Judge allows Bradenton Beach recall election to move forward

MANATEE -- A judge Tuesday denied a citizen's request for a temporary injunction concerning a case connected with the recall election between Bradenton Beach Mayor Shearon and Vice Mayor Jack Clarke.

At a court hearing that lasted more than an hour, Manatee Circuit Judge Gilbert Smith Jr. said he would allow the recall election to move forward.

Bradenton Beach resident John Metz, a regular at city meetings with his wife, Lee Anne Metz, had requested the temporary injunction before the May 19 election. He wanted Clarke booted from the recall ballot and a temporary injunction prohibiting Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett from printing additional recall ballots with the vice mayor's name on them.

Metz claimed Clarke's written resignation was not submitted at least 10 days prior to the first day of qualifying for the office. Clarke had to resign from his commission seat before submitting an application to qualify as a candidate in the recall election.

In courtroom 5E, the 72-year-old Metz represented himself against co-defendants Clarke, Bennett and Peter Barreda, chairman of the Committee to Recall William Shearon. Clarke and Bennett were present with legal counsel, Sarasota-based attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen and Manatee County attorney Jim Minix, respectively.

With the recall election date nearing, the proximity hung heavily in the room.

"I'm seeking temporary injunction because of the

time sequence when all these events took place," Metz told the judge. "There's not enough time to attempt to go through regular court procedures to end up with some kind of judgment or declaration. ... I did everything I felt possible to get this issue raised at the earliest possible point."

Citing Florida statute on qualifying for nomination or election to federal, state, county or district office, Minix argued Bennett's duty was to simply make sure all qualifying paperwork was properly filed.

Bennett said his office doesn't necessarily determine whether someone is a qualifying candidate -- they review submitted paperwork to ensure it is complete.

"Actually the election itself would be moot," Bennett said when asked what would happen if a candidate is removed from the recall election ballot. "If you remove it, it would be over."

In an interview with the Herald last month, Bennett said Clarke submitted his resignation as soon as the date of the recall election was set by a judge.

Clarke testified about the turmoil in Bradenton Beach over the past year. He spoke about the forfeiture of office proceedings and the recall campaign against Shearon.

"I did not seek to be on the city council to be the mayor," Clarke said. "I sought it to represent my little corner of the city."

Clarke said there was no way he could have applied to qualify in the recall election sooner and it was not his place to ask the judge to change calculations he himself established.

"As I've stated, it was never my intention to run for mayor until I saw... despite my lack of political and legislative experience, I do have a significant amount of life experience," Clarke said. "When I saw what was happening to my city, at that point I decided that someone had to do it."

Outside the Manatee Judicial Center, Metz reacted to the judge's decision.

"I'm obviously disappointed that the election's going to go with Mr. Clarke's name on the ballot," he said, "but I think the way the court ruled doesn't mean that we couldn't win the case on the merits."

Metz said he doesn't know what his next plan of action will be.

"I gotta go home and think about what the situation is -- and then make a decision," he said.

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.