The architect of a maneuver that kept a sick-time ballot measure off the Nov. 6 ballot turns out to be Lew Oliver, the head of Orange County’s Republican Party.
Oliver, a lawyer and longtime party leader, said the idea hit him after hearing lawyers fighting for the sick-time ballot measure argue in court that county commissioners were responsible for crafting a title and summary for the measure.
Since it had that power, Oliver suggested that the County Commission take its time to fix what he says is misleading language.
The commission voted 4-3 to hire a ballot language expert and hold a workshop and public hearing on the issue. By doing so, they delayed voting on the initiative until after the deadline for printing the fall ballot had passed.
“I’d like to take the credit for this and say I came up with it,” Oliver said. “But I didn’t. They did.”
On Tuesday night, an Orange Circuit judge’s panel comprised of three Republicans denied an emergency request to force the sick-time initiative onto the Nov. 6 ballot.
County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, a Republican, voted against delaying the sick-time measure, but she has defended the commission’s decision to delay because she, too, thinks the initiative’s language is unclear.
Jacobs and the county’s lawyers have vowed it would eventually go to voters likely in 2014.
A county spokesman said Orange plans to hire Wade Vose as its ballot expert since he was the lawyer for Orange’s recent charter review commission. Vose is a well-known Republican who describes himself as a “a bit of a right-winger” on a blog post from April 2011.
“Any ideological interests I have do not enter into my representation,” Vose said Wednesday.
Oliver said after getting the idea he called County Attorney Jeff Newton and Commissioner Fred Brummer, who offered the plan.
“He was the one who told me that we have the responsibility to make sure that the [sick-time ballot measure] language is correct,” Brummer said.
Newton would later tell commissioners Oliver’s idea wasn’t legal in his opinion. But Brummer and Commissioners Scott Boyd, John Martinez and Jennifer Thompson voted to delay and rework the ballot language anyway, triggering last week’s flurry of legal fights.
Oliver said he wasn’t acting as a lobbyist for the array of business groups opposing the measure and instead described his work as that of a private citizen.
Critics had already accused commissioners of bowing to business interests who wanted the sick-time plan killed. Business leaders said it would cost millions of dollars and prompt them to lay off workers.
“Given the underhanded nature of the Republican Party’s involvement by strategizing behind closed doors with their pet commissioner, it’s clear that even they know they were doing wrong by middle-class families in Orange County,” said state Rep. Scott Randolph, an Orlando lawyer for the pro-sick-time group and a top Orange County Democrat.