By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer
An Aug. 28 Special Election for Boca Raton Mayor is coming this summer, after Mayor Susan Haynie was suspended from office by Gov. Rick Scott on April 27.
Boca Raton City Charter states that if the Office of Mayor becomes vacant for any reason, a Special Election will be held. If a Uniform Municipal Election is scheduled within 150 days of the vacancy [such as the Primary Election for Palm Beach County Commissioner already set for August 28], a Special Election will be held at the same time.
Haynie had already filed to run for Palm Beach County Commissioner. She has since withdrawn from the race.
Following a City Council meeting on April 24, Haynie was arrested and charged with three counts of Official Misconduct (each a third-degree felony) and one count of Perjury in an Official Proceeding (also a third-degree felony) – for a total of four, third-degree felonies which have yet to be proven in a court of law. She was booked into jail and released the same day.
If acquitted or cleared of charges before her term in office expires in March 2020, Haynie must be re-instated as Mayor, according to Florida Statute.
In the event of a guilty plea, “nolo contentre” [no contest], or withholding of adjudication [withholding of judgment by the judge], all three are treated as a conviction, and the mayor must be permanently removed from office by the Governor, according to Boca Raton City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser.
“Should Mayor Haynie elect to resign, these issues are no longer relevant,” she added.
Frieser said that after being made aware of the situation at a previous council meeting, she had researched it, reached out to other cities that have had to deal with suspensions, and had a brief conversation with the governor’s general counsel.
“Unfortunately, this issue has come up in other cities,” she said, adding that while Boca Raton has dealt with vacancies, it has never dealt with a suspension [of an elected official].”
About 120 people packed the city’s 6500 N. Congress Ave. Auditorium on April 30, for a Special Meeting to go over Processes & Procedures related to the Office Of Mayor. Among those attending were a number of media outlets, and self-announced mayoral candidates
Bernard Korn said, “I’m here to listen.” Dr. Paul Preste said, “I’m here because I’m running for Mayor.”
Attendees heard a thorough explanation of Florida Statute, City Charter and mention of relevant case law from the City Attorney, before the public was invited to speak, and members of the City Council rang in.
As of press time, four candidates opened accounts to run for mayor including Singer, Korn, Preste and Glen Gromann. Al Zucaro announced plans to run.
Four candidates also opened accounts to run for Singer’s seat, Seat A: Kathryn Cottrell, Tamara McKee, David Milledge and Andy Thomson.
Candidates must officially qualify by May 30 to be placed on the ballot.
On May 7, Deputy Mayor Scott Singer was sworn in as Mayor, and Council Member Jeremy Rodgers was sworn in as Vice Mayor. The City Council will operate as a four-member body.
On May 11, newly sworn in Mayor Scott Singer officially filed papers to Resign To Run in the August 28 Special Election. The resignation is not effective until Election Day, explained the City Clerk’s Office.
Should Singer win the Election as Mayor, he will assume the elected position to finish out Haynie’s term, which ends March 2020 – unless Haynie is cleared or acquitted of charges before March 2020, and returns to finish out her term.
In the event Singer did not win the Election, he could not continue to serve out his term as either Mayor or Deputy Mayor following the Election, according to the City Clerk’s Office.
Said Mayor Singer on April 30, “No one would want a seat won this way. My intention is to Resign to Run for Mayor.”
The City Attorney replied, “Your action today is not binding. It won’t be, until you Resign To Run.”
Council Member Andrea Levine O’Rourke said, “By the way, our city is up and running. We’re fine. We have a strong City Manager form of government and an excellent staff. We just have to get these details worked out in the next couple weeks.”
“Boca remains a world-class city,” Singer said. “Residents can opine at the Election booth. In the meantime, we will keep moving forward.”