Bradenton Beach voters will be asked Tuesday, May 19, to determine whether Mayor Bill Shearon should retain his seat or be recalled.
Voters will have an opportunity on the same ballot to choose whether Shearon or Vice Mayor Jack Clarke should fill the remainder of Shearon’s term, should the recall vote not go the mayor’s way.
How did we get to this point?
May 2012 — Shearon, his life partner Tjet Martin and Bradenton Beach resident Jo Ann Meilner file a lawsuit against the city, objecting to a development agreement approved by commissioners in 2012 allowing Chiles’ Beachhouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, to use city-owned beachfront property near city hall as part of a parking lot. Commissioners Ed Straight and Jan Vosburgh, who were on the commission that approved the JDA, are still on the commission.
P&Z board members Shearon, Meilner, Rick Bisio and Joyce Kramer had resigned following a contentious May 2012 commission meeting. City attorney Ricinda Perry said the P&Z members were not qualified to make such recommendations and Commissioner Ric Gatehouse accused the members of presenting a “tainted and biased” recommendation.
November 2013 — Shearon defeats incumbent Mayor John Shaughnessy by 17 votes. Shearon withdraws from the parking lot lawsuit, which continues.
February 2014 — ELRA sues Shearon for alleged misconduct as mayor. The suit claims Shearon “misused his position to direct city officials and staff, including charter officials, to take positions that are adverse” to ELRA and the development agreement, among other charges.
October 2014 — Vice Mayor Jack Clarke and two other commissioners — Ed Straight and Jan Vosburgh — pass a resolution allowing them to begin forfeiture of office proceedings against Shearon. Clarke alleged that Shearon was guilty of misconduct while in office. Shearon responded that the two men merely differ on management style, and hired an attorney to sue the city over the forfeiture process.
December 2014 — Clarke’s initial attempt to pursue forfeiture proceedings against Shearon is aborted when — after city attorney Ricinda Perry recused herself — Clarke and two other commissioners opt to first get legal advice.
December 2014 — Former Commissioner Peter Barreda begins spearheading a drive to secure enough petition signatures to force a recall election for Shearon.
The petition alleges Shearon violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws. But they do not specifically state which emails are involved. There are no charges and no complaints filed against Shearon for any violations of the Sunshine Laws.
“In a recall, it doesn’t really have to be factual,” the mayor said.
February 2015 — The commission gets legal advice in a forfeiture meeting from former city attorney Alan Prather.
April 2015 — Commissioners agreed to a grand settlement, proposed by Shearon, resolving four lawsuits filed against the city, including: One by Martin-Meilner over the city-owned beachfront property; one by ELRA against Shearon; one by Martin regarding a bill for $780 city attorney Ricinda Perry sent Martin for a public records request; and one by Shearon against the city to ensure commissioners did not suspend him without cause during forfeiture proceedings.
Key tenets of the settlement are that the city’s beachfront property becomes a park, that Beachhouse can park cars on its adjacent lot and Clarke agrees to stop pursuing forfeiture against Shearon. A couple of procedural steps remain in the global settlement, but the parties have agreed to move forward.
April 2015: After Barreda twice amassed the required signatures — first 10 percent of the electorate and then 15 percent to move the process forward, Andrew Owens, 12th Judicial Circuit Court chief judge, sets April 14-17 as qualifying dates and May 19 as the date of the recall election.
Polls open May 19 for mayoral recall election
The date of the recall election is Tuesday, May 19.
There is one polling location: Annie Silver Community Center, 103 23rd St. N., Bradenton Beach. The polls will open 7 a.m.–7 p.m.
Voter registration closed April 20.
The recall ballot contains two options for voters: William “Bill” Shearon should be removed from office, and William “Bill” Shearon should not be removed from office.
Concurrently, voters will have an option to fill the mayor’s seat — in the event the recall is successful. The choice is Mayor Bill Shearon or Vice Mayor Jack Clarke.
There are 759 eligible voters in Bradenton Beach. As of May 6, the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office had provided 182 vote-by-mail ballots.
Stay tuned online May 19 for results directly from the polling location.
November 2013 Mayoral Election
In November 2013, when Shearon and Clarke were elected to their respective seats as mayor and commissioner, there were 911 registered voters in Bradenton Beach.
Turnout was 281 voters (30.85 percent)
In the race for mayor, Bill Shearon had 149 votes, or 53 percent. Incumbent John Shaughnessy had 132 votes, or 47 percent.
Clarke was unopposed in his quest for the Ward 1 commission seat.
The most recent Manatee County recall election was in 2010. Anna Maria voters recalled Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus, 362 votes (52 percent) to 331 (48 percent). The SOE office is not aware of any other recall in Manatee County’s history. In the state of Florida elections office, the only other known recall election record was from the 1970s in Miami.
For more information, go to votemanatee.com.