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Members split on Brooksville City Council swing vote vacancy

BROOKSVILLE —City Council member Lara Bradburn jokingly suggested using the rock-paper-scissors hand game. Joe Bernardini, her colleague at the other end of the dais, suggested drawing a name from a hat.

In any case, picking someone to fill a temporary council vacancy will take more than just a vote among the divided body.

Council members decided Monday to hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. next Monday to give finalists Robert "Butch" Battista and Kevin Hohn an opportunity to sway a majority vote.

Council members selected the two men from 10 applicants who were vying for the council seat left open by Emory Pierce, who resigned last month to accept a city manager position in north Florida. The person selected to fill the seat will serve until after the November 2012 general election.

Hohn, a resident of Southern Hills Plantation, is supported by Bradburn and Mayor Frankie Burnett while Battista, a former attorney for the city, is supported by Bernardini and Vice Mayor Joe Johnston. Neither candidate has been a public officeholder.

While philosophical differences aren't new among Bradburn and Bernardini, both agreed that the council won't likely address many upcoming issues without a swing vote.

Bradburn said she felt Hohn, who works as a public records product specialist and is a former criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service, represents progressive "new thinking" that she feels the city needs to meet the challenges of the future.

"He's level-headed and calm, and we need that on the council," Bradburn said. "We've made a lot of progress in the city the last few years. I want to see that continue."

Bernardini said that while he found Hohn's resume impressive, he has reservations about his grasp of the inner workings of the city and the numerous issues the council faces. Battista, he said, is ready-made for the job and with a strong legal background would be an asset to the city.

"Butch knows how a budget works and knows how we work," Bernardini said. "I don't think having him means we'd be going backwards."

Hohn and Battista will be given 10 minutes each to present their credentials at Monday's meeting. If a deadlock still remains, council members will likely have to rely on a measure suggested by city attorney Tom Hogan to break the tie.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Members split on Brooksville City Council swing vote vacancy 08/17/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 8:22pm]

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