June 15, 2024

Palm Bay may appoint temporary replacement council member to serve before special election

2 min read

Palm Bay City Hall served as a voting precinct in November 2019.

By Rick Neale, Florida Today

The five-member Palm Bay City Council may appoint a temporary replacement for outgoing Councilman Jeff Bailey to serve for a few months before a special election.
After more than 3½ hours of discussion Thursday night, the City Council voted 3-2 along party lines to approve first reading of an ordinance updating election procedures. The second, final reading is scheduled for Aug. 5.
Earlier this month, Bailey announced he will resign because he is taking an out-of-state job, and the Aug. 5 meeting will be his last.
A math teacher at Central Middle School, he is the longest-tenured council member: He was elected to Seat 5 in 2014, then won reelection in 2018.
Bailey’s unexpired term lasts through November 2022. Per Palm Bay’s elections ordinance, “when more than one year is left remaining in the term of said office and no general municipal election is scheduled within one year, a special election shall be scheduled to be held no sooner than 90 days or no more than 180 days following the date of the vacancy.”
That would place the timing of the special election between the beginning of November and the beginning of January, an agenda memo said.
A large crowd — with heavy Republican opposition — attended Thursday’s meeting after a proposal emerged to change those procedures. The proposal: Instead of conducting a special election, council members could have appointed Bailey’s replacement within 30 days of his departure to serve the remainder of his term.
Melbourne, West Melbourne, Rockledge, Cocoa and Titusville handle vacancies in similar fashion, an agenda memo said.
After speakers at the public-comment podium opposed this proposal for more than two hours, Deputy Mayor Kenny Johnson proposed an alternative.
• Keep the special election.
• Appoint a replacement council member “to hold down the fort” until the special election.
• Speed up the special-election time frame to no sooner than 75 days following Bailey’s departure.
Johnson, Donny Felix and Randy Foster, who are Democrats, voted yes. Bailey and Mayor Rob Medina, who are Republicans, voted no.
Bailey suggested moving up the special-election window from 90 days to 75 days to potentially coincide with the Nov. 2 general election, which could save the city money.
The Brevard County Supervisor of Elections, which controls special-election scheduling, initially gave city officials a $253,628 cost estimate.
Foster said a four-member City Council in the coming months could result in 2-2 tie votes, which are equivalent to “no.”
“We have a situation where it can stymie the business of Palm Bay and cost us money in the long run — more than that $250,000,” Foster said.
Medina opposed appointing a replacement for Bailey before the special election.
“I truly believe today that we can operate with four council people. I really believe that,” Medina said.
Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or rneale@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @RickNeale1

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