BRADENTON BEACH – Keep Our Residential Neighborhoods (KORN) chairman Reed Mapes has filed a lawsuit challenging the City Commission’s decision to not place four KORN-initiated charter amendment questions on the fall ballot.
The lawsuit alleges the city clerk and the city “failed and refused to perform their ministerial duties” according to state statutes applicable to the ballot initiative process.
“The plaintiff demands that this court will enter a writ of mandamus requiring the city clerk and/or the city to submit the petitions to the Supervisor (of elections) to verify that they are signed by 10 percent of the city electors,” the lawsuit says.
State law and the city charter require the signatures of at least 10 percent of the registered voters in the previous general election in order for a petition-initiated ballot initiative to move forward. According to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections website, Bradenton Beach had 744 registered voters in November 2017.
According to a memo that KORN treasurer John Metz provided to City Clerk Terri Sanclemente, 88 people signed the petition calling for a citywide ban on multi-level parking garages. Eighty-seven signed the petition calling for all vacant City Commission seats to be filled by election or special election rather than commission appointment. Eighty-three signed the petition calling for additional setback restrictions and 76 signed the petition calling for the mandatory hiring of a full-time city manager.
The lawsuit also seeks a court order directing the clerk and/or the city to place the proposed charter amendment questions to a vote of the city’s electors at the next general election or at a special election.
Attorney Robert Hendrickson filed the lawsuit with the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Manatee County on Thursday, July 5. The complaint names the city of Bradenton Beach and Sanclemente as defendants and Mapes and the KORN political action committee as plaintiffs. The case is assigned to Judge Gilbert Smith Jr.
As of Sunday, no hearings had been scheduled, and City Attorney Ricinda Perry had not yet filed a response on behalf of the city.
Perry recently told city commissioners that all final ballot language must be submitted to the elections office by Aug. 28. This leaves KORN less than two months to get its case heard if the proposed charter amendment questions are to be included on the fall ballot.
In May, Mapes and his wife sold their Bradenton Beach condo. Before the start of a recent city meeting, Mapes was overheard saying they would soon be leaving Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria Island. Mapes, a former Planning and Zoning Board member, is one of six defendants named in a Sunshine Law lawsuit filed by the city last summer.
On June 21, the City Commission voted 4-1 to uphold Sanclemente’s previous decision to reject the proposed KORN amendments according to Article 4 of the city charter. Sanclemente told commissioners the KORN petitions were not gathered in accordance with the city charter.
By the same 4-1 vote, the commission supported Commissioner Ralph Cole’s second motion, which stated KORN’s ballot initiatives did not comply with Florida Statutes Chapters 166.031 and 101.161.
Commissioner Randy White opposed both motions.
During that June meeting, Mapes and Metz told the commission that KORN’s ballot initiatives were pursued according to state law and not the city charter.
Regarding the alleged insufficiencies, Perry said state law limits ballot summaries to 75 words and ballot titles to 15 words. The ballot summaries for two of the KORN amendments exceed 75 words and all four ballot titles exceed 15 words.
Perry told commissioners state law no longer allows land-use matters to be decided by voter referendum, and those issues must now be addressed in the land development code and/or the city’s comprehensive plan. Perry believes this would apply to KORN’s parking garage and setback amendments.