The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved a resolution Tuesday confirming a change in the filing periods and date for the upcoming council election from March 8 to March 15 to coincide with Florida’s presidential primary.
Town Attorney Michael Cirullo explained that the resolution confirms an ordinance that the council approved at an earlier meeting in order for the town’s election to coincide with the schedule required by Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.
The ordinance and resolution also change the filing period to open at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 3 and close at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
Up for election are Seat 2, held by Councilman Jim Rockett, and Seat 4, held by Mayor Dave Browning.
“Your charter would normally have the election March 8, but because the primary is the next week, this allows you to move it by ordinance, and you also established the filing period in that same ordinance,” Cirullo said.
Cirullo explained that the town had received directives from Bucher relating to scheduling the election and receiving the information to be placed on the ballot.
Because of the requirements of the presidential primary, Bucher determined earlier this year that her office would not be able to conduct municipal elections on March 8.
“You have an agreement that we enter into with the supervisor of elections that provides for all the services that the supervisor does,” Cirullo said. “Because it’s the presidential primary, there’s going to be some differences in the way the supervisor provides the services to the town in the conduct of the election.”
Cirullo pointed out that the supervisor’s office will be providing for early voting at no cost to municipalities, which is normally not available for free.
“It can be at significantly increased cost, so most of the cities in municipal elections do not request early voting, but this year it will be early voting,” he said. “It will be the same ballots, except they will be partisan, and then if there is no party affiliation, it will be just the municipal ballot.”
The early voting locations will be established by the supervisor, under the direction of state statute.
“I don’t believe that it’s going to be in the town’s precinct,” Cirullo said, explaining that the early voting locations are usually at county governmental locations such as libraries.
“One of the main issues of concern that I want to go over will be the role of the town’s canvassing board,” he said. “This is a presidential preference primary, so the supervisor of elections has stated that there will be one canvassing board for the entire election, the county canvassing board.”
Cirullo said state statute requires the county to canvass the election, which will leave the town’s canvassing board to certify the election results approved by the county canvassing board.
“It’s a take-it-or-leave-it package when you sign up for the presidential preference primary,” he said.
Councilman Tom Goltzené commented that it was a non-negotiable agreement and that the only alternative was to conduct a municipal election completely separate from the primary election without using Bucher’s office.
“I’m going to vote for it only because we don’t have much choice,” Goltzené said.
Councilman Ryan Liang made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.
In other business:
• The council approved a quit-claim deed transferring ownership of B Road easements from the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District to the town. It will be the final step to pave B Road from the Palm Beach State College entrance to Okeechobee Blvd.
Town Manager Bill Underwood said the approval will enable the town to begin the open-graded emulsion mix (OGEM) paving of B Road.
Cirullo said that the quit-claim agreement is the same form used for previous paving projects, and that the LGWCD will confirm the deed at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 12.
Liang made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 4-0 with Goltzené recusing himself.
• The council also passed a resolution opposing a land-use change requested by GL Homes from 490 homes to about 4,900 homes and a small amount of commercial on its 4,900-acre property north and west of the town.
Underwood said several municipalities have adopted resolutions opposing the amendment and recommended that the council approve a similar resolution.
“That traffic will be coming down one of three roads — Northlake, Okeechobee and Southern — or trying to sneak through some of our other roads,” Browning said.
Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.
• The council also approved a motion extending the town attorney’s contract and asking Cirullo to meet with his firm to ask that they consider remaining with the town.
Cirullo announced in August that his firm, Goren, Cherof, Doody & Ezrol, P.A., was resigning as legal counsel for the town.
Underwood pointed out that the firm’s contract expires Oct. 19, the day before the next council meeting on Oct. 20.
All council members agreed that they would like to see Cirullo stay on.
“I never saw a reason for Mike to be leaving,” Goltzené said. “It’s not something I would personally like to see happen.”
Browning asked Cirullo his feelings, and he said that he had made the recommendation to his firm based on “circumstances that were occurring” at the time.
The council had been in the process of considering requests for proposals for a new management firm, but later decided to retain Underwood Management Services Group after their selection, Severn Trent, withdrew its offer.
Cirullo said he would accept an extension, pointing out that he was responsible under Florida Bar provisions not to leave the town without legal counsel, but that he would have to discuss the council’s offer to stay on with his firm.
“Whatever the council’s pleasure is,” Cirullo said. “I have enjoyed being the town’s attorney.”
Goltzené made a motion asking Cirullo to remain, and it carried 5-0.