This is a bit of a shock. The city’s General Counsel’s Office says school board members are constitutional officers, and therefore are not covered by the term limits law passed by voters back in 1992. Like the Sheriff, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections, Clerk of the Courts, there are no term limits for members of the School Board.
This has to come as a big surprise to all the members of the school board who did not seek re-election because they assumed they were term limited. And with several people already having announced they would seek what they thought were open seats on the board.
Board members who had been elected in 1992 were allowed to serve their two full terms, even if that took them beyond the assumed two term limit. So the members who were first elected in 2000 were those who mistakenly thought they had to leave after 8 years. And nobody is sure exactly how this misunderstanding wound up being common knowledge. In 2002, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that constitutional officers were not bound by the term limit law, but since the school board was not specifically addressed, everyone apparently assumed that since they are locally elected, they were bound by the law.
Not so much.
So what does this mean? Well it means that the school board members who thought they had to leave after 8 years have no legal requirement to leave. Current chair Tommy Hazouri told The Times-Union that he would honor the 8 year limit because that was the understanding the voters had when he was elected. Board Member Stan Jordan said the same thing. But the perhaps more interesting question is how this misunderstanding came to be accepted fact. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but what other surprises are lurking in the woodwork?
I don’t know either. They’re lurking.