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Ordinances And Codification Procedures

1/9/03 -City Commissioners reviewed a presentation at the January 7, 2003 City Commission meeting explaining the process and errors involved in a recent printing of the City Code. The PowerPoint presentation reviewed the receipt of the newly enacted code and the process that followed.

In general, after the City Commission passes an ordinance, the City Attorney's office sends a electronic and hard copy of the final version to the City Clerk's Office. The City Clerk's office dates and numbers the passed ordinance and then forwards it by e-mail to the Municipal Code Corporation (MCC). A copy of the e-mailed ordinance is archived electronically and the hard copy is filed. An editor at MCC then reviews the ordinance and it is inserted into the proper section of the Code.

It is important to note that when an amendment is adding language to an existing ordinance, the new language is underlined. When an amendment seeks to remove language from an existing ordinance, the language is struck-through.

Ordinance number 02-01 (sections 90-394 and 90-395) was passed on January 2, 2002 and transmitted by the City Attorney's office to the City Clerk's office the following day. The Clerk's office attached the number of the ordinance, the date it was passed and e-mailed the document to MCC on April 5. Ordinance number 02-06 was passed on February 20, 2002 and transmitted by the City Attorney's office to the City Clerk's that same day. The Clerk's office attached the number of the ordinance, the date it was passed and e-mailed the document to MCC on April 5. The documents as transmitted are available on the City's website. Electronic copies of the ordinances are archived and hard copies are stored in the City vault.

Due to a re-codification effort, the e-mailing of both ordinances was done on April 5. "Generally, a newly passed ordinance is sent the day after it is enacted by the Commission," noted City Clerk, Cheri Smith.

A 30-year veteran editor at MCC reviewed the documents and noticed some strange strike-throughs on the document. She called the City Clerk's office and asked if the document that was sent was correct but did not ask specifically about the strike-throughs. The unusual formatting included language that was both underlined and struck-through, as well as lines running through the names of both the Mayor and the City Clerk which appear at the bottom of each passed ordinance.

The editor at MCC interpreted this to mean that the language should be deleted from the ordinance, causing the unintentional omission of said language from the ordinance as passed. This did not, in any way, change the intent of the Commission or the ability to legally enforce the laws as passed.

As noted by the City Attorney in a memo dated December 5, 2002 to the Planning Board and City Commissioners, "Any mispublication of [land development regulations] triggers a well-settled rule of law: A codification error does not alter the underlying legislative intent of the city commission. In other words, the publication error to the variance ordinance does not undermine that ordinance's effectiveness."

It was agreed by the City Commissioners and MCC alike, that there was no intentional omissions or efforts by any City officials to cause a change in the language passed by the Commission.

It is not exactly known how the error occurred. "There was some kind of miscommunication along the transmission route," noted Lawton Langford of MCC. "Also, the editor did not notice a footnote in regards to ordinance 02-06. Both have been corrected in the Supplement."

In order to ensure this type of error does not occur again, the City Clerk's office will send the passed ordinance by e-mail in both an MS Word form as well as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file, which is exactly like sending a hard copy of the document. "This will continue to ensure quick submission of the ordinances while minimizing the possibility for errors," said Smith.

"From time-to-time, error does occur. The City Clerk's office along with the City Attorney's office makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the passed and codified ordinances, which is a complicated process" said City Manager Julio Avael. "To continue with our commitment to Trust in Government, the City Commission has asked that we review the ordinances passed since January 1, 1999, to the present to be absolutely certain all information contained in the code reflects what was passed by the City Commission. We are happy to facilitate this task by hiring an independent party to do the comparison."



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