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Voting process that decided new mayor questioned by some

By Staff | Nov 19, 2008

The Cape Coral City Council voted Monday to appoint Jim Burch as mayor, but some are questioning the voting process.

Last week, council members voted 4-3 to use plurality to decide the next mayor. Under plurality, whoever received the most votes would be named as mayor, even if they did not achieve a majority of the council votes.

Councilmember Bill Deile received three votes in the second round of voting, while Burch and Councilmember Dolores Bertolini received two each. Instead of holding a vote to confirm Deile, a runoff was held between Burch and Bertolini to see who would face Deile in the final round of voting. Burch prevailed in each vote by a 4-3 count.

Deile questions the process, but will not contest the results.

“In my opinion, (the procedure) wasn’t the one council agreed to,” he said.

“Because of the confusion and the fact that we created one procedure and followed a different one, it creates a muddy water situation where whoever becomes mayor does so under a cloud. I don’t want to be a mayor with a cloud, I’d rather be a council member with fair skies,” Deile added.

Councilmember Derrick Donnell, who ran the meeting after being named mayor pro tem last week, said he does not understand the controversy.

“Before we took the vote I said, ‘Council, are there any questions?’ There were no questions. (After Burch won) I said I would like to have a vote of solidarity. The vote was unanimous. Nobody said a peep,” Donnell said.

Cape Coral’s city charter calls for at least four votes for an action of council to be valid, but City Attorney Dolores Menendez advised council members last week to hold a confirmation vote after someone achieves plurality.

“It struck me as being strange when Donnell said, ‘Let’s have a runoff,'” Deile said.

Burch said the voting process was fair, and wants to get to the business of the city.

“There were no questions, there was plenty of time. It’s unfortunate that we have these kinds of things that pop up. I hope we can get past the personal stuff and back to representing the interests of the citizens,” Burch said.

Although Deile is not contesting the vote, he does want Burch to abstain from voting on city projects in which construction firm MWH has an interest. MWH is overseeing the controversial utilities expansion project in the city.

Burch is the regional director of land surveying for DRMP, a company that has done design work for MWH on the UEP. The issue became a hot topic recently when Councilmember Eric Grill cited DRMP’s $339,000 in design work for the Southwest 6/7 portion as his reason for voting against the project.

“I will rely on his good faith not to participate in any action that involves MWH,” Deile said.

Burch stated he has abstained from votes, such as the water first utility proposal for the North 1-8 area, where he stands to gain.

“I’ll do exactly what I’ve done in the past. I’ve abstained when there was a conflict of interest and I’ve voted when there wasn’t a conflict of interest,” Burch said.