ANNA MARIA — City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus was officially served with the formal paperwork for recall on Friday, July 9, giving him five days to decide whether to resign or submit to a recall election.
According to state statute, the city clerk must serve the elected official to be recalled immediately upon receiving notice of the certification of the signatures on the recall petitions by the Supervisor of Elections.
Stoltzfus accepted service of the notice at his Lancaster, Penn., home.
Exactly when the five days are up is in question.
The clock on the five days during which Stoltzfus could choose to resign officially began running on Monday, July 12, according to the city’s calculations.
However, Stoltzfus’ attorney, Richard Harrison, disagreed with that calculation.
According to him, the clock on the five days officially began running on Friday, July 9.
That date is important because it determines the time frame for setting the recall election, if there is one.
“I find nothing in the statutes to indicate that this five-day period is anything other than calendar days, so the five day resignation window would start on July 10 and end on July 14,” Harrison wrote in an e-mail to attorneys and to Bob Carter, the chairman of the Recall Stoltzfus Committee. “The commissioner has five days after that notification from Ms Baird within which to resign voluntarily (which he does not intend to do).”
State statute dictates the recall must be held not less than 30 days or more than 60 days after the five day period.
Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat said in a communication with the city that the proper day for the recall election is Sept. 21.
Rebecca O’Dell, the attorney for the recall committee, disputes that date, saying it’s outside of the mandated time frame for the recall election.
“By my calculation, that time starts on the day after the expiration of the five-day period, i.e. July 15. Thus, the recall election must be held not sooner than August 13 (the 30th day) and not later than Sept. 12 (the 60th day.)
Officially, the task of setting the date falls to the chief judge, which in the Stoltzfus recall election case is Judge Lee Haworth, Chief of the 12th Judicial Circuit.
There also remains a legal challenge to the sufficiency of the recall that was filed shortly after the first set of signatures was certified. In that case, Harrison requested an accelerated hearing. That request was denied in an order from Judge Edward Nicholas, who ruled that the proper time to challenge the sufficiency of the recall petition was after the final certification and before the recall election, if one were to be held.
Harrison appealed that ruling to the district court, where it was again denied.
Harrison noted in his letter to Carter and Baird’s attorney that he planned to serve an amended complaint against the recall petition and a renewed motion for accelerated hearing on Judge Edward Nicholas on Monday, July 12, asking for him to do a prompt review and set a hearing.
No date for the hearing had been set as of Monday.