Civility tested as BOCC debates signs, jail

Published: Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 09:48 AM.

The Board of County Commissioners’ renewed pledge of civility was tested during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Barbed comments were exchanged between commissioners, former commissioners and staff during a testy meeting that included debates on a jail inspection and the removal of the old Bay Medical/Beacon Hill Living sign in Beacon Hill.

During a period of calm early in the 140-minute meeting, commissioners received an update on legal issues pertaining to redistricting and county-wide voting as well as a recap and proposed path forward for beach restoration on St. Joseph Peninsula.

The county and the federal decree under which elections are conducted was not impacted by a recent U.S. Supreme Court which struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act, said attorney Michael Spellman, the county’s counsel on election matters.

The federal decree put in place in Gulf County in 1986, Spellman said, fell under the jurisdiction spelled out in Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The Supreme Court decision impacted only Sections 4-5 and, in Florida, five counties under the mandates of those sections.

Commissioners approved 3-2 (Smiley, McLemore dissenting) to spend $8,000-$12,000 for Spellman to research whether voting districts are sufficiently “compact”, the first prong to a motion to overturn the federal decree.

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