ANNA MARIA — Anna Maria resident Gene Aubry has declared his candidacy for city commissioner.
There are, however, several questions that will have to be answered before Aubry could ever take a seat on the commission.
Anna Maria voters will go to the polls on September 7 to mark their ballots in what is believed to be the only recall election ever held in Manatee County.
City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus will be facing a recall election if Judge Edward Nicholas finds that the recall petition against him is legally sufficient. Judge Nicholas has set aside time on August 12 to hear the challenge that Stoltzfus’ attorney Richard Harrison has lodged against the recall petition.
If Judge Nicholas finds that the recall petition is in order, the recall election will go forward. If the voters recall Stoltzfus, they can elect Aubry to fill the remainder of Stoltzfus' term, which runs through the first Tuesday in November 2011.
Candidates wishing to run in the recall election must qualify before Friday, July 30. As of Monday of this week, Aubry was the only candidate to file his qualifying papers.
A recall committee has been working for months to bring the recall election to the voters.
Recall Chairman Bob Carter and the other members of his committee began the drive after a public records request revealed emails by Stoltzfus that his critics claim violated the state’s Sunshine Law.
“Public records evidence that Stoltzfus violated the Government in the Sunshine Law by holding electronic meetings and using liaisons to discuss public business that has not been advertised to the public,” the recall petition states.
“Stoltzfus’ email communications contained libelous and inflammatory remarks concerning city staff, citizens and professional consultants in violation of the city’s stated policy against personal attacks.”
Other charges leveled at Stoltzfus in the recall petition are that he made numerous statements in violation of the requirement for a fair hearing in a quasi judicial proceeding and that “he conspired with others to deceive citizens and bring financial harm to the city of Anna Maria by encouraging potentially harmful and expensive legal action against the city while hiding his own involvement.”
Beginning in April, volunteers went door-to-door in the city to collect signatures in support of the recall.
Bob Sweat, Manatee County’s supervisor of elections, certified a first round of signatures containing more than the required 10 percent of the registered voters. Sweat’s office also certified a second round of signatures representing more than the required 15 percent of the registered voters in the city.
Chief Judge Lee Haworth set the recall election date for September 7.
There remains a legal challenge to the recall filed by Stoltzfus through Harrison, his attorney. Attempts to contact Harrison were unsuccessful at press time.
On Aug. 12 at 1 p.m., Judge Nicholas will hear Harrison’s arguments as to why the recall petition is not legally sufficient.
One contention is that the language in the petition is so vague that Stoltzfus couldn’t compose an adequate defensive statement, which he was entitled to do with the second circulation of the petition.
Stoltzfus did mount a defensive statement, as was his right.
“The charges against me are a collection of nebulous, unsubstantiated falsehoods. Their vagueness makes a specific, directed response impossible,” Stoltzfus wrote in his own defense. “As commissioner, I have attempted to uphold the policies and regulations of our comprehensive plan and our land development regulations. My focus on safety has revealed an inconvenient truth: our city has repeatedly contravened its policies and regulations.
“The recall attempt is spearheaded by a politically motivated group of people, including some within this administration, who are either unwilling to accept the truth or unwilling to make the changes required to bring our city back into compliance.”
Stoltzfus closed his defensive statement with a reference to what he called “a proud history of dealing with similar threats.”
He said he was confident that the residents of his city would respond appropriately to “this misguided effort to recall me.”