County Fee Offices Dispute May Be Even More Complicated Than We Thought

Are there grounds for another lawsuit to overturn term limits for the county fee offices and the sheriff?

That could be an issue at work in the current controversy over having the fee offices, like County Clerk and Register of Deeds, submit budget and staffing requirements to the County Commission.

The heart of the argument is whether these offices are created by the county charter or whether they are "constitutional offices" required by the state constitution. If they are creatures of the charter, then it would appear that County Commission can require them to submit budgets and have a great deal of say in their operations.

There has been some discussion among county officeholders about another lawsuit to "clarify" their position vis-a-vis term limits. No one has had the cojones to go for it. But a lawsuit over budget control and autonomy from County Commission provides a vehicle to raise the issue and re-argue whether constitutional officers can be term-limited. The state Supreme Court said they were covered by term limits because they were elected officials. But the court also ruled the charter invalid because it was silent on the creation of these offices.

If they are constitutional offices, as in other counties without a charter form of government, then they are independent. If they are not under the charter, then can they still be subject to term limits? Given the last Supreme Court decision it is unlikely that term limits can be overturned.