One man wearing two hats: Is it constitutional? - FOX 13 News

One man wearing two hats: Is it constitutional?

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INDIAN SHORES (FOX 13) -

It's hard to find a good job these days, but how would you like to have two jobs at the same time -- earning a combined salary of more than $140,000?

That's the setup for E.D. Williams, chief of police and town administrator for Indian Shores. The City Council and many residents like the arrangement, but some people who live in the tiny beach town in Pinellas County question whether Williams has been given too much power and money.

"Personally, I don't think one person needs to hold two offices, especially in such a small town," said Mike Rogacki, owner of Mahuffer's Bar, which is just down the road from Town Hall. "One person gets too much power or one person makes too many decisions that affect everything else."

Florida's Constitution is designed to prevent that from happening. The constitution says no person shall hold at the same time more than one office.

"I would think 99.99 percent of the people of Florida are not aware of Article II, section 5(a) of the Florida Constitution, which imposes this restriction on holding dual offices in our state," said Professor Joseph Little, who's taught Florida constitutional law at the University of Florida for more than 30 years.

Professor Little says the law is clear, and it seems clear to him that Indian Shores is not following the constitution. "I think it's a plain violation."

But the chief of Indian Shores has held both positions since 2006. Williams came to Indian Shores after retiring from the Tampa Police Department in 1987. He currently has two contracts with the town.

As chief of police, he's paid $92,539.00 annually. As town administrator -- which we're told is a part-time position -- he earns $48,670.00.

"Does he need to be earning that much money for a town of a thousand people?" asked Teo Ruscin.

Ruscin ran for mayor of Indian Shores earlier this year and lost. The chief's two salaries really bother him. "It's out of whack with every other beach town, we spend way too much."

He points to Clearwater, for example, a city with a population of 109,000 and a police force which includes 231 full-time sworn officers. Police Chief Anthony Holloway earns $121,975. The part-time mayor, George Cretekos, makes $23,794.

E.D. Williams is paid $92,539 to be chief of police and $48,670 to be the town administrator, which is a part-time job.

PDF: Copies of contracts

The Indian Shores Police Department includes just 11 full-time sworn officers and a population of 1,300 full-time residents.

Town Councilmen Bill Smith says Williams is doing a good job is surprised some people might be upset. "We've really had no complaints or comments made about this."

The town attorney, Jim Yacavone, says he does not believe Indian Shores is violating the constitutional provisions on dual Office Holding. "His job, or his office, is police chief. And what we're calling his town administrator duties are additional responsibilities that he is doing in his office of police chief."

So what exactly is the position of town administrator? The job description says this person who holds this job is "The Chief Administrative Executive and has staff authority over all employees of the town other than the Town Attorney."

"Obviously there's a conflict of interest there," offered Theo Ruscin.

The position requires the town administrator to act as chief personnel officer for the town on complex matters, is directly involved in the hiring, evaluating, promoting and disciplining of department heads and employees, establishes procedure for others to follow in such matters.

PDF: Read full job description

But the town attorney insists there's no conflict because, despite what the job description says, the position is simply administrative.

"You can't play dumb to everything, everybody has to follow some type of rule, you know," said Mike Rogacki.

Professor Little told FOX 13, if the town is secure in its position, it could ask the Attorney General's Office for an opinion. The town attorney says he will make the request if the City Council asks him, but so far that hasn't happened.

"I understand attorney generals do offer an opinion. They have some precedential value, but it's not like having the Supreme Court make a decision," said Yacavone.

Back in 2006, the city of Casselberry was conflicted on the issue. The city attorney, Catherine Reischmann, asked if it was permissible for the police chief to be serving also as temporary city manager, but the Attorney General's Office concluded it violated dual office holding and the chief would have to resign his position if he wanted to take on a second office.

Chief Williams declined to be interviewed for our story calling it a legal matter, but in a letter to FOX 13 he wrote, "In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, brief research reveals 35 of the 411 municipalities in Florida have one person serving in two capacities, mostly small towns such as Indian Shores."

Professor Little says that may indeed be true because there is no law against having two jobs; the constitution only prohibits two offices.

"Many jobs are not offices," explained Little. "A city manager might also serve as a janitor without violating the constitution."

He also concedes other communities might be doing it, but, "That does not change the illegality of the practice."

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