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Elections Supervisor Skeptical as Palm Coast Tries To Resolve Conflicts Ahead of 2014 Cycle

| January 13, 2014

The 2011 Palm Coast City election is only one of the issues Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks is contesting as she and the city attempt to resolve differences before the 2014 cycle. (© FlaglerLive)

The 2011 Palm Coast City election is only one of the issues Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks is contesting as she and the city attempt to resolve differences before the 2014 cycle. (© FlaglerLive)

The Palm Coast City Council on Tuesday will set in motion the legal mechanism—through amended ordinances—to resolve an ongoing conflict with the Supervisor of Elections over past and future elections.

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The supervisor has run Palm Coast’s past elections, and was due to run its 2014 elections (two council seats are up). But Supervisor Kimberle Weeks over the last months has raised objections to inconsistencies or errors in city ordinances that she claimed render the city’s process improper or illegal. The city contends that the errors amount to textual amendments that can easily be fixed by the council, as is the council’s intention.

Weeks is not so sure. “In my opinion,” Weeks wrote in an email Monday, in answer to questions about Palm Coast’s proposed ordinance changes, “no ordinance or resolution is going to resolve the matter if the requirements to amend the city charter have not been met. The requirements to amend the city charter to change their election cycle are outlined in the City Charter (Section 10) and in the Florida Statues.”

Late last year Weeks’s objections had reached such a pitch that Palm Coast was having to put contingencies in place, in case the supervisor decided not to run the city’s election come summer and fall. Palm Coast is ready to run its own election, though that would create extra costs and confusion, with parallel elections unfolding at the same time.

But an attorney with the state Division of Elections, Palm Coast’s attorney and County Attorney Al Hadeed—the latter in a long memo to Weeks outlining the issues and the solutions—have all told Weeks that what problems may exist can be resolved amicably and quickly by amending ordinances and through an interlocal agreement between the city and the supervisor.

In the ordinances going before the city council Tuesday, one change pertains to the timetable for candidates to qualify for office. It would require candidates for mayor or city council to submit their qualifying petitions 28 days before the qualifying period (or pay a fee equivalent to 10 percent of the seat’s salary). The qualifying period is no longer set by the city, but by state law.

Another proposed ordinance change adds a section relating to “election procedures. That ordinance directly addresses Weeks’s concerns and the council’s wish to “clear up any confusion due to the possibility of City Charter language being interpreted as in conflict with binding state law,” and to give the county canvassing board sole authority to canvass the election. The ordinance sets out explicitly that the city clerk will coordinate all city elections with the supervisor of elections, including the printing of ballots and the coordination of absentee ballots. (The city council is not voting on the proposals Tuesday, but merely discussing them in a workshop, with a vote on the ordinances likely the following week, then again two weeks after that.)

The council has already, of course, changed its voting cycles from odd years to even years, to coincide with state and federal elections, and to both increase turn-out and save money. But the change, in 2011, while approved by voters and enacted by ordinance, was error-prone: not all the wording in city ordinances and the city charter was changed accordingly. Those were minor errors, not, by any means, willful attempts by the city to mislead voters—errors that all attorneys involved agree were or could be corrected.

Weeks contends that the fact that the 2011 vote took place in a primary rather than in a general election is by itself cause for invalidation, as, by charter, she says the vote should have taken place in a general election. So she’s putting in question the elections that followed the 2011 changes  and the coming election despite repeated attempts by lawyers involved in the issue to dissuade her from such an approach.

Al Hadeed. (© FlaglerLive)

Al Hadeed. (© FlaglerLive)

“As to those who were elected in 2011 based on the charter amendment,” County Attorney Al Hadeed wrote Weeks on Dec. 19, “the time for challenging these terms of office has long passed.” Hadeed added: “The statute governing candidate elections requires a court filing within 10 days of the winning candidates being certified.”

