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Date of Issue: July 21, 2010

7 weeks to Stoltzfus recall election

There will be a lot of activity in Anna Maria the next seven weeks, now that Chief Judge Lee Haworth of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court has set Sept. 7 as the date for the recall election of Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus.

Haworth set the date for the recall election after receiving and accepting the Recall Commissioner Stoltzfus petition from Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat.

Sweat certified the signatures of 259 registered Anna Maria voters, amounting to 19 percent of the eligible 1,362 voters in the city. The recall committee was required to submit two petitions to Sweat. The first petition had 241 signatures. The second petition, which included a defense statement by Stoltzfus, was required to have a minimum of 204 voter signatures.

Stoltzfus was allowed five days to resign from office after the recall petition was certified. He was notified of the petition at his Pennsylvania home, and later, through his attorney, announced he would not resign.

Pending motions, election date

The recall election date might still be in doubt.

Stoltzfus has refiled his motion to dismiss the recall petition on the grounds it is “legally insufficient.”

Judge Edward Nicholas has yet to make a ruling on that motion, but a hearing is scheduled for Aug. 12, according to attorney Richard Harrison, who represents Stoltzfus. However, the hearing for the case was not on the Manatee County Clerk of Courts website as of the press deadline July 19 for this week’s Islander.

Haworth indicated in his order that the election date might be amended, pending the outcome of any decision by Nicholas on the recall petition and/or the public records request filed by Michael Barfield of Sarasota against Stoltzfus. Nicholas also is the judge in that case.

The chief judge ordered Nicholas to move “promptly” on the cases and provide him with any ruling as soon as possible.

Harrison said he believes Nicholas will move quickly on the motion to dismiss the recall, and there likely would be no recall election until the judge issues a decision. If Nicholas determines the petition is invalid, Harrison said there would be no recall election.

Recall committee chair Robert Carter has retained counsel from the Bradenton law firm of Blalock, Walters, Held and Johnson to represent him at the hearing.

Commissioner election

The Florida statute on recall provides for the election of a commissioner to succeed the recalled commissioner at the same time and location as the recall vote.

If the recall vote fails, Stoltzfus retains his seat, and any election of a commissioner to replace him is invalid.

Qualifying

Candidates who seek to fill the remainder of Stoltzfus’ term, should the recall pass, have from 9 a.m. July 21 to noon July 30 to qualify. Qualifying is done at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

If the recall is successful, but no candidate qualified for the vacancy, the city commission would vote on a qualified resident to fill the remainder of Stoltzfus’ term, which expires in November 2011.

Two elections, one qualification

One person cannot qualify to run for commissioner in both the recall election and the Nov. 2 general election.

 Gary Holland, the assistant general counsel of the Florida Department of State, issued a ruling to Sweat that a candidate cannot qualify for both the recalled seat and for one of the two commission seats up for election in the Nov. 2 general election. Florida law prohibits a candidate from qualifying for “more than one public office if the terms or any part thereof run concurrently (overlap) with each other,” the state statute reads.

Campaigning

Holland said the Florida recall statute provides that a recall election be run exactly as a normal election.

“Nothing should be different regarding candidate qualifying or reporting procedures,” he said.

Holland said campaigning prior to the recall election is allowed.

The polling is scheduled to take place at the Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

Public records request

Haworth also is following the public records case of Michael Barfield v. Stoltzfus and has indicated a decision by Nicholas could affect the recall election date.

Barfield’s attorney, Valerie Fernandez, has filed a writ of mandamus to have Stoltzfus’ computer and hard drive examined for any further e-mails Stoltzfus might have pertaining to public business.

Stoltzfus already has provided four collections of e-mails to the city and Fernandez and he maintains there are no further e-mails on his computer that relate to city business.

Nicholas rejected a motion by Harrison to dismiss the writ of mandamus.

The court date for the public records case is Sept. 21, but could be held sooner if Nicholas determines to advance the hearing.

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