It just isn’t Pete Young’s year–not for the Bunnell City Commission, anyway: tonight the former Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator resigned his commission seat before taking it.
Twice in the last five months Young tried to become a Bunnell city commissioner, as he once had been a decade and a half ago. He lost the election in March. When Bob Barnes resigned for health reasons, the city commission two weeks ago, after a pitch by Young himself, appointed him to serve until next March, when he’d have to run to keep the seat. He was grateful.
The appointment was to be formalized tonight with a swearing in. But it was nowhere on the agenda. It’s customary that a judge swears in new officials. No judge was in the room. Not even the mayor knew why. When Young himself was asked about it before the meeting, he waved off the question. “You’ll see,” he said.
After the meeting started, Robinson invited him up. “He wants to make a statement. So we want to hear what he has to say,” Robinson said.
Turns out the Florida Retirement System bars him from taking certain government jobs just yet. The state requires state employees who retire to wait a certain period before taking another job in a government that’s also part of FRS, as is Bunnell government. Neither he nor city officials had thought to verify those qualifications two weeks ago.
“It goes six months prior to, or when you first receive your retirement money or take a draw,” Young told the commission. “We we ran into some complications and had some options to choose from. But I went ahead and chose that at this time I’d like to ask you all to accept my letter of formal notice of resignation from the position of city commissioner, effective today.”
The restriction will expire in December, he said, giving him the opportunity to get involved likely in next March’s election. He said on further reflection he should have just taken the time off after his retirement, at least for a year. “At least I got some new clothes out of the deal, my wife got some good deals,” he said.
“Disappointing to say the least,” Robinson said.
It also places the city in a difficult position it was trying to avoid two weeks ago, when it appointed Young. At the time, the commission had several choices: to make an immediate appointment, to open the field to applicants and choose from that pool after 30 days, or to have a special election in conjunction with the primary election.
It could have done that had it chosen that route that very evening–Aug. 9, giving the supervisor of elections just enough time to add the special election on the November ballot. (The charter requires that the special election be held at the next “general” election. It doesn’t specify whether that’s the city’s general election or any general election.)
Commissioner John Rogers went as far as making a motion to that end, which was seconded by Commissioner Tonya Gordon. But then Young spoke to the commission, suggesting that since he was a runner-up in last March’s election, and since he already had commission experience, albeit from a different decade (Bunnell was a different city then), fairness would suggest he should have the nod. Young wrapped his pitch among a couple of other options. Commissioner Tina-Marie Schultz, who opposed his appointment, had suggested going the route of appointments.
After Young spoke, Rogers withdrew his motion, and a 3-1 vote installed Young.
Now that he’s resigned, the commission faces the same dilemma it did two weeks ago. The city charter states that the commission “shall” appoint a replacement until the next election can be held. But the charter doesn’t specify a timeline. The city attorney two weeks ago gave commissioners the option of letting the position go vacant until next March, though there wasn’t much appetite for that.
The commission did not discuss the succession other than to decide to place the matter on the agenda of the September 12 meeting for a decision.