50 years ago: Proposal would let governor remove corrupt public officials
A proposal by state Sen. John Mathews of Jacksonville to empower the governor to remove municipal officials from office for malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty and drunkenness, ran into trouble in a committee of the Constitutional Convention.
Several members expressed reluctance to give the power to the governor except as a last resort.
Mathews said he believed in a two-party state, a governor would “bend over backwards” not to step into a local situation without overwhelming evidence of guilt.
Mathews described for the committee what he called “the horrible situation” in Jacksonville in which “four-fifths of our City Council and two-fifths of our City Commission are under indictment and there is no authority for their removal.”
He said the accused lawmakers would be willing to step down, but didn’t want to lose their pension rights.
“If the governor had the power, it would at least preserve orderly government — unpopular as it might be for a governor to name a city official,” Mathews said.
• City Utilities Commissioner George Mosely was planning an attack on air pollution caused by the city’s electric generating stations.
He was prompted to the action by an outspoken group that was concerned with their children’s health.
Mrs. Lee Adams, chair of the Committee for Clean Air of the organization Help Our Asthmatic Children, said technical studies showed the city emitted more than 66 percent of the sulfur dioxide released into the air over Jacksonville from all sources and most of that came from the municipally owned electric plants.
“We learned at the Duval Air Improvement Authority meeting that the answer to the sulfur dioxide poisoning from our city generators would be an alternative fuel and that fuel seems to be natural gas,” she said.
Adams said over the long term, the cost of natural gas would be less than the residual fuel oil that was in use, even though there might be an initial increase in cost to generate electricity.
“It has been reliably estimated that an average $10 monthly electric bill might be increased by about 10 cents. Certainly that would be a small price to pay for the health and welfare of our children,” she said.
• Robert Mallard, supervisor of Duval County’s voter registration and election office for three years, became county tax assessor.
His appointment, to fill the vacancy left by the Nov. 22 death of Ralph Walter, was announced by Gov. Haydon Burns.
Mallard had served as assistant supervisor of elections for 15 years when he was appointed supervisor by former Gov. Farris Bryant after Fleming Bowden died while in office.
Harry Nearing was named by Burns to succeed Mallard as supervisor of elections. A longtime friend and supporter of Burns, Nearing had served as chief inspector of the city Parking Meter Department since September 1964.
• A local electrical contractor charged the Duval County Electrician Examining Board was creating an artificial shortage of licensed journeyman electricians to the detriment of the public and the industry.
Among other issues, the shortage created higher wage scales, overtime and vastly increased costs to customers, said contractor Stanley Denson in a letter to the County Commission.
Commissioner Bob Harris had the letter put on the group’s agenda and on his motion, the board instructed County Engineer John Crosby to investigate the complaint.
Denson, a master electrician, was president of Stanley Denson Electrical Contractors Inc.
Under county regulations, Denson said, the examining board was created to pass on qualifications of people desiring to engage in electrical construction. He said the regulations called on the board to “examine applicants as to their practical knowledge of electrical construction.”
He underlined the words “practical knowledge.”
Denson pointed out that not a single journeyman’s license had been issued in Duval County in 11 months.
“This in effect means the examining board does not feel there is a helper or an apprentice in Duval County, regardless of years of experience or knowledge of the electrical trade, who is qualified to be a journeyman electrician. This is an insult to my intelligence as a master electrician,” he wrote.
• Martin Sack of Jacksonville was appointed to a judgeship in the 4th Judicial Circuit by Gov. Haydon Burns.
He succeeded Judge Charles Scott, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida.
Sack said he submitted his resignation as a judge on the North Florida District Court of Appeal, where he had served since July 15. He also was appointed by Burns to that post and before that was general counsel to the State Road Board, a position to which he was named shortly after Burns took office in January 1965.
• The Neptune Beach City Council approved a $295,270 budget for 1967.
It was $15,000 higher than the 1966 budget and provided $10,000 for street construction and $15,000 for drainage improvements.
The increase in funds would come from anticipated additional revenue from electric service and other sources.
• A new era in education began in Jacksonville when disabled children began being taught in special wings at schools.
Jacksonville was leading the state in the program, said Julia Wickersham, supervisor of the exceptional child program in public schools.
“I don’t feel there’s a facility in the state to match those in Duval County. I’ve inspected others and feel ours are superior,” she said.
Two new facilities designed for students with physical disabilities opened at Love Grove Elementary School on University Boulevard.
There were 35 students in the program rolling their wheelchairs or maneuvering with crutches or braces on carpeted floors.
The corridors were wider than normal to make it easy for students to get around and there were fewer doors — with handles instead of doorknobs — as well as grips on the walls in the restrooms to enable students to brace themselves.
• Mayor Lou Ritter and Dave Rawls, managing director of the Jacksonville Port Authority, said there was merit in the Local Government Study Commission’s proposal that the city’s airports be put under a combined port and airport authority.
The commission made the recommendation as part of its plan for sweeping changes in government in Duval County.
However, Rawls and Ritter expressed reservations about the mayor having total appointive powers to the authority.
Under the proposal, the mayor would appoint the seven-member board with City Council confirmation.
“Whether the mayor should make all the appointments or whether some should be made by the governor would have to be given consideration,” said Ritter.
Rawls said joint authorities had been successful in other municipalities, such as New York City, and consolidation could result in more efficiency and better services.
The study commission also said concessions at the new Jacksonville International Airport should be awarded through competitive bidding wherever possible.