Recall of Bradenton Beach mayor now underway

Proponents of a recall election for Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon have begun seeking signatures from voters.

Former Bradenton Beach Commissioner Peter Barreda, who is the chair of the Committee to Recall William Shearon, said Dec. 19, “We’re going through the process of getting the signatures.

“I think everything is going as expected.” Barreda said petitions may be picked up at Gulf Drive Cafe, at various times, and at various other places in Bradenton Beach.

The petition makes two claims of malfeasance against the mayor. The first count states that on or about Feb. 6, the mayor violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law by discussing pending litigation in a two-way email with another city commissioner.

It also claims that on or about April 21, Shearon violated the Sunshine Law by discussing special events in a two-way email with a commissioner.

According to the petition, in both instances the discussions about city business would reasonably come before the commission for a vote. It also states that the email exchanges took place “without advance notice to the public,” a common trigger for Sunshine Law inquiries.

The petition lacks details about the allegations and Shearon has neither been charged nor convicted of the violations.

“I don’t see how they can charge that until I have been convicted of it,” Shearon said Dec. 19. “I don’t understand how they can claim on a petition that I committed a Sunshine Law violation. That’s quite a long time ago and I have not received any notification that I may have committed a Sunshine Law violation.

“That’s somebody’s opinion. They’re trying to recall me on something that might be justified and might not.”

For the recall to be valid, each voter must sign a different petition. Signers must be registered, qualified electors of Bradenton Beach. A voter can only sign once during this round in the recall process. Signers print their name, their address, their voter registration number or date of birth and the date they sign.

Each signature must be accompanied by a witness signature. Barreda and his committee have until Jan. 11, he said, to garner the necessary 100 signatures.

After signatures have been verified by the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, there are several other steps that must be undertaken before a recall election can be held.

Shearon would have an opportunity to address the allegations in writing and state a defense.

Most petitions do need to be approved in advance of signature collection, such as amendments to the state constitution. But state law does not require that recall petitions be approved. Scott Farrington, assistant supervisor of elections, said his office had not seen the petition as of Dec. 19.

According to the website of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a member of a board or commission who knowingly violates the Sunshine Law is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second/d degree. State law dictates that violators of the Sunshine Law may be fined up to $500.

The only time an elected official was removed from office in Manatee County, Anna Maria voters ousted Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus in 2010. That also was the first successful recall election in the state since the 1970s, according to the supervisor of elections at the time.

According to state law, legitimate grounds for recall of elected officials include malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties and conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude.

Shearon also is the subject of a concurrent forfeiture of office process initiated by Vice Mayor Jack Clarke, who has yet to announce his charges regarding the mayor’s conduct in office.