The extent of Hadeed’s involvement until now had been unclear. As county attorney, any constitutional officer may query his opinions, much like a local government may query the state attorney general for an opinion on local matters. But there are limits. “As you know,” Hadeed wrote, explaining those limits to the county commission in a Jan. 10 memo, “while the County Attorney’s office is willing and able to provide legal advice to our Constitutional Officers, it is an unauthorized use of public funds for the county to pursue or otherwise involve itself in litigation, unless the litigation involves an issue that falls under the jurisdiction of Flagler County, or we are a named party.”

The memo to commissioners summarized Hadeed’s involvement in the matter dividing the supervisor and Palm Coast, since Weeks on Dec. 2 submitted numerous documents to Hadeed for his review and opinion.


“In summary,” Hadeed wrote the commissioners, “it was my opinion that all matters related to the 2011 charter amendment can be resolved through the implementation of an interlocal agreement between the Supervisor of Elections and the City of Palm Coast that requires the city to take specified actions to remove any arguable deficiencies with the 2011 charter amendment and to eliminate any ‘cloud’ which may exist with respect to the 2014 election cycle.”

Weeks had sought an Attorney general’s opinion regarding those matters. The Attorney Genera’s office, Hadeed noted, is not available for the specific questions she raised—nor is a lawsuit necessary, he said, suggesting that Weeks had been (or may still be) considering suing the city.

“I need confirmation that it would be legal to conduct an election for the city in 2014,” Weeks wrote Monday, “therefore it was requested by the city to obtain an Attorney General Opinion to confirm the city met all requirements to amend their city charter. Per my discussions with the Attorney General’s office, only the city can request such an opinion. To date, the city has stated they would not comply with my request by stating it was not necessary. I would not have requested that they obtain this opinion if I didn’t feel it was necessary. If the city is confident they have complied with requirements to change their charter, they should have no reservations of obtaining the Formal Opinion. The question remains, does the city hold elections in odd numbered years, or did they properly follow requirements to change their city charter to change their election cycle to even numbered years. Perhaps you can explain why the city is not working with me to resolve this matter. Where is it stated the Charter may be amended by ordinance or resolution?”

“A declaratory suit or Attorney General Opinion,” Hadeed had written, “are unnecessary for the issues of election dates, qualifying periods, and absentee ballots provided the city enacts an ordinance consistent with state law.”

Hadeed’s full memo to Weeks is below.

Al Hadeed Memo to Supervisor Weeks on Palm Coast Elections, Dec. 19, 2013

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12 Responses for “Elections Supervisor Skeptical as Palm Coast Tries To Resolve Conflicts Ahead of 2014 Cycle”

  1. I say says:

    if the ballot referendum item was not done properly, it may not be valid, and the City Charter may not be able to be changed to allow the city to have an election in 2014. Why doesn’t the city get the Formal Opinion to put the matter to rest, and to ensure that holding a city election in 2014 would be legal? Seems to me they may get a response that they don’t want to hear from the Attorney General.

  2. fruitcake says:

    YOU GO GIRL!

  3. Red Rover says:

    “What difference does it make now ! “……….Sound familiar ?

  4. Mike says:

    Maybe Kim Weeks needs to go back to handing out car egistrations through a window, these elected positions are such BS, you do not need to be qualified for a job, just popular and run a good campaign

  5. BW says:

    Interestingly enough, our Elections Supervisor once again not working to increase voter participation but rather simply carry out personal vendettas and put up more barriers to voting in our county.

    Wait 2 years to raise a problem?

    Being given solutions but refusing to work with others to solve the issue?

    Attempting to interpret and express legal opinions when she is not a lawyer.

    Mrs. Weeks’ actions are not beneficial for this county, and are simply shameful to say the least. It’s even sadder to see how many cheer on her ridiculous behavior. Her salary is truly a waste of our tax dollars. I personally think at this point that Palm Coast should break away from Flagler County all together and form our own County. If we have to pay and do everything ourselves then why not?

