    Nothing wrong with the original charter.

    Glad some more citizens read it.

    No. Big. Deal.

  2. CJ Lewis on June 4th, 2023 7:07 pm

    Any Century Town Council member can propose by ordinance to revoke the town charter. If three council members support the ordinance, it would next go to voters probably during a special election. If a majority of Century voters vote to revoke the town’s charter, the county would oversee the process. Few people would notice. Century residents, business owners and property owners would no longer have to pay extra town taxes and fees. Basically, Century would become like Bratt, McDavid, Walnut Hill, etc. By the way, the incorporation of new municipalities and the dissolution of old ones is more common than one might think. The two page document at the link below is from the Florida League of Cities. In Escambia County, Bluff Springs was abolished in 1889 and Molino was abolished in 1913.

  3. Escambia Tax Payer on June 4th, 2023 6:51 pm

    Time for Mr. DeSantis to come in, revoke the city charter and appoint a council to close out the towns business, then the county take this area back over and weed out the people that have been taking advantage of the people of the town.

  4. Jim Stanton on June 4th, 2023 5:26 pm

    It sounds like the first order of business should be for the town to fire the attorney and get one that will work for what the town wants, not what the attorney wants. The form of government the town wants is none of the attorney’s business, since he doesn’t live here, he should be working with the town to get what they want, not what he wants.

  5. C F on June 4th, 2023 5:21 pm

    It seems like Century doesn’t really need a charter as much as a dissolution. Time and time again Century exhibits poor management of money and personnel. Just pull the plug already.

  6. RaD on June 4th, 2023 9:51 am

    I see little being provided that reinforces the need for a City to exist while there is plenty of evidence in this and other articles over the last decade that supports Century revoking their charter and returning to county rule. I find it amazing this option is never even discussed by the City.

  7. DP on June 4th, 2023 9:37 am

    It’s clearly obvious that this committee all or in part have no idea what they are doing. This is a matter that has to be gotten right with very little room for correction. It appears the way they are headed they will in fact get it but it will be full of errors and other issues that will need to be corrected in the future. If they can’t even get the public notice published or posted correctly than who in their right mind would think they can accomplish anything else. Maybe someone can create a checklist in crayon so they can make sure they don’t miss anything. What a joke. Over and over and over

  8. SW on June 4th, 2023 7:29 am

    Best thing to do would be for the charter to be revoked and the town disbanded.