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Recall group halts effort against two on Madeira Beach City Commission

MADEIRA BEACH — There won't be a recall election against Vice Mayor Robin Vander Velde and Commissioner Nancy Oakley after all.

The group of residents and former city officials who first announced the recall effort in November called a halt last week, saying they had run out of time.

Recalling an elected official is a lengthy and complicated process and under the city's charter scheduling of a recall election is subject to court review.

"We believe the judge would look at this and say since the two commission seats are up for election in March 2013, there is no need for a recall," said former Commissioner Steve Kochick.

Kochick is one of several former officials and self-described "concerned citizens" trying to recall the two commissioners. Kockich served on the commission for two terms and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2011.

"We just would like to apologize to the residents of Madeira Beach that this took so long," said Kochick "We are ready to go but there is not enough time left."

Since its formation in November, the group hired an attorney and spent months reviewing commission meeting minutes and hours of recordings.

"We found enough evidence for a recall election and drafted recall petitions," said John Hendricks, one of the organizers.

Those petitions allege both Oakley and Vander Velde, who did not return calls for comment for this article, committed malfeasance and misfeasance in office by "usurping" and "interfering" with the powers of then-Acting City Manager and fire Chief Bill Mallory, and by violating the state Sunshine Law.

The petitions cite "demands" by the two commissioners that a special projects coordinator position be removed from the budget, that administrative assistant duties be split between departments and requiring commission approval through a budget amendment before any personnel could be hired or transferred.

Oakley and Vandervelde continued to interfere with city management "even after being cautioned by the city attorney", according to the petition.

The city charter specifically bars "interference with administration" and prohibits directing or requesting the appointment or removal of city employee.

The alleged Sunshine Law violation occurred when Oakley and Vander Velde privately were witnessed conferring in a hallway during a commission meeting recess about a pending contract for a concession stand at the Snack Shack in Archibald Park.

The commission seats now held by Oakley and Vander Velde will be open to election in March 2013.

"What it amounts to is we are going to go through a recall in a regular election," Hendricks said. "I would invite them to resign now."

Qualifying for the election, according to the charter, would begin, at the earliest, three months before.

Oakley, who was first elected to office in 2007, has not indicated whether or not she will run for a fourth term She was automatically elected with no opposition to her current term in 2011.

Vander Velde, elected without opposition for her first term in March 2011, no longer lives in her district and cannot run for re-election unless she moves back into the district within six months of the March 2013 election.

She cannot run for election in the district she now lives in because that seat, now held by Terry Lister, is not open for election until 2014.

The group's animus toward the two commissioners began immediately after the March 2011 election.

That election created a new commission majority that was both preceded and followed by an exodus of most of the city's long-time employees.

The recall group blamed the commissioners for the loss of "quality people" — including a city manager, fire chief, city clerk, finance director, public works director, human resources director and human resources manager.

Since then some of those positions have been filled and a new city manager, Shane Crawford, is running the city.

Kochick and Hendricks largely approve of the job Crawford is doing, but still oppose many the commission's actions —- including its latest consideration of providing a $2.5 million bridge loan to bring an aquarium attraction to John's Pass Village.

Hendricks said the group will actively support other candidates for the two commission seats in March.

Recall group halts effort against two on Madeira Beach City Commission 06/02/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 2, 2012 4:31am]
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