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Elections Supervisor Again Giving Palm Coast Grief Over 2014 Voting, Jeopardizing Taxpayer Savings

| December 17, 2013

Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks is again giving the Palm Coast city administration and the council headaches over the 2014 elections. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks is again giving the Palm Coast city administration and the council headaches over the 2014 elections. (© FlaglerLive)

For the third time in four months, Flagler County Elections Supervisor Kimberle Weeks is at loggerheads with Palm Coast over election issues. This time she’s questioning whether the candidates for two city council seats up for election in 2014 may qualify in time to enable the city to have absentee ballots.

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The city sees no problem: it’s a clerical issue that will be fixed by ordinance, no more. Weeks disagrees. The disagreement is such that Weeks may opt to not run Palm Coast’s elections in 2014. State law allows her to do that: supervisors of elections are not required to run elections for cities.

But the whole point of Palm Coast voters amending their charter to switch elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years was to avoid having to run what amounts to costly special, municipal elections every time. Even-year elections coincides the balloting with general federal, state and county elections, and lets Palm Coast include its candidates on the broader ballot, thus saving taxpayers a lot of money.  If Weeks opts out of running the city’s election, Palm Coast will have to run its own election, print its own ballot and have its own precincts, all clutteringly concurrent with the other elections, confusing voters and adding additional cost to the city. (The two council seats up for election are those of Bill Lewis and David Ferguson.)

In previous disagreements with the city, Weeks has frequently made a point of putting voters’ interests first, putting a premium on reducing confusion and improving convenience for voters. In this case, her actions are potentially having the opposite effect, and it’s all a matter of wording that the city council can fix quickly—but not necessarily to Weeks’s satisfaction. Should that happen, the city is prepared to step in.

That running theme of seemingly tangled conflicts over realistically minor matter has been the context of Weeks’s relations with the city. She’s not been wrong, exactly, as much as disproportionately alarmist over problems that have relatively simple solutions. Minor missteps aside, the city has readily offered solutions. Weeks has not been as quick to accept them.

“I feel confident that the administration and your city clerk and our office, if it has to be done, can conduct the elections without the involvement of the supervisor’s office,” City Attorney Bill Reischmann told the council this morning.” He and the city hope it doesn’t get that far. “We are optimistic,” Reischmann said. “We are working on at this time the preparation of an interlocal agreement with the supervisor’s office, and we’ll be working very hard to make sure that we can bring back to you that interlocal agreement, so that we can move forward in a prudent and logical way, with the supervisor to conduct the 2014 elections.”

In the strictest possible sense, Weeks is right: the city’s charter currently states that to qualify for office, “shall qualify with the city Clerk no sooner than 45 calendar days nor later than 35 calendar days prior to the second Tuesday in September of each even-numbered year.” So for candidates to qualify for the 2014 elections—the primary is on Aug. 14, the general is on Nov. 4—they would have had to qualify between July 26 and Aug. 5, 2014, according to Weeks. That’s too late for the mailing dates required for absentee ballots. The charter also conflicts with state law regarding the uploading of early voting and absentee voting data.

But neither of these discrepancies was the city’s intention. In effect, the city made a clerical mistake: when it updated its charter in line with an overwhelmingly approved 2011 popular referendum to change the election cycle to even-numbered year, the city failed to properly edit the charter in all places, even though the referendum gave the city precisely that authority. In other words, the city may still do the editing, and nothing in state law either forbids it to do so or requires the city to hold another referendum to change the charter wording, since it all goes to the results of the same 2011  referendum. The city will be doing just that in coming weeks, with an ordinance going before the council to correct the charter language. But Weeks, a stickler to a fault, reads the charter and the law more dogmatically.

“Because the city of Palm Coast candidates would be printed on the same 2014 ballot as the state and federal races,” Weeks wrote the state Division of Elections by way of an office aide on Dec. 5, “must the Supervisor of Elections adhere to City of Palm Coast charter requirements when they violate state law?”

