Questions over mayor’s seat remain unanswered
Although the Cape Coral City Council is set to decide who will replace Mayor Eric Feichthaler in 34 days, vital questions remain over the selection process, and the legitimacy of the process itself.
The city is currently accepting applications from the public at large for the mayor’s seat, but at least three City Council members — Dolores Bertolini, Jim Burch and Bill Deile — will also vie for the position, leaving the question of whether council members can vote for themselves as mayor.
Councilmember Eric Grill picked up an application last week but has since re-thought his mayoral aspirations.
“I have considered it and the more I considered it, I’ve decided I will not put my name in the process,” Grill said.
Burch asked Assistant City Attorney Marilyn Miller to write a letter last week to the Florida Commission on Ethics in Tallahassee, asking for a formal or informal opinion on the ethical ramifications of voting for one’s self as mayor.
Section 112.3143, Florida Statutes, states in part that: “No county, municipal, or other local public officer shall vote in an official capacity upon any measure which would inure to his or her special private gain or loss …”
Under Cape Coral’s governing charter document, the position of mayor carries no greater voting power than any other member of council, but does have the added responsibility of running council meetings.
Any council member that attains the mayor’s seat is also in line for a raise of about $3,000. Annual compensation for a member of council is currently $16,536, whereas the mayor’s annual salary is $19,458.
The replacement process itself is also in question. The city charter calls for a replacement to be named only in the event of a vacancy, and Feichthaler’s resignation doesn’t take effect until Nov. 17, even though the council is scheduled to vote on his replacement on Nov. 3.
“You may have to hold the vote until the mayor resigns or he’s out of office,” Burch said.
Feichthaler also sent a letter to Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington Sunday asking for a mail-in ballot election that would cost less than $50,000.
Harrington responded Monday in an e-mail explaining that mail-in ballot elections can only be used for non-candidate elections, such as referendums or bond issues.
Most estimates of the cost of a special election come in at $100,000.
Harrington stated in her e-mail that the cost of staffing the Cape’s 40 precincts alone would cost $48,000.
Other costs include renting precincts, legal advertising, ballot printing and the delivery and pick-up of voting equipment and supplies.