ANNA MARIA -- The political and legal drama surrounding now-former Anna Maria City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus may be coming to a close.
The city's canvassing board this morning cleared the way for the swearing in on Wednesday of a new commissioner, Eugene Aubry, after it certified the results of a Sept. 7 election in which voters gave Stoltzfus the boot.
In the election, Anna Maria residents voted 362-331 to recall Stoltzfus, and subsequently voted 363-333 to replace him with Aubry.
The election results were made official after the Second District Court of Appeals last week lifted a stay on the certification of the returns.
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A group called Citizens for Sunshine petitioned the appeals court to reverse Manatee County Circuit Court Ed Nicholas’ Sept. 3 decision to seal the results of the election pending Stoltzfus’ appeal of another court case.
The group argued the recall election had to be certified by today or risk being declared null and void under Florida law.
The appeals court agreed late Thursday afternoon, lifting the stay of certification and asking Stoltzfus to “show cause why this appeal should not be considered moot.”
On Sept. 13, the appeals court had allowed the supervisor of elections office to unseal and release the results of the election. But the canvassing board could not certify the results until Thursday’s ruling.
Aubry, Stoltzfus and Stoltzfus' attorney, Richard A. Harrison of Tampa, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The recall petition drive was initiated after resident Bob Carter read about e-mails Stoltzfus sent to several residents discussing commercial development along Pine Avenue. The petition statement accused Stoltzfus of malfeasance and misfeasance, alleging the communication violated the Government In The Sunshine Law, which requires transparency in government decisions, and contained libelous and inflammatory remarks.
Stoltzfus appealed an Aug. 24 decision by Nicholas not to cancel the recall election. In that case, Stoltzfus said statements used in the petition drive were vague and insufficient.