Scott Singer must have been kicking himself.
They still must pass a formal resolution, but Boca Raton City Council members on Monday all but decided to hold a special election in August to fill what they consider a vacancy in the mayor’s office. Last week, Gov. Rick Scott suspended Susan Haynie after her arrest on seven public corruption charges.
One could argue that a vacancy doesn’t actually exist because it can be created only through resignation from office, death or loss of qualifications for office. But in her presentation Monday afternoon, City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser made the case that suspension satisfies the requirement and necessitates an election.
And here’s the irony.
Under the city’s old rules, deputy mayor Singer (pictured above) would have become mayor until the next scheduled city election. That’s in March 2020, when Haynie’s term ends. Singer could have served until then and, if elected, could have served two, full three-year terms. The council would have appointed someone to complete Singer’s term, which also ends in March 2020.
But at Singer’s urging, voters changed the system in 2016. Vacancies now must be filled at the next regularly scheduled election of any kind that falls within 150 days of the vacancy. That will be the Aug. 28 primary.
Singer introduced the ordinance to change the city charter. He touted it as putting the power in the public’s hands. It was a solution in search of a problem, since a vacancy hadn’t occurred in nearly a decade.
Singer, though, wanted to run for mayor. Haynie was expected to run for the county commission if she won a second term and so would have to resign as mayor in November of this year, whether she won the commission race or not. If Singer were not deputy mayor at that point, he wouldn’t succeed Haynie. The ordinance required an election, which would have happened in March 2019, and removed that potential problem.
Instead, Haynie is out of office earlier and under different circumstances. Singer now must run a quick campaign, perhaps against BocaWatch Publisher Al Zucaro. He lost to Haynie last year.
Zucaro supporters packed the city auditorium on Congress Avenue for Monday’s meeting. The comparatively low turnout in the August primary will benefit the candidate with the most energized base. That would be Zucaro. He will claim that the charges have vindicated his criticism of Haynie as unethical. Turnout for the November general election will be much higher, which could benefit Singer, but that election falls outside the 150-day window of Singer’s ordinance.
Because of that ordinance, the city might need the election for mayor in August and another to fill Singer’s council seat in November. Fortunately, it appears that the council can hold both the election for mayor and Singer’s Seat A vacancy in August. The council must act by May 30 to meet the election supervisor’s deadline.
In addition, the council must appoint someone to fill Singer’s seat until the special election. With only four members, the council could deadlock, as happened in Delray Beach last year. But the council meets only once a month in June, July and August.
Despite Haynie’s suspension, the work of the city goes on. Before that 2016 ordinance, the transition would have been orderly. The ordinance, though, will make for a summer of intense politicking. If he runs for mayor and loses, Singer will be kicking himself even more.
And more on what could happen
City Attorney Frieser noted often Monday that if Haynie is acquitted at trial or if the charges are dismissed, she must be reinstated.
Even if someone had won the special election, Haynie would get back her job. Conviction, a plea deal or any result other than acquittal would mean that Haynie is removed from office.
If Haynie were recalled, though, she would lose the chance for reinstatement. Haynie’s two main council critics, Monica Mayotte and Andrea O’Rourke, all but encouraged residents to try a recall petition, even though the requirements are much tougher than for a normal petition like the one that blocked a restaurant on the Wildflower property.
“Let’s just say the recall happens,” Mayotte said at one point. The hint was clear.
And who’s running for mayor
As of now, four candidates have filed paperwork to run for mayor of Boca Raton.
Singer has been campaigning since last fall and had raised $70,000 through March in direct contributions. Former planning and zoning board member Glenn Gromann said Monday he expects to stay in. He wants the candidates to sign a pledge to not “disparage any candidate or make personal attacks via mailers and otherwise.” Gromann had raised no money through March, but until last week everyone assumed that the election would take place next March, not in August.
Paul Preste has submitted paperwork. He got 5 percent in the three-way Seat D city council race two months ago and was at Monday’s meeting. Paperwork also is in from Bernard Korn. The property appraiser’s website shows no residence in Boca Raton for Korn.
Delray commission/CRA board
At tonight’s meeting, the Delray Beach City Commission officially will become the board of the community redevelopment agency. The details, however, probably won’t be final.
Mayor Shelly Petrolia and the commissioners can’t decide how many times they will meet as the CRA board until they become the CRA board and, well, meet. The former, commission-appointed board met three times a month and held a workshop. City Attorney Max Lohman told me Monday that he anticipates the commission scheduling fewer meetings.
Tonight, however, the commission could decide whether to add two appointed members to the CRA board. Some commissioners favor that hybrid approach. One member would serve a two-year term and the other would serve a four-year term.
The commission also must decide whether CRA Executive Director Jeff Costello should retain that title or be an assistant city manager. Costello and other CRA staffers were at the recent goal-setting meetings.
Roberts goes to Boynton
One Delray Beach staff member already has left since the commission took over the CRA. Renee Roberts, who dealt with public relations and media inquiries, has joined the Boynton Beach CRA. In an email, she pronounced her self “thrilled to embark on this new endeavor.”
Boynton Beach is starting its ambitious Town Square downtown redevelopment project, of which the 1927 high school is the centerpiece. Shades of Delray Beach and Old School Square. Former Delray Beach CRA Assistant Director Thuy Shutt took a similar position with the Boynton Beach CRA last year.
New Delray parking rules
Also at tonight’s meeting, the Delray Beach City Commission will codify new parking rules for downtown and the beachfront. The rules went through several iterations. The current version brings the city less money but pleases downtown merchants who wanted a balance between turning prime spaces over, to help customers, and not making costs excessive, to help employees.
FEMA’s Irma delays
Three weeks ago, several Florida lawmakers sent a letter asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expedite Hurricane Irma reimbursements to cities and counties. The letter said FEMA’s delay has left some local governments strapped for cash.
Fortunately, that’s not the case in Boca Raton or Delray Beach asking, though both cities have asked FEMA for serious money. Boca Raton submitted $13 million worth of storm-related expenses, such as debris removal and first responder overtime. Delray Beach is seeking $9 million. Reimbursements can take a year or even longer, especially if FEMA challenges some of the items.
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