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Transition of power issues, even on our island

By Staff | Oct 27, 2020

To the editor:

Sanibel’s City Council will have a vacant seat effective Nov. 3. That is because Councilman Jason Maughan decided to run for Florida state representative and, in doing so, needed to comply with Florida’s “resign to run” law (F.S.A. § 99.012). Specially, Florida law mandates that when an office holder seeks another elected office he/she must resign from the office one currently holds, which in this case, is our Sanibel City Council. And, with respect to the state’s resign-to-run law, it should be noted that one of its purposes is to prevent persons who are running for a position to have the safe haven of a current position to which the candidate can retreat in the event the candidate is unsuccessful. Diaz v. Lopez, 167 So.3d 455 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2015).

As Maughan ran for state representative office, and even though he did not prevail in the Republican primary, he is thus required by Florida law to give up his council seat, effective Nov. 3. However, before even considering other interested candidates, Mayor Kevin Ruane has already communicated his position — the seat Maughan effectively vacates on Nov. 3 should then be refilled hours later, by the same Jason Maughan. Certainly, this action is not within the spirit of the law and has likely discouraged qualified candidate from submitting applications.

Public indignation has resulted in Ruane, somewhat begrudgingly, entertaining what purports to be a public process and now, other interested candidates are being considered — as they should.

Just as concerning is the timing of this interim appointment to city council. The date that city council will be considering this interim appointment happens to be Nov. 3. That date might sound familiar and may just be a date when the attention of most Americans is consumed elsewhere.

City council should endeavor to have a process that is well publicized, deliberate, transparent and appropriately timed. It needs to be a democratic process whereby other interested and qualified candidates are encouraged, not discouraged from applying. And, equally important, the process should occur on a date when the electorate is likely to be focused and effectively involved. There is no emergency requiring an immediate appointment. Please delay the appointment of an interim city council member until the electorate is more focused on local government.

The electorate deserves as much.

Jennifer T. Scuteri

Sanibel