For the first time in 35 years, Holmes Beach officials have stumbled into a problem with fulfilling their obligation to produce a canvassing board for the Nov. 5 election.
The city partnered with the county a few years ago, when the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office decided there were too many small town representatives in the building during the years that included federal elections.
According to Holmes Beach city clerk Stacey Johnston, the county decided to do the canvassing for the smaller cities on the years of a general election. Cities would still supply canvassing board members during off-year elections, such as the 2013 election.
For Holmes Beach, it means that commissioners, who are not up for re-election, serve on the canvassing board, but there are restrictions.
According to city attorney Patricia Petruff, a commissioner cannot be actively involved or publicly support another candidate.
Johnston said it had never been an issue in Holmes Beach until this year, when Commissioners Marvin Grossman and Judy Titsworth expressed a desire to campaign for a candidate.
Grossman did not say who he is supporting, but indicated it is not a seated commissioner. Titsworth said she would “return the favor” in supporting Commissioner Pat Morton, who is up for re-election along with Commissioners Jean Peelen and David Zaccagnino.
Morton supported Titsworth in her 2012 bid for commissioner, in which she campaigned alongside Grossman and Carmel Monti in his bid for mayor.
Also during the 2012 election, Peelen actively solicited candidates and supported the slate of newcomers over incumbent Commissioners Sandy Haas-Martens and John Monetti and Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.
But Zaccagnino maintained past commissioners have “played nice in our elections out here, so this has never been an issue.”
Grossman said, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you,” while noting he would exercise his constitutional right to support a candidate of his choosing.
Petruff said the ordinance is clear that a commissioner not up for re-election serves on the canvassing board, but if there is a conflict, another member of the electorate would be nominated.
The problem is that both members of the commission who are not up for re-election have disqualified themselves by supporting another candidate.
Petruff said it may be too late to rush an ordinance through to change the canvassing board requirements.
“We can try and rush through a change, but I’m a little uncomfortable that this change would be effective at this time,” she said.
Petruff said she would check with the election supervisor’s office for guidance.
“In the meantime, we can move forward with adopting something new, but I also want an opinion on whether or not this will work,” she said.
Commissioners agreed to have Petruff pursue options with preference being for the county to act as the canvassing board, if possible.
Petruff said the city should begin compiling names of potential canvassing board members from the public, if the intention is to change the ordinance to reflect the public can substitute for an elected official.
Anyone interested in possibly serving on the canvassing board should contact the city clerk’s office at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.