Gary Holland, an attorney with the state elections division, wrote back on Dec. 9 that he’d spoken with Virginia Smith, the Palm Coast city clerk, who had assured him that “the city will be taking action (via ordinance) to remedy the situation.” The same day, Weeks, misinterpreting an analysis by Reischmann, claimed Reischmann “confirmed” that the charter could not be changed by ordinance, prompting another reply from Holland: “”If that is the case, that is a local issue that needs to be resolved between the city and you.”

But Holland also noted to Weeks that “nothing requires you to conduct the city election, but if its election [is] on the same day as the county election, it makes sense for you to conduct it.”

Weeks’s interpretation has left city officials again perplexed and not a little bit frustrated.

Reischmann calls Weeks’s interpretations “non-issues.”

“The 2011 referendum, which the voters approved, explicitly anticipates in an ordinance amending the city’s charter regarding the city’s qualifying procedure,” Reischmann said. “The city clerk with our office has already prepared this. It’s done. It will be brought to you in the immediate future. This will be done in a timely basis given that elections are coming in the summer and the fall of 2014.” The timeliness, of course, is Weeks’s issue: the city could have avoided the hang-up by correcting the charter language immediately after the 2011 election. But the wording of the charter is only at odds with voters’ intentions, not with state law, since the referendum enacted the correct charter timeline—even if the language of that enactment hasn’t yet made it in print.


“Further,” Reischmann continued, “the Division of Elections has opined repeatedly that the city’s charter provision regarding absentee ballots applies only to a city’s stand-alone election. The state’s absentee ballot process will control the 2014 elections, as it is combined with the state, federal, county and city elections. This is pursuant to and consistent with the state’s election code. We have to follow it.” In other words, Palm Coast voters who want to cast absentee ballots have nothing to worry about: they’ll get to do so. “So at this time, moving forward, our office is going to work with your city clerk in preparing and drafting an interlocal agreement like we always do, to present to the supervisor of elections for the 2014 election. We hope to be able to work with her to bring that negotiated agreement to you in the near future.”

This is only the latest in a series of conflicts between Palm Coast and Weeks. In September, Weeks objected to being charged for weekend use of voting space during early voting at the Palm Coast Community Center. She won that battle when the council waived the weekend fees. She also objected to being located in the smaller of two rooms at the center. She lost part of that battle, having to accept the smaller room for early voting when the larger room’s uses conflicts with city council meetings. Next, Weeks claimed that because the city had not “updated” the wording of its 2011 charter amendment with the state Division of Elections—the charter language was changed locally, but the state’s version of the charter had not been changed—the charter amendment was invalid.

Weeks lost that argument when Reischmann pointed out that state law, court precedent and an Attorney General opinion established that “the key question here is the effective date of the 2011 charter amendment, not the date the voter approved amendment may or may not have been submitted to the Department of State for an ‘update’ of the Department’s records.”

Weeks’s motives can be confounding.

“It’s hard to fathom that the supervisor of elections would refuse to allow our two seats to be on the county, state, federal-wide ballot,”  City Manager Jim Landon said. He cited the readiness of emergency crews to do what was necessary, immediately and pragmatically, to address the weekend’s tornado emergency, and said the administration would do likewise should it face continued obstacles from the supervisor of elections.

“We have very talented people in the office,” Landon said. “Virginia Smith has demonstrated that. She works very well with our legal counsel, they have a lot of experience. We will move forward, and we will move forward with what the city will do to make the election go as smoothly as possible, and then also what would be logical for the supervisor of elections to assist us on putting the two seats on the ballot. It would just make no sense to have two elections going on at the same time. If she refuses—she hasn’t refused, she’s just indicated to us she knows she doesn’t have to conduct the election for us—then we will be prepared, and we’ve already started that preparation, and make sure that this important governmental function is carried out in a logical manner, the best we can, with hopefully the assistance of the supervisor of elections.”

 

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30 Responses for “Elections Supervisor Again Giving Palm Coast Grief Over 2014 Voting, Jeopardizing Taxpayer Savings”

  1. Will says:

    Weeks’ attitude and habit of building obstacles is beyond reason. “Any of the above” might be the best choice next election…

  2. Charles Gardner says:

    Don’t blame me, I voted for Apperson in 08.

