Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kenneth City seeks court ruling on mayoral candidate eligibility

KENNETH CITY — Council members unanimously voted to ask a judge to decide as soon as possible if the town charter allows a public schoolteacher to serve as mayor.

The goal is to get a definitive answer before the March 10 election.

Kenneth City's charter prohibits any "public employee" from serving as mayor. The obscure clause has been in the charter since at least 1982 but has never been an issue until this year when town officials tried to force Teresa Zemaitis out of the mayor's race after they had qualified her to run. Zemaitis, they said, is a public employee because she teaches reading at Dixie Hollins High School.

Since then, the town has been ripped apart as Zemaitis' supporters and others say the prohibition should apply only to those who work for Kenneth City to prevent a mayor from supervising him- or herself. Others say the ban applies to all public employees from any agency anywhere.

Council members sought a ruling from the Florida Attorney General's Office, but the state declined to provide a solid opinion, suggesting the courts might help resolve the issue. The council decided at Wednesday's meeting to follow that suggestion by hiring Tampa attorney Tom Scarritt to spearhead the case.

But Scarritt's $165-per-hour fee prompted objections from council member Wanda Dudley and some residents who said the council could easily solve the issue by voting to interpret the charter to allow Zemaitis to serve if elected.

Kenneth City resident Bob Codere reminded council members that former Kenneth City Mayor Harold Paxton had said that he had been told the prohibition applied only to Kenneth City employees.

"Another fine mess you've got us in," Codere said.

Dudley asked, "Why should we waste money?"

Dudley said she thought that the attorney general's letter gave the basis on which the council could decide. The law, she said, is that there has to be a "valid municipal purpose" for a rule. Without that, she said, the clause is not enforceable. Dudley said there is no valid reason to bar all public employees from serving as mayor although it makes sense if the prohibition applies only to Kenneth City workers.

"It's interesting that you're armed to the teeth like a lawyer," Kenneth City town attorney Paul Marino said at one point. "I compliment your legal skills."

Marino and Dudley tussled over the issue. Marino repeatedly said the issue should be left to Scarritt.

Saying, "I would really hate to see us go to court over this," Dudley made a motion to interpret the charter as applying only to Kenneth City employees. The motion failed for lack of a second.

Kenneth City seeks court ruling on mayoral candidate eligibility 02/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 14, 2009 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  2. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  4. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102
  5. Chemical industry insider now shapes EPA policy


    WASHINGTON — For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

    This is the Dow chemical plant near Freeport, Texas. Before the 2016 election, Dow had been in talks with the EPA to phase out the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is blamed for disabilities in children. Dow is no longer willing to compromise.