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Court renders Stoltzfus moot

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Harry Stoltzfus lost his September 2010 campaign to halt the recall election and keep his seat on the Anna Maria city commission.

The Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal on June 22 dismissed the case filed by former Anna Maria Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus to appeal his recall from office.

The recall was brought by the Recall Stoltzfus Committee formed by Robert Carter in May 2010.

In a brief order, the court said the appeal was “dismissed as moot,” with all appeal judges assigned to the case concurring.

Efforts to reach Stoltzfus to learn if the ruling would be appealed were unsuccessful, as were efforts to reach Stoltzfus attorney Richard Harrison of Tampa.

Stoltzfus was recalled 362-331 in a special election Sept. 7, 2010, after the 12th Circuit Court upheld the legality of the recall committee’s effort that obtained the required number of signatures to hold the vote.

After the committee submitted its first set of signatures to the supervisor of elections office in May 2010, Stoltzfus sued the committee and Carter, claiming the committee was not legally sufficient and the court should declare the recall invalid.

The court held several hearings on the lawsuit, but eventually ruled the committee was legal and the recall election should take place.

Stoltzfus appealed the decision to the Florida 2nd DCA on the grounds he was not given due process, but the appeal court allowed the election to proceed on Sept. 7, 2010, as scheduled. The results were not announced immediately under a court-ordered stay, but were released Sept. 13.

In the same recall election, Gene Aubry was elected 363-333 to serve the remainder of Stoltzfus’ term.

It was the first-ever recall election in Manatee County, according to the supervisor of elections office.

In an ironic twist, Florida law allowed Stoltzfus to seek election to the seat he held in the same election that voters were deciding whether he should be recalled. The possibility existed that Stoltzfus could have been recalled from office, but elected to complete the remainder of his own term.

The Recall Stoltzfus Committee was formed in April 2010 after Stoltzfus’ personal e-mails that pertained to city business were made public following a public records request by legal consultant Michael Barfield of Sarasota.

Those e-mails contained several statements by Stoltzfus that were derogatory to then-Mayor Fran Barford, including one in which he called Barford a “donkey.”

In another of the more than 800 e-mails released, Stoltzfus discussed how a group of residents should sue the city without his name mentioned. Stoltzfus also mentioned he had some sources to fund the litigation against the city.

Stoltzfus consistently has denied any wrongdoing.

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