  3. Supervisor of Elections says:

    If the city is so confident they have followed the law and their charter to amend their charter then they would request the Formal Opinion from the Attorney General that I have asked them to do as confirmation–they have flat refused. They had no clue of charter language issues, and that they hadn’t updated their charter with the Secretary of State until I brought it to their attention. Within two days of me bringing to their attention that they had not updated their charter with the Secretary of State, they updated their charter as is required. Yes, this was nearly two years following their 2011 election. It was not a violation of the law that they waited two years to take care of this requirement because the Florida Statutes is silent on the time requirement. The city had no clue there were issues with the language in their charter concerning elections until I brought them to their attention. They may have a solution to file Ordinance(s) to clean up the issues, but is that lawful?

    it is my intention to follow laws and requirements to avoid challenges and costly lawsuits and to maintain the integrity of the elections office. I can accept being criticized for doing what is right, I was elected by the people, I work for the people and I am accountable to the people.

    • Will says:

      Enough with the “holier than though” pronouncements Madame Supervisor. A little courtesy and common sense would get the job done without creating so many bad feelings in your wake.

      I hope the “people” to whom you’re accountable will put some manners on you next time around!

    • Mike says:

      @ Supervisor, maybe the city should start to charge you for the space you are requesting for the 2014 elections, the pronblem with politicians is you have no common sense. From the small town to the US Capitol, all politicians do is argue, sticklers for every little thing and driving up costs instead of reducing them. I believe any politician who behaves in this manor should be voted out of office, it may not matter but you just lost my vote next election for your argumenative, non-solution over the top attitude.Politicians are electerd by the people to solve problems not create drama, this is nothing more than a political pisiing match.

  4. Rob says:

    Mrs Weeks does a good job representing the people and the people’s interests
    That is more than I can say for the pompous and smug Palm Coast City Council.

  5. Marty McFly says:

    Federal government….State government….County government……CORRUPT !!!!!!!

  6. KMedley says:

    Never before have so many dramas emanated from the office of Supervisors of Elections. Mr. Landon, you should have followed your instincts in 2009 and led Palm Coast to a level of independence that would have eliminated the numerous headaches and obstacles perpetuated by this SOE. If should be completely clear by now that this SOE does not have the interests of Palm Coast and its voters as a part of her public service. She closed the Early Voting site in Flagler Beach, closed the precinct in Beverly Beach and now essentially seeks to wash her hands of Palm Coast. Maintain the integrity of the office?! Now that’s laughable.

  7. Dennis McDonald says:

    F Troop is Running Palm Coast !

    After reading this my first question is WHERE is the documentation, not his opinions that backs up Reischmans claims ? Knowing the SOE I am sure she has more than backed up her position with ample Florida Statutes.
    Landon is Totally responsible for the process of changing the City Charter as stated in HIS job description in the Palm Coast City Charter. Reischman is Landon’s responsibility, Landon picks him.
    The combined total of City Manager and City Counsel cost to the Taxpayer is short of $ 1,000,000 per year. Landon clearly FAILED his job description as Reischman admits to ” a clerical mistake ” That’s right blame poor Virginia who does a great job but does have serious limitations.. LANDON her boss ! May I add that I have long held ” that a supervisor at any level from first line to CEO exists for one reason, to make sure his/her people DO NOT FAIL.” Theres a big Ooops for The City Manager of The Year.
    This was no clerical error. Landon never filed the revised City Charter till September 5 2013 when it was Voted November 2011. Two Years !
    Then it was found that the qualifying dates were wrong. Next we find that the City Charter requires the absentees not to be opened till after 7PM election eve. Not possible as Florida law requires counts be made and held during early Voting. So together with another lawyer from the DOE they hatch the idea that you do not have to have Absentee Ballots because it’s a City Election. Read the Email it’s all there.
    These Legal Experts forget that the Charter speaks of opening the ballots so how can you say they can be eliminated ? Why do we listed and PAY these experts ? Lack of Reading Comprehension must be a requirement for them.
    Most of us could see that when the Million Dollar Team changed the Charter they screwed this up !
    Who is responsible for this mess, well the Mayor and Counsel Members hire the City Manager who hires legal Counsel. These four councilmen and the Mayor always appear to work for the Special Interests not Us. How about that $ 9 Million Chuimento Hall ?
    They forget the ” little people ” get to vote every two years. We will not forget this time as it’s fresh in our minds and the abuse of Taxpayer $$ is over the top.

