ANNA MARIA - City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus appears to have been recalled from office and Eugene Aubry elected to fill the remainder of his term.
But the final tally hasn't been certified and the results remain unofficial until an appeal of the election is heard by the the Second District Court of Appeal. Stoltzfus is challenging the legality of the recall petition that originally led to the Sept. 7 election.
The totals, released Monday at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office, showed 362 votes in favor of recalling Stoltzfus and 331 opposing the recall. The percentages worked out to 52.24 in favor to 47.76 against.
In the vote between Stoltzfus and Aubry to fill the seat, Aubry drew 363 votes, or 52.16 percent, versus 333 votes for Stoltzfus, or 47.84 percent.
When reached Monday, Stoltzfus stated adamantly he will not resign.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said. “I’ve done nothing illegal, and I’ll appeal this ruling all the way. I still believe the recall petition itself was legally insufficient.”
Aubry said Monday that he came forward to run for the election in a desire to serve his city.
“I have a lot of experience that I think I can offer to the city,” he said. “I wanted to give the voters a choice.”
Aubry said he is uninterested in running for election in the future; he merely wanted to offer voters an option if they chose to recall Stoltzfus.
The appeals court on Monday afternoon lifted a stay imposed on the results by Circuit Court Judge Ed Nicholas. That stay sealed the election results until Sept. 24 so Stoltzfus' appeal could be heard. Judge Nicholas also ruled he would not certify the results.
A nonprofit group called Citizens for Sunshine, Inc. appealed Judge Nicholas' ruling, saying the election results were public record. The appeals court agreed and lifted the stay but took no action to certify the results.
As a result, the vote count is unofficial, leaving the city in limbo with questions about whether or not they have a legally sitting commissioner.
“I trust John Quam (Commission Chair) to set the agendas so that my vote won’t be on a matter that could be legally challenged in the future,” Stoltzfus said.
Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford also acknowledged the awkwardness of the city’s position.
“We are basically at a standstill with important business to conduct,” she said. “I think the appeals court understands and will move this thing forward quickly.