    • Palm Coast says:

      BW-From what I have read, the elections supervisor is trying to work with the city and the city won’t cooperate. The elections supervisor isn’t required to conduct the city election. The city said they can do their own election, so let them. They wouldn’t have to incur this task and expense if they would work with the supervisor.

      It is important that elections are held properly and legally. I don’t believe the city is above the law, and they too should not make their own rules and follow the law.

  6. just saying says:

    Could it be possible that the spirit of the previous vote to change the election cycle to save money is clear enough? Or just maybe the details are clear enough that under interpretation by someone who has spent more than 30minutes studying law it would come out okay, as the FL AG and County Attorney have hinted at?

  7. KMedley says:

    Weeks has sent numerous e-mails to the Assistant Director of the Division of Elections with the Florida Department of State regarding the placement of the referendum on the primary election ballot. The response is quite clear and easy to understand. The following comes from an e-mail to Kimberle B Weeks from the Division of Elections, dated 10/23/2013:

    “While s. 166.031, Fla. Stat., indicates that a charter amendment referendum is to occur “at the next general election held within the municipality or at a special election called for such purpose,” Chapter 166 does not define “general election;” thus, a municipal primary election held within the municipality may constitute a “general election held within the municipality.” Also, nothing in Chapter 166 prohibits a special election called for the purpose of the charter referendum from being held in conjunction with a primary election. The definitions of general and special elections in Chapter 166 may not necessarily be the ones used in the Election Code. Admittedly, this depends upon how Chapter 166 is interpreted; however, any challenge to the propriety of the city’s actions in placing the election on the municipal primary election ballot or delaying the filing of the approved charter amendment would have to be brought though a legal action in court.

    The bottom-line is that the city is responsible for its own conduct and its own elections. If it contracts with you to conduct its elections, that fact alone should not make you liable for the city’s actions, but if you are concerned about such, the most appropriate advice I can provide you is that you should seek independent legal advice from the County Attorney or your own attorney.”

    Now, she has consulted with the County’s attorney and I suspect additional attorneys. The attorney for the DOE, the City and the County all concur that Weeks’ machinations can be resolved through actions of the city council and the inter-local agreement. Yet, still she persists with a perceived attempt to invalidate the 2011 election and thereby overturn the will of the voters. Why? And please, let’s not use the excuse she’s protecting the voters and making sure “illegal elections” are not perpetuated. She has received numerous replies from the DOE that essentially advise her the City has the ability and the jurisdiction to correct the conflicting language and qualifying dates by ordinance and a referendum is not required. How much is her persistent insinuation costing Palm Coast and Flagler County taxpayers? Remember, these legal opinions are not produced without incurring a cost to taxpayers.

  8. Sue says:

    It’s a shame the city is risking flubbing up their city by trying to do it themselves rather than working with the elections supervisor and complying with what she has asked. The supervisors request is reasonable and easy to fulfill. The cities stubbornness may cost us tax payers tons of money when it doesn’t have to. Shame on the city councilmen for not requiring that Landon and the city attorney work this out to protect our tax dollars, and to allow us to have fair elections. Just follow the law—what’s wrong with that?

    • Kmedley says:

      Sue:

      The City is following the law and has done so since the 2011 elections. It is Weeks that insists on making waves and causing the city and county to expend taxpayer dollars on this non-issue. Three separate attorneys have weighed in on this issue and proffered legal opinions and cited Attorney General opinions. When did Weeks secure her law degree?

  9. Ralph says:

    It is refreshing to see that one elected person follows the rules and isnt like the rest of the politicians.

  10. confidential says:

    We should all appreciate the honesty of our Supervisor of Elections and her efforts to conduct flawless elections. She overwhelmingly won our votes in good standing and the one’s that lost never give up attacking her.
    I am wondering now with all these delays if we already now whether the two city council seats incumbents have any challengers. Hope so!

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