    Opinions From The new Palm Coast

    Dennis McDonald

    • Robert Lewis says:

      Mr. McDonald –

      Are you and Ms. Weeks working together to undermine the City of Palm Coast. It seems to me that you are nothing more than a community antagonist that is desperately trying to become something. I do not think for one minute that Kim Weeks is smart enough to think of this on her own.

      I think it is funny that you mention legal expenses. How many lawsuits are you behind against the City of Palm Coast. How much money have you cost the tax payers?

    • BW says:

      Dennis,

      My question to you is . . . what are you doing to make things better in Palm Coast?

      You complain a lot and actively seek to waste our tax dollars, but what have and are you actually doing to make things better?

  8. Santa says:

    If our elections supervisor doesn’t follow the laws then how could we have confidence in the outcome of elections? I commend Supervisor Weeks for standing up for what is right and for not collapsing in to the city by accepting what they say as law, and to be true and correct It is sad the city didn’t know there were problems until the supervisor told them.

  9. Tell the whole story says:

    Please provide the details of the main issue-the issue that the city did not follow the law and fulfill requirements when placing the 2011 ballot referendum on the ballot. The referendum was required to be placed on the general election or a special election ballot, for that purpose according to Florida Statutes, Chapter 166.031. The city placed the referendum on the primary election ballot. The charter never should have been amended whether it passed or not–what the city did was not legal. The city did not follow the law and their own charter in 2011 when they attempted to amend their charter.

    The city insists the errors are clerical–the errors are clerical, and probably illegal. The city clerk and city attorney didn’t follow the law. This cannot be fixed by ordinance. Your story doesn’t even tell about this BIG issue.

  10. Biker says:

    Sounds like sour grapes on Weeks part..

    • KMedley says:

      Biker – It is along the lines of an abiding disdain for all things Palm Coast and it began in 2009 when Mr. Landon dared to question the outrageous down payments the SOE sought for the conduction of city elections. I would encourage Flaglerlive and voters to submit a public records request for the Inter-local agreements from 2009 to the present between the SOE and the City of Palm Coast, especially the one used for the amendment to the charter. The Inter-locals for the elections will show the large deposits she requires before beginning any work on a city election. Taxpayer dollars are literally in limbo for months, without accruing any interest, simply because she has yet to figure out how to effectively budget for an election, ANY election.

  11. Diana L says:

    Thank you Ms. Weeks.

  12. KMedley says:

    “The city had no clue there were issues with the language in their charter concerning elections until I brought them to their attention”.

    Here’s a simple question. Why wait until this late hour to now advise the city? First, it was a memo telling the city they would have to conduct elections in 2013 because they failed to upload their amended charter to the State. Now, when that issue becomes moot, SOE Weeks puts another hurdle before the City and expects them to jump by requesting a “Formal Opinion”; and when they refuse; she threatens to disenfranchise Palm Coast voters by denying voting by absentee and/or refusing to conduct the city elections. Yes, we know you were elected by the people and you would do well to remember the majority of those voters reside in the City of Palm Coast. This is a City ordinance issued, completely provided for by the City’s charter and I suspect the City’s attorney is quite capable of compliance and interpretation of the law. By the way, from which law school did SOE Weeks graduate?

