The Charlotte County Airport Authority is a Special District created by the Florida Legislature. As such, it has the duty and responsibility under Florida law, to conduct its own elections. The Supervisor of Elections traditionally has voluntarily assisted the Airport Authority with their elections. In 2012, this office advised the Authority that, due to a change in the law in 1989 dealing with Special Districts, its elections had not been in compliance with the law since that date. Its partisan elections with a Primary Election should have been nonpartisan and part of the General Election.
The history of the Airport Authority and the reason this office took action is as follows.
In 1963 the Florida State Legislature created the Charlotte County Development Commission. Its enabling act provided:
“Election of members of the Development Commission shall be consistent with the manner of election of other county officials: Chapter 63-1207 House Bill No. 2023” (i.e. partisan elections with a Primary Election).
In 1970, the legislature changed the name to the Charlotte County Development Authority.
In 1989, F.S. 189.405(2)(c) was enacted (the “Uniform Special District Accountability Act”) which specified:
“Elections for governing body members elected by registered electors shall be nonpartisan, except when partisan electors are specified by the district’s charter (emphasis supplied).
Research by this office into the enabling legislation (charter) of the Airport Authority revealed that there was no provision for partisan elections.
In 1998 the authority’s name was changed to the Charlotte County Airport Authority, specified a General Election and repealed all prior special acts relating to the Charlotte County Development Authority…F.S. Chapter 98-508.
In 2010, there were no contested elections for the Airport Authority.
In 2012, there were contested elections for Districts 1 & 3, which prompted this office’s research into its charter. It was clear that, since 1989, the Airport Authority’s elections should have been nonpartisan and part of the General Election.
This office requested and obtained an opinion from the Florida Attorney General. The opinion confirmed that a nonpartisan/General Election was required by law. The full opinion may be reviewed by following this Link.
Newspaper reports of the necessity of a Special Election at an estimate of $250,000.00 were false, and sensationalist. In 2012, this office conducted the authority’s elections as nonpartisan in the General Election at no cost to the Authority. This office continues to assist the Authority in the conduct of their elections at no cost to them.
In 2013, the Authority petitioned for, and received from the Florida Legislature, a change back to partisan/Primary elections.