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Date of Issue: August 04, 2010

Stoltzfus, Aubry qualify for recall race

Anna Maria City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus need not worry about name recognition in the city’s upcoming special election.

On the Sept. 7 ballot, voters will be asked whether they want to recall Stoltzfus from the seat he was elected to last November.

Additionally, voters will be asked whether they want to elect Stoltzfus to fill the vacancy that would be created if the recall campaign against him succeeds. Stoltzfus filed qualifying papers early July 30 at city hall, then returned shortly before noon to complete the process.

“I chose to become a candidate in my own recall election even though I doubt that election will take place,” Stoltzfus stated. “I'm no attorney, but I’ve reviewed the case law my attorney Richard Harrison cites in his petition, and it’s pretty clear to me, this recall attempt is illegitimate. I can't imagine it won’t be tossed.”

The other candidate for the seat is architect Gene Aubry, who in mid-July announced his intention to run in the special election.

In the days prior to the qualifying deadline, attorneys involved in the recall matter reviewed statutes, ordinances and case law to determine whether Stoltzfus could run for the office he might be removed from.

Stoltzfus attorney Richard Harrison said there are no prohibitions on Stoltzfus “qualifying as a candidate to ‘replace’ himself in the event the recall election is a success.”

Nor could city attorney Jim Dye state a reason that Stoltzfus could not run for an open seat following a recall. There is nothing in the city’s election code prohibiting such a bid, Dye said.

Spokespeople from the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the division of elections in the Florida Secretary of State’s Office confirmed, upon an initial review, that there is no obstacle to Stoltzfus seeking the seat.

An attorney general opinion on a recall matter in 1975 states, “In this state, a member of the governing body of a
 municipality who is the subject of recall proceedings is eligible to qualify and run as a candidate to succeed
 himself in the event of his removal at the recall election.”

The opinion cites a 1974 Florida Supreme Court ruling that “absent an express constitutional or legislative disqualification, a municipal officer subject to recall
 is eligible to qualify and run as a candidate to succeed himself if
 recalled.”

Harrison said, “There is no legal impediment to him qualifying for the recall election.”

Stoltzfus won a commission seat last November after one of the more raucous and riveting elections on the Island in years.

Since taking his oath of office, the commissioner has taken on developments — specifically Pine Avenue Restoration projects in the ROR — that he maintains do not comply with the city’s comprehensive plan, and citizens have taken on Stoltzfus for actions they maintain violated open-government laws and city policy and posed financial harm to the city.

The recall campaign began in April, following the release and publication of a series of e-mails to and from Stoltzfus. Neither the chair of the Recall Stoltzfus Committee nor the committee’s attorney returned calls by The Islander’s deadline.

Aubry, long active in Anna Maria’s civic sphere, said friends suggested he consider running for commission. He said he gave it some thought, picked up a qualifying packet and followed the process.

“Stuff has boiled up, and it’s time to calm down, look at the facts and make good decisions,” he said.

Aubry said he offers open mindedness; experience with construction, finance and management; an interest in Island living and preservation and an enthusiasm for teamwork.

Additionally, Aubry said he offers “an assurance that all development in the ROR district is done in strict accordance with the comp plan and continues to be less dense than what is allowed.”

Aubry has designed numerous plans for the district, including for Pine Avenue Restoration and the newly approved Thrasher plan for a green village on Pine.

Regarding residential neighborhoods, he said he is committed to maintaining “the residential areas of the city as they are and to support and respect the property rights of all, whether single-family, duplex owners or existing vacation rental properties.”

When he ran for office last fall, Stoltzfus focused on concerns with parking and development in the ROR, and the need for stronger representation of residential interests on the commission.

The day after he entered the recall race, Stoltzfus said he’s committed to preserving “the character and the charm of one of the few unexploited places left in the state of Florida.”

He also said he won’t be intimidated.

“Not by lawsuits from PAR, not by slander from PAR's cronies, not by baseless ethics charges by friends of PAR's principals, not by an illegitimate recall effort, and not by false criminal charges filed against me by Micheal Coleman, the managing partner of PAR,” Stoltzfus said, referring to Pine Avenue Restoration and one of its principals.

“I believe most of the people of Anna Maria are seeing through this assault PAR, and especially Coleman, has waged on me and are discerning enough to realize: I haven't targeted Coleman or PAR, they have targeted me.”

Coleman had this to say: "There is a written record, in Stoltzfus’ own words, showing he intended to both harm and deceive taxpayers with — now proven baseless — lawsuits which he offered to finance while hiding his role. Calling PAR principals ‘seriously greedy bastards’ and typing ‘bulldoze those buildings,’ he harassed people simply because of their relationship to PAR. This makes his assertion ‘I have not targeted PAR’ laughable. Given this, why would anyone believe what Stoltzfus has to say?

“His obsession with stopping PAR has had an extremely divisive and destructive effect on our town. PAR has yet to take any action, which may be justified by what Stoltzfus has said and done in violation of our rights. His own words and deeds have ‘targeted him.’”

Balloting will take place at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., unless Stoltzfus’ legal challenge to the recall prevents or delays the election. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 12 at the judicial center in Bradenton.

“The hearing will occur in August, and we’re still confident in our legal position,” Harrison said. “And if the judge agrees with us, there won’t be an election in September.”

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