  13. Do what's right says:

    The City of Palm Coast apparently didn’t follow Florida laws and their city charter when attempting to amend their city charter in 2011 to change their election cycle, yet they want the elections supervisor to do an election that they may not be entitled to hold. The referendum may have passed, but very few eligible voters voted on the matter and it was on the wrong ballot-it was on a primary election ballot and not a general or special election ballot. Since the requirements may not have been followed to amend their charter then perhaps the city never should have amended their charter; perhaps their former charter should remain and their regularly scheduled election should have been held in 2013; which the city didn’t enter into an Interlocal Agreement with the supervisor to hold an election in 2013. If that is the case, terms in office never should have been lengthened, and 2 council member’s term of office ended in November 2013. The city has admitted to mistakes, they just aren’t talking about what all they didn’t do that they should have, and are claiming to be able to fix everything with ordinances, when that may not be possible. The city is also stating the mistakes are clerical, when they may be far more serious and considered to be violations. It appears the city believes their charter and Florida Statutes 166.031 don’t mean anything and they are not required to follow what is in the charter and the Florida Statutes…the city intends to file an Ordinance or Ordinances and it will fix everything (in their opinion). Where is it stated the city can legally adopt ordinances to fix these mistakes? I believe the only ordinance they can file is one that will correct their qualifying times. The city needs to be held accountable. If they are trying to brush all this under the rug, and knowingly minipulate us and our supervisor, Landon and company should be fired and prosecuted for their intentional actions. I have the concern here of voter fraud. A Judge needs to make a judgment and make that determination on the 2011 charter amendment matter,and what the city can and cannot do to fix their mistakes. We will then know for sure if the city should actually be holding an election in 2014. Don’t beat up our supervisor and make her look like the bad guy because she follows the rules and is holding the city to her standards and trying to do what is right.

    The elections supervisor prepares and presents the Interlocal Agreements to the municipalities….what are these people thinking? They haven’t gotten anything right thus far and didn’t even recognize qualifying conflicts, how could they possibly conduct their own election and prepare an election Interlocal agreement. The city is not above the law. Their city clerk and high priced city attorney were caught asleep at the wheel. I support our SOE! It’s about time Landon and company stop making their own rules and start following the rules. It doesn’t appear the city has been communicating and cooperating with our SOE.

  14. Bill Hazz says:

    It certainly sounds like the Supervisor of Elections is going out of her way to make “issues” with Palm Coast. Her missive above does NOT contain any language that would suggest she is willing to cooperate or work WITH the city to move things forward for a smooth election.

    This does not sound like a person that is “working for the people.” She is working to agitate as best she can…

  15. confidential says:

    Very well said by SOE Weeks. She is not creating any problems to the contrary she is doing her job required by law and is not her fault that “the city charter has a clerical error”. Weeks is trying well ahead of the 2014 election to set the record straight, just like she did while fighting for the voters to use the community center as one more needed polling place in the largest precinct of the largest voter registered in Flagler County that is in Palm Coast. Too bad that every time that our SOE Weeks does her work to upheld elections laws is miserably witch hunted by all.
    As per the elections law she needs to have the two candidates and all opposition running for City Council in time to be printed in the ballots for the absentee voters. This organization and printing to take place is not to the like and or manipulation of few but done under the law! So stop badmouthing a lady constitutional official for just doing things right! Elections are at a very critical point here and vital to change the ways of some officials that are missing the point and my appreciation goes to SOE Kimberle Weeks for taking a strong stand against this pathetic nonsense ill intended attitude, directed at her excellent work!

  16. confidential says:

    Can anyone realize here that all the resistance to our SOE law abiding request, is just to avoid open manipulation of our electoral process in favor of some elite..? I can see here already the post of some FCCOC fans against the SOE. She fights for the voters and fair elections and not for any seating government or semi government or private business organization! Stop the shameful witch hunt!

  17. Jack Howell says:

    It appears that once again the City of Palm Coast leadership is once again trying to pull a fast one on us voters. Mr. Landon is smug as usual and will throw whomever under the bus if it looks like he will have to take the fall.

    I have been watching, on a number of issues, the antics of the city attorney Reischman. He is a real jewel in the most negative light. I would say he is the master of passing “bum scoop”.

    The SOE Kim Weeks is right on their case and rightly so. There is no doubt that Kim has all the documentation that more than backs up her case. No wonder the idiots don’t like her; she calls it like it is! Keep up the great work Kim.

