Lox Council Approves Measures Relating To Upcoming Election

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council gave final approval to several items Tuesday, Dec. 18 relating to the upcoming municipal election on Tuesday, March 12.

During the election, three council seats will be available, and two referendum questions will be asked of voters.

The first item authorized a special election to fill Seat 3, vacated recently by former Councilwoman Joyce Batcheler. The special election will fill the remaining two years of Batcheler’s three-year term. The council filled the vacancy temporarily by appointing former Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Chair Anita Kane to the seat.

The special election will be held in conjunction with the regular elections for Seat 2 and Seat 4, currently occupied by Vice Mayor Todd McLendon and Mayor Dave Browning, respectively.

Kane said that the question has arisen whether she should recuse herself from voting on the special election ordinance because it pertains specifically to the seat she has been appointed to, but Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said that was not necessary.

Councilman Dave DeMarois noted that the ordinance still contained the old qualifying period beginning at the end of January. Cirullo said that would be changed to accommodate new supervisor of elections deadlines in the next item on the agenda.

McLendon made a motion to approve the ordinance, which carried 5-0.

The council next set the qualifying period for all seats to open at noon on the first Tuesday in January and close at noon on the second Tuesday in January, except for years in which Jan. 1 falls on a Tuesday, in which the qualifying period shall be Wednesday, Jan. 2 to Wednesday, Jan. 9, as will happen this year.

The council considered shifting the qualifying dates a full week later but was advised by the supervisor of elections that those dates would be too late. McLendon made a motion to approve the ordinance, which carried 5-0.

The council next approved a resolution setting the time, place and date to qualify for seats 2, 3 and 4, authorizing the town clerk to appoint election boards, setting filing fees and authorizing the supervisor of elections to conduct the election, and opting out of early voting.

“This basically mirrors the same resolution for all of your elections,” Cirullo said. “We just have to adopt it every year. This is an agreement provided to us by the supervisor of elections.”

McLendon made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.

The council also approved a resolution designating the canvassing board as the supervisor of elections or her designee, the town clerk and a town resident.

Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia asked if the town was going to have a clerk to serve on the canvassing board, and Town Manager Bill Underwood said that he had been able to bring Virginia Walton, who resigned recently, back as acting clerk, although she has declined to sit at council meetings.

The canvassing board members will include Walton, Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher and Loxahatchee Groves resident Bill Ford, who has served on the previous two canvassing boards. McLendon made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.

The council also approved a resolution to provide the ballot language for two referendum questions to be placed on the ballot, one asking voters if they want to approve the issuance of long-term bonds by the town, and the other removing language from the town charter that states that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office must provide police protection, after Sheriff Ric Bradshaw indicated that he would not be renewing the PBSO’s contract with town, which expires in October 2019. While the ballot question will move forward, town officials are working to settle differences between the town and the sheriff to keep the contract in place.

Cirullo said the referendum questions have been approved, one in a resolution and the other in an ordinance, but the current resolution is in the form of one document to simplify the ballot-making process.

“The supervisor of elections wants to see the two questions in one document, so she can take it from this,” Cirullo said.

DeMarois said he was concerned about the wording on the bond question, which states: “Bonds to be payable from special assessments by separate resolution by property owners on roadways to be improved.”

DeMarois said that leaves out the fact that the town will be picking up a portion of the money.

“That leads you to believe, and I think the people voting on it are going to believe, that they are going to have to pay [the entire amount], even though we know that we’re going to cover 50 percent,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s going to be confusing or not, but that could be one of the reasons it fails.”

Cirullo said the referendum summary is limited to 75 words, so it limits the amount of language that can be used.

“It has already been passed by you all in this format,” Cirullo said. “I think it’s just going to have to be educational. If you read the resolution for the bond, it says what the purpose is.”

A similar question was posed in a referendum in August, which failed. “We don’t want it to fail a second time,” Cirullo said.

Maniglia asked about the wording of the police referendum question. “It says, ‘to establish a town police department,’” she said. “Why is that in there?”

Cirullo explained that the language is in the town charter, requiring a referendum for the town to establish its own police department. “Eliminating this charter language would eliminate the charter requirements… for a referendum to establish its own police department,” he said.

McLendon made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.