By Leo Coughlin
If you thought the election involving Bob Jackson in 2006 was "funny," the current election doings in Largo involving the same Bob Jackson are even "funnier."
And that is "funny" in the sense of odd, different, a bad smell - something could be wrong here.
In 2006 there was the strange happening of a breakdown and interruption in the vote count with Jackson and opponent Pat Gerard forced to wait for a painful interim.
When the counting resumed, the counting until the very end went vote for vote - one for Jackson, one for Gerard - at the same margin that existed when the glitch began. Very strange indeed.
And now - just last week - another glitch. And another messy situation for Largo that seems to have a magnet for trouble and the bizarre.
What apparently is supposed to straighten it all out is a legal opinion from the city attorney.
The opinion is in the mode of conclusion first, support later.
Just my opinion, but the document laying out what purports to be the city's legal position doesn't appear, at least in the view from here, to be a thoroughgoing and careful legal analysis, taking into account all that could be examined.
For example, there is no discussion of F.S. Chapter 99.061(7)(b) which says --
"If the filing officer receives qualifying papers that do not include all items as required by paragraph (a) prior to the last day of qualifying, the filing officer shall make a reasonable effort to notify the candidate of the missing or incomplete items and shall inform the candidate that all required items must be received by the close of qualifying."
Also, it would seem that a careful analysis would take into account the exact wording of the statute pertinent to the "Loyalty Oath."
It is, from Florida Statutes -
"876.07 Oath as prerequisite to qualification for public office.--Any person seeking to qualify for public office who fails or refuses to file the oath required by this act shall be held to have failed to qualify as a candidate for public office, and the name of such person shall not be printed on the ballot as a qualified candidate."Legal matters often turn on exact language. Jackson, in fact, did file the loyalty oath document. He neglected to sign it, apparently; the statute does not say sign. On such distinguishing language do courts make decisions?
Nor is the question raised, as one legal authority pointed out, of "scrivener error," a common device used to correct minor errors.
Another possible aspect that could have been discussed is "clerical error." Mistakes and omissions are not unknown in the history of mankind and the accumulation of documents attendant to the business of mankind.
And the opinion never addresses the roles played by the City Clerk in receiving Jackson's papers or the notary public who signed off on them.
Certainly the lack of signature by Bob Jackson on one document was an oversight, a simple error, a blunder with no intent to break the law.
Errors all around, hey? But the opinion appears to be very one-sided, in a situation where eminent and clear fairness is called for, yea, demanded.
And for these minor slip-ups a candidate is to be removed from the ballot?
Why such draconian punishment for something that was not a grave or serious error? Why throw out the baby with the bath water?
This is the kind of tactic used in a banana republic to quell opposition when it dares to raise its head.
While the opinion makes a point in obiter dicta about who the City Commission cannot order about - namely the City Clerk - it fails to recognize that certainly the commission could convene and order the City Manager, who works for it and is subject to its orders, to have the clerk, who in turn works for the city manager, do something.
But that doesn't fit the plan. And the plan seems to have come into existence - and this is pure speculation - because it looks like one member of the commission is very vulnerable at election time and there seemed to be an outside - a long shot - chance that Jackson might regain the major's seat.
In fact, one astute observer with inside information said, "If (Curtis) Holmes is elected and Jackson beats Gerard, you can bet there will be changes with the city manager and the city's whole legal services set up."
Also, the observer pointed out, if the election goes a certain way, the "bobblehead," go along with anything days on the commission are over.
A minor mistake was made - if indeed the document ever was in the packet - and a severe penalty is being assessed. It makes no sense.
If this goes unremedied, there will be another disgraceful blot on Largo. It is a city ill served by its elected officials and hired hands.
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