  18. Clear as the nose on your face says:

    The city wants everyone to trust them, and for no one to verify their doings. The city doesn’t play well with others….it’s always their way or no way. It’s about time they be held accountable. They finally found someone that won’t stand to be manipulated. The city manager is grossly over paid and it is about time the city council and mayor realize they aren’t getting their money’s worth with this city manager. Time for Landon to go!

  19. An honest council member says:

    Maybe it’s just a case of extreme coincidence that Netts benefitted from the 2011 election that took place to change the city election schedule. Primary elections typically generate a lower voter turnout, so did the city intentionally place the charter amendment on the 2011 primary ballot instead of the 2011 general ballot (as it should have been by law) so they could possibly sway the outcome in their favor in hopes of benefitting Netts, because fewer voters voted than would have in a general election? The passage of the referendum would allow Netts’ term of office to be extended beyond a typical term, which gave him a longer period of time in office beyond the typical number of years allowed. In other words, Netts is term limited and extending his term gave him more time in office than he would have had otherwise; which may have also benefited Landon. As is stated above in other posts, and I have verified, chapter 166.031 of the FL Statutes does state that a charter amendment item shall be placed on the GENERAL election ballot or special election ballot for a specific purpose. Thinking this all over, who benefited from the 2011 proposed charter amendment, and why did it all come up when Netts was going to be going bye, bye. Anyone who knows the relationship between Landon and Netts probably agrees with my opinion.

    After SOE Weeks brought all this to light, the city attorney referred the the 2011 primary election as a special election. At no time do it recall the 2011 primary election being advertised or referred to as a special election. In my opinion this was a politically motivated orchestration to keep Landon and Netts in power.

  20. Local FD says:

    First I’d like to thank the SOE for responding her self in the comments section of this story. Takes some courage to put ink to paper in writing for people to dispute.

    Common sense goverment is elusive and is very rare. I know of no goverment that is free of mistakes, or misunderstandings. What the SOE has done is simply blown a clerical error out of proportion. If in fact it was a major concern on behalf of the state, the City would have heard more about it when it was brought to their attention. Instead according to the aticle, they simply stated that as long as the city corrects the wording thru ordinence the SOE should conduct the election just fine if she chooses.

    What is really going on here, the SOE is exposing a minor detail in hopes to gain free press, not to protect voters rights or access to voting precincts.

    ask yourself this. If we have SOE office, and her job is to govern, certify, and over-see the elcetions process why would a city in that said county feel the need to run their own election?

    The answer is simple, the SOE office is not effencient or effective. The City of Palm Coast is trying to save Tax Payer money, and work with the SOE. If she is for the people and by the people as she stated, why is it such a problem to work togehter and save money, rather than cause a scene?

    -:Local Firefighter

  21. Simmons says:

    Good grief!

  22. Diane says:

    Laws are made to be followed by all, bullies are not exempt. If the city isn’t following procedures they shouldn’t refer to their shortfalls as clerical mistakes and be excused.

  23. confidential says:

    Reischmann city attorney says …”if trouble persist he is confident the city administration could conduct and election without the Supervisor”.
    Now for sure we the voters will not be so confident of Mr. Landon as head of the city administration conducting the city elections or handling our ballots!! Is that what he and council are pushing for with the SOE Mrs. Weeks witch hunt?

  24. Bob says:

    Why is the city not working with the SOE? Seems to me they would get the formal opinion to satisfy her that she would not be conducting an illegal election if she conducted an election for the city in 2014. Because the city has not gotten the opinion, it appears they are trying to hide something. Seems like a pretty easy, virtually free fix if the city would cooperate. The council better put some pressure on Landon and Reischmann before they screw up everything and cost us taxpayers more money.

  25. Mike says:

    The SOE position is a joke, for what the position pays for this small county it is just more wasteful government spending. Now if we cut ties wit that office as a city what will they have left, can we cut positions in the office to save money since as a city we will need our own staff? end the arguing or cut ties and move on, I for one hate the political pissing matches and the rate these politicians are paid. For such a small county I was shocked at how much these individuals earn, it is ludicrous based on what the much larger counties earn. People run for office because of the paycheck and not that they make a difference any more, politics has become a joke in America, but the people cannot laugh because we are stuck with the bill.

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