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Resign to Run Law Could Dictate New City Leadership

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Posted: Friday, February 9, 2018 2:15 am

   Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter’s announcement of a try for statewide office triggered speculation about City leadership.

   The Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services is a cabinet-level partisan position elected statewide in even-numbered years. The current compensation is $128,972. The office budget was $1.4 billion in 2014.

When the Mayor announced his statewide candidacy, state law known as “resign to run” became applicable (Florida Statute 99.012). The law’s intent is clear.

   The policy is not to allow a person to hold two offices at the same time.

In order to qualify to run for another post, the law requires the officeholder to file a letter resigning from their existing elected office. There are some other rules. The resignation must be irrevocable – you can’t hedge your bets. The letter must be submitted at least ten days prior to the first day of the qualifying period for the new office. That’s June 4 this year. So the deadline is about May 25.

   The catch is when that resignation must be effective.

   Florida Statute sets the effective resignation date as the earlier of the date to take office if successful, or the date a successor to the old position would take office.

   The swearing-in date for a successful Agriculture Commissioner is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January following a successful November election.

   To follow Florida law, a currently elected municipal officeholder must file a letter of resignation - but the effective date of resignation could be the first week of January the  following year when the new officer is sworn-in.           Homestead Charter amendments were adopted in 2016 that require the Vice Mayor to step up to Mayor when that office becomes vacant. The Vice Mayor then becomes the Interim Mayor. (An Interim Vice Mayor is selected by Council from the remaining members.)

   When an Interim Mayor ascends to office, their Council seat becomes vacant. The Charter states if more than six months remain in that Council term, the Mayor (subject to approval by Council) appoints a qualified individual to serve. If less than six months remains in that Council term, the Mayor may appoint an individual or allow the seat to remain vacant.

   The Charter dictates that if the Interim Mayor runs for their own term as Mayor, they must resign the underlying Council seat. If not running for Mayor, the Interim returns to their Council seat to finish that term, and returns also as Vice Mayor if allowed.

   After the next election, any Interim Council appointee returns to civilian life and the interim Vice Mayor becomes just a regular Council member.

   The state Resign to Run law confirms that any vacancy created by a resignation in elective municipal office is filled as provided by that municipal Charter.

   There are two options available to Mayor Porter that affect Homestead City government. He could resign this office effective January 2019. The resignation is effective whether he wins the Commissioner’s office or not. Or he could resign the mayoral office before May 25 and run statewide as a “nonofficerholder”, as the statute says.

   Under the first choice, Vice Mayor Steve Shelley would become Interim Mayor in January with the right to name an Interim Council member subject to approval by the rest of Council. Under the second choice, the same thing could happen in May.

   There is a third option. The Mayor has until May 24 to decide whether to stay in the race for Agriculture Commissioner.

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