MADEIRA BEACH — Residents' effort to recall two sitting commissioners entered a new phase this week as written defenses were delivered to the recall committee.
The defenses from Commissioners John Douthirt and Nancy Oakley, who were elected by strong antidevelopment majorities in March, will be included in the next recall petition, telling voters why they should not be recalled and instead be kept in office.
They claim that their actions in appointing a budget director were taken at the direction of the city attorney.
Meanwhile, they and Mayor Maggi Black are expected to discuss Tuesday whether or not to try to oust the remaining two other commissioners, Nancy Hodges and Terry Lister.
Black said recently that the two commissioners forfeited their offices when a court found they violated the state Sunshine Law in 2016.
Hodges and Lister had earlier signed the recall petition to remove Douthirt and Oakley from office.
That petition contained valid signatures from more than 10 percent of city voters — enough to meet state requirements allowing the recall process to continue.
Tuesday, City Clerk Clara VanBlargan delivered Douthirt's and Oakley's defenses and instructions for the next phase of the recall effort to recall committee chairman Robert Preston.
Under state law, within the next two months the recall committee must collect even more signatures, this time from at least 15 percent of registered voters, or approximately 496 people.
Assuming that the same people who signed the first petition do so again, the group would only need to collect about a dozen more signatures against Oakley and two dozen more against Douthirt to trigger a recall election.
If this petition drive is successful, a recall election could be avoided if the commissioners resign their offices.
The City Commission, on which Douthirt and Oakley are part of a three-vote majority, could also contest the recall election in court.
Recently, the city's former city attorney, Erica Augello, wrote to the commission, saying the reasons cited by the recall petitioners were "not legally sufficient" to meet the recall claim the commissioners had committed "malfeasance'' by violating the City Charter.
The recall petition charges that Douthirt and Oakley violated the city's charter when they voted to appoint Walter Pierce as budget director on May 9.
Under the charter, except for the city clerk, city attorney and finance director, all other city employees are appointed solely by the city manager or his designees.