Day Late, Dollar Short Rules as Jackson Knocked Off Largo Election Ballot
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Lack of time and reluctance to fight made Bob Jackson's exclusion from the November election ballot a fact on Monday.
Mayor Pat Gerard has been re-elected by default.
A week of dithering and hand wringing went by which resulted, bottom line, in the loss of any chance Jackson might have had to make a fight for the basic principles of American democracy.
Those entranced with the American system regard the election process as sacrosanct.
In Largo over the past three weeks that process took a drubbing with Jackson himself not being diligent enough in the process of filing his own candidate papers, and blunders by two city employees who took part in Jackson's filing process.
That leaves only one contest in Largo at November's election and that will have Curtis Holmes, a Largo businessman and long active in Largo affairs, challenging Rodney Woods.
Woods is winding up what has been a very undistinguished first term. He was elected in 2006 on a platform of seeking to erect a statue to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the city.
No one really opposed it, but the project became so snarled up with nonsense it became controversial. King is memorialized with a bas relief in the Largo Library (a classic case of the mountain labored and came forth with a mouse).
In the Jackson case, at one point the former mayor engaged Bob Walker of Clearwater as a lawyer, but Jackson never gave any indication that he wanted to make a strong fight. He probably would have prevailed, according to those who have closely examined the case.
Walker wrote to city officials laying out Jackson's position but this was rejoindered by the city attorney forbidding Walker from contacting anyone connected with his client, the city of Largo, and then advising that he was going on vacation.
Because Walker was foreclosed, by the city attorney's order, from contacting any city officials, Jackson wrote a letter to Diane Bruner, the City Clerk, in which he said, "By this letter I am demanding that my name be placed back on the ballot for Mayor. You accepted my papers and assured me that everything was in order."
Jackson cited Bruner's responsibilities under the law and asserted, "You failed to carry out your legal responsibilities and have admitted such."
He continued, "You, and only you, have the ultimate responsibility of determining who is qualified as a candidate . . . I relied on your notifications. . . I am appalled at this disregard for the rule of law, due process and equal protection."
That was the best effort made and it obviously had no effect. If Bruner responded, the response has not been seen.
The deadline for making up the November ballot by the Supervisor of Elections was yesterday. Time drifted away and Walker never had adequate time to pursue Jackson's interests.
As a lawyer, Walker could not proceed without the express instruction of Jackson.
One sidelight to the brouhaha in Largo was Commissioner Mary Black's inquiry as to whether sitting members of the commission - Mayor Pat Gerard, Woods and Gigi Arntzen - had properly filled out and signed the Loyalty Oath that was the bone of contention in the Jackson case.
All filed the form but none of them was notarized.
Bruner was queried on this and her answer was that "The form in use for the 2006 election did not include a notary requirement, however this form was revised in May 2007 to include it and a new form was created in 2008 that also included a notarization."
But Bruner appears to be mistaken about this, according to pertinent portions of Florida Statutes.
Chapter 99.021, in effect from 2005 on, says, "Each candidate whether a party candidate, a candidate with no party affiliation, or a write-in candidate, in order to qualify for nomination or election to any office other than a judicial office, shall take and subscribe to an oath or affirmation in writing." (Oaths or affirmations must be notarized.)
Further, Chapter 876.05, also effective in 2005 says, ". . . all candidates for public office are required to take an oath before any person duly authorized to take acknowledgements for public record." (Of course, that would be a notary public.)
Suggestions that more knowledge of the election laws are needed or greater diligence in applying them in Largo seem to be appropriate.
Return to Current Edition