ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. – A group of St. Pete Beach residents has filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that its response to the resignation of four city commissioners was an illegal attempt to bypass the democratic process. The lawsuit claims that the city’s decision to appoint replacements instead of holding a special election was inconsistent and biased.
This legal action follows a series of events in December when four of the five city commissioners announced their resignation in order to avoid filing an extensive financial disclosure form required by a new state law. The city charter mandates a special election within 15 days if two or more commissioners resign simultaneously. However, City Attorney Andrew Dickman argued that it would be unfeasible to hold a special election within that timeframe.
Instead of a special election, the commissioners decided to stagger their resignations over the next nine days and appoint replacements. These appointed commissioners will be responsible for voting on major resort proposals, beach renourishment, and the hiring of a new city manager. The lawsuit seeks to determine whether these appointments violate the law and calls for a special election to be held.
St. Pete Beach is not the only city in the Tampa Bay area that has experienced resignations due to the new state law. However, it is the only city where a majority of elected officials have resigned. This situation has raised concerns about the lack of a democratically elected representative commission during critical decision-making processes.
The lawsuit, filed by the St. Pete Beach Advocacy Group and nine city residents, asserts that the appointments were a result of raw politics and did not adhere to proper processes. They argue that the city charter does not allow for appointments to certain districts and that those vacancies should be filled through an election.
The plaintiffs are seeking a court ruling to invalidate the appointments, order a special election, and prevent any further meetings until an elected commission is in place. The outcome of this legal battle could have significant implications for the future governance of St. Pete Beach.
In summary, a group of St. Pete Beach residents has sued the city, alleging that its response to the resignation of four city commissioners was an illegal attempt to bypass the democratic process. The lawsuit calls for a determination of whether the appointments violated the law and a special election to be held. This legal battle highlights the challenges faced by the city in navigating the requirements of a new state law while ensuring a fair and democratic governance system.