PALM COAST — Despite ongoing controversy, Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks said Monday that she plans on presenting Palm Coast with an interlocal agreement to run the city’s 2014 elections.
Weeks, in a letter to the Palm Coast Observer, said she’s moving forward in support of the taxpayers.
“Because the voters and taxpayers of Palm Coast are in a no-win situation with possibly facing the risk of an election challenge — regardless of whether the city or I conduct city elections in 2014 — I want to put their minds at ease as to the fairness and honestly of an election,” Weeks wrote.
With the two City Council seats being placed on the countywide ballot, now Palm Coast voters won’t have to go to two different poling location on Election Day — something voters would have had to do if Palm Coast held its own election.
Since December, city officials and Weeks have gone back and forth over whether an item on Palm Coast’s 2011 election ballot should be considered valid. The item, which moved Palm Coast elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, was overwhelmingly approved by voters.
However, Weeks informed the city in 2013 that state law requires such a vote to be held “at the next general election ... or at a special election called for that purpose.”
Weeks has repeatedly said that she wants confirmation from the Attorney General’s Office before she proceeds with the 2014 election.
According to state election officials, Weeks can’t see a formal opinion from the attorney general; the city would have to make that request.
Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon, in a Feb. 25 meeting, said: “I don’t understand what the issue is. From a legal standpoint ... every possible issue has been addressed.”
“This alone speaks volumes and should be of concern to the city elected officials as Mr. Landon’s statement was not accurate: The city has not yet fully cooperated by addressing a very important matter because they have not requested the virtually free formal opinion (that only they can request) to confirm they have met all the requirements to modify their city charter following the 2011 elections,” Weeks wrote in the letter.
Back in February, Landon also called the legal issues “basic.”
“Landon and (City Attorney Bill) Reischmann were each paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2011 and should have done their homework at that time so there would not be issues in 2013 or 2014 to address,” Weeks wrote in the letter. “Currently, it is unknown if how they addressed issues I raised has been correct and legal.”
Weeks also states that it has taken her three months to get a yes or a no answer to one question — a question she has repeatedly put in emails to city staff: “Does the city of Palm Coast intend for this office (Supervisor of Elections) to conduct an election for (the city) in 2014?”
City Clerk Virginia Smith responded to Weeks’ question in a Feb. 28 email: “The answer to your question is YES. However, the city is requesting it be treated like any other government entity who have seats on the 2014 county ballot,” Smith wrote.
In addition, Weeks claims the city has used the media to take the focus of them and place the blame on her.
“The city has tried to spin this story in the media over the past couple of months to take the focus off of them and place the focus on me by repeatedly making the claim the supervisor of elections hasn’t been cooperative when this is far from the truth,” Weeks wrote. “But perhaps this is their way of taking attention away from the issue at hand. The fact of the matter is, I never changed my position and perhaps this has frustrated the city. I brought concerns to the attention of the city in September 2013, and it wasn’t until late January 2014 that the city adopted ordinances to attempt to correct matters.”
Last week, Reischmann said there is about a 30- to 60-day window before the city will actually have to spend money preparing to hold its own election.
Weeks, however, said she isn’t so sure the city would be equipped to run an “honest and fair” election.
“The city has never conducted its own election, and my concern is if (city officials) can’t follow the simple laws and rules to modify their city charter without issues being raised, how in the world would they ever be able to conduct an election that the voters could have confidence of being honest and fair?” Weeks wrote. “There’s no doubt if the city conducted its own election that the mayor and City Council would remain silent if issues were raised, and the city attorney and city manager would, without fail, do all that they could to convince the citizens everything was just fine, even if it wasn’t.”