Is it possible to recall an elected official in Palm Bay? We run the numbers.

A group of people led by Pastor Kenneth Delgado of The House Church have been throwing around the idea of recalling elected city councilmen who have not voted on issues the way they would like them to. Palm Bay Mayor Rob Medina is also a pastor at the same church.

The state of Florida allows for an elected official to be recalled from their position by the voters under at least one of seven criteria. Florida Statue 100.361 covers municipal recalls, and lists those criteria as the following:

(d) Grounds for recall.—The grounds for removal of elected municipal officials shall, for the purposes of this act, be limited to the following and must be contained in the petition:

  1.  Malfeasance;
  2.  Misfeasance;
  3.  Neglect of duty;
  4.  Drunkenness;
  5.  Incompetence;
  6.  Permanent inability to perform official duties; and
  7.  Conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude.

The process to recall a Palm Bay City Councilman cannot begin until the targeted individual has served at least one year of his current four-year term.

In order to begin the process, a recall committee must be established, with a chair (leader) of the committee identified. Once the committee is established, then a recall petition is written.

Recall Petition

A petition shall contain the name of the person sought to be recalled and a statement of grounds for recall. The statement of grounds may not exceed 200 words, and the stated grounds are limited solely to those specified above in paragraph (d).

If more than one individual is targeted for recall, a separate petition is required for each one, along with their own required signatures.

Required Signatures

This is where the difficulty begins. In order to successfully have a recall election, two rounds of signed petitions are required. For Palm Bay, the first round of signatures requires 5% of the registered voters of the last election in the city to sign the petition within 30 days of the first petition being signed.

That means that the recall committee will have to gather and certify approximately 4,100 signatures in 30 days. The verification process has about a 10% error rate historically, meaning that they will likely have to gather 10% more than required in order to meet the minimum requirements. That is a total of approximately 4,510 signed petitions. The Supervisor of Elections office is the agency that verifies the signatures, and charges 10 cents per signature to do so. So the minimum cost would be $451 to verify, and that must be paid in advance by the recall committee.

The verification process simply means that they are verifying that the person who signed the petition is a registered voter in the district/city in question, and filled out the petitions properly. Each petition shall contain appropriate lines for each elector’s original signature, printed name, street address, city, county, voter registration number or date of birth, and date signed.

To put the workload into perspective; in 2018 a group of about 12 volunteers led a drive to repeal a section of the Palm Bay City Charter that deals with the city’s ability to levy special assessments on property owners. The required signatures for their measure was 7,200. Thomas Gaume, who worked on that committee stated that in 2 months, they had about half the signatures required, or 3,600. The first round of recall requirements of about 4,500 signatures would have to be gathered in half that time, or 30 days.

2018 Palm Bay Special Assessment petition volunteers

Round 2

All signed petitions must be submitted by the chair of the recall committee to the City Clerk no later than 30 days after the first signature is obtained. The clerk then submits the forms to the Supervisor of Elections office. Lori Scott’s office will then have up to 30 days to verify the signatures. This puts the process timeline now at 2 months since the first signature was obtained.

If after the verification process, the committee failed to obtain the minimum required signatures, the entire process is terminated. If they do meet the requirements, the “defense” process begins.

Upon receipt of a written determination that the requisite number of signatures has been obtained, the clerk shall at once serve upon the person sought to be recalled a certified copy of the petition. Within 5 days after service, the person sought to be recalled may file with the clerk a defensive statement of not more than 200 words. A defensive statement however, is not required.

Within 5 days after the date of receipt of the defensive statement or after the last date a defensive statement could have been filed, the clerk shall prepare a document entitled “Recall Petition and Defense.” This petition shall include the defensive statement if one was provided, along with the original language of the initial petition. (Total timeline so far = 2.5 months)

Once the committee receives the new petitions from the City Clerk, they will have 60 days to obtain signatures of 15% of the electorate, or approximately 12,300 verified signatures (13,530 with margin of error or 225 signatures/day). The verification cost will be approximately $1,350 for a total of $1,800 for the two rounds of petition gathering. The Supervisor’s office will have another 30 days to verify the new signatures. (Total timeline so far = 5.5 months)

Again, if it is determined the committee failed to obtain the required 15% of the electorate’s signatures, the proceedings shall be terminated. If they do meet the requirements, then the actual recall election begins.

Recall Election

If the person designated in the petition files with the clerk, within 5 days after the last-mentioned notice, his or her written resignation, the clerk shall at once notify the governing body of that fact, and the resignation shall be irrevocable. Should they resign, the vacancy of their office shall be filled according to city ordinance. If he or she refuses to resign within the 5 days, then the chief judge for the 18th Circuit shall fix a day for holding the actual recall election.

That election must take place between 30 to 60 days after the 5 day resignation period. It must also occur on the same day as any already scheduled general or special election in that timeframe. If an election is not already scheduled, then the judge shall call a special election specifically for the recall within that same time period. (Total timeline so far = 6.5 to 7.5 months)

On the ballot itself, the question will simply state “Shall (person) be removed from office of City Council by recall?” The elector will have the following options to select:

  • “  (name of person) should be removed from office.”
  • “  (name of person) should not be removed from office.”

None of the petition language, grounds, or defenses will be on the ballot.

Should the voters elect to remove the individual from office, then candidates to succeed them for the unexpired terms shall be voted upon at the same election. Whichever candidate received the most votes shall fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term.

Summary

  • Total time from organization to election: approximately 7 to 8 months.
  • Total petition signatures needed: approximately 13,530 in 60 days (225 signatures/day)
  • Total cost for verification: approximately $1,800
  • Cost not included: printing, labor, signs, ads, and administrative costs for supplies, etc.
  • Cost to the taxpayer to hold special election: approximately $253,000 according to most recent estimate from the Supervisor of Elections.
  • Note: except for the cost of the actual election, each of the figures for signatures and costs are for one person to be recalled. Those requirements would be the same for each additional member targeted for recall.

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