ANNA MARIA — Volunteers will start going door-to-door this week asking registered voters to sign a petition to recall City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus, who was elected last November.
Anna Maria resident Bob Carter notified Mayor Fran Barford last Thursday that the Recall Harry Stoltzfus Committee will begin collecting signatures for a recall starting on April 22. Carter, who heads the committee, said he is not usually involved in politics.
“Basically, I’m an OK guy with our government,” Carter said. “But when I started reading the e-mails, I couldn’t not get engaged.”
Stoltzfus has come under fire as a result of some e-mails that he has been forced to release because of a public records request. He has been named in a lawsuit seeking the e-mails he received in performance of his duties as a commissioner.
Carter said he started the recall petition because “nobody else stepped for-ward.” “I really believe that most people prefer that we would obey the Sunshine Laws and have transparency in government,” he said.
Carter said the more he read of the released e-mails, the more he thought he did, in fact, want to do something about the situation.
“My focus is on the Sunshine Laws, transparency and public trust,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about for me. This is not about personalities.”
Under the city charter, the voters can work to recall any elected official under the Florida statutes dealing with recalls.
The recall petition states misfeasance and malfeasance as the grounds for the recall. Misfeasance is improper and unlawful execution of an act that in itself is lawful and proper. Malfeasance is misconduct, especially by a public official.
The petition further claims that Stoltzfus violated the Sunshine Laws by holding “electronic meetings and using liaisons to discuss public business.”
The petition also states that the com-missioner’s e-mails contained “libelous and inflammatory remarks concerning city staff, citizens and professional consultants, in violation of the city’s stated policy against personal attacks, which expose the city to significant legal expense.”
There is a section in the petition that reads, “He has also made numerous statements in violation of the requirement for a fair hearing in a quasi-judicial proceeding, thus abusing his author-ity in order to achieve a desired result.
“Public records reveal that Stoltzfus employed ‘evasive devices’ in order to intentionally circumvent State Statures,” the petition continues.
Finally, the petition states that Stoltzfus conspired with others to deceive citizens and bring financial harm to the city by encouraging potentially harmful and expensive legal action against the city while hiding his own involvement.
The recall effort can’t begin until an elected official has served at least a quarter of his/her term. In Anna Maria, where commissioners are elected to two-year terms, that means the recall effort can’t be submitted to the Supervisor of Elections until mid-May when Stoltzfus will have served six months in office.
Once the recall drive is launched this week, Carter must secure the signatures of at least 10 percent of the city’s registered voters.
The Supervisor of Elections Web site lists 1,368 registered voters in Anna Maria, so the recall committee must col-lect a minimum of 137 signatures.
The petitions have to be turned into the city clerk within 30 days after the first signature is received, according to City Clerk Alice Baird.
Carter stated in his letter to Barford that he expected to have the requisite number of signatures collected by May 17.Then, the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections has 60 days or less to verify all the signatures as registered voters.
At that point, if enough signatures are verified, Stoltzfus will have five days to submit a 200-word statement in his own defense.
Carter then has 60 days to get 15 percent (or 205) of the registered votes to sign the petition containing the origi-nal recall statement and Stoltzfus’ defensive statement.
If these signatures are verified, a recall election would be set “no sooner than 30 days after a five-day notification period and no later than 60 days,” the state statute on recall elections reads.
The cost to verify signatures is 10 cents, which is to cover the expense of the verification by the Supervisor of Elections.
Carter said his committee will ask each person who signs to donate a dime to cover the expense.
Carter has lived with his family in Anna Maria for four years. He served on the Anna Maria Island Community Center board of directors. He serves on the Mote Marine Laboratory and St. Stephen’s boards.
He is vice chairman of Archimede, Changing our World, Inc., an International company that specializes in consulting on enhancing fundraising and philanthropy.
The company has offices in Atlanta, London, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Boston.
His expertise is in organizational and structural change in nonprofits.Carter frequently serves as a lecturer and presenter for Columbia University’s Masters in Philanthropy Management courses.