BRADENTON BEACH -- Tension was palpable Tuesday as the Bradenton Beach Commission voted 3-2 to adopt a resolution setting procedures to remove a public official from office. At the core of the decision is a long-brewing conflict over the tenure of Mayor William Shearon.
Shearon and Ward 3 Commissioner Janie Robertson voted against the resolution, which calls for a lengthy, multi-level process that includes an initiation of forfeiture, a charge hearing and an evidentiary investigation, among other steps.
"I will not resign. Period," Shearon told the commission.
Public heard at hearing
Members of the public dished their 2 cents during the meeting, which was not without personal jabs at city officials and even City Attorney Ricinda Perry.
Bradenton resident Barbara Schelin said she has watched with horror and dismay what's been going on in Bradenton Beach. She said Shearon's basic rights as a duly elected official have been violated. She
then called out Ward 4 Commissioner Jan Vosburgh, who is running for re-election this year.
"I'd like to address Commissioner Vosburgh's points that she made in her mailing. Most important to me is the idea that she will restore democracy. This is ridiculous. What she and Commissioner (Jack) Clarke are proposing is an overthrow of democracy," Schelin said. "In some circles, you might call it a coup."
Those unhappy with Shearon need only wait another year, when he would be up for re-election if he chooses to run, Schelin added.
Bradenton Beach resident John Metz, a retired lawyer, argued the system being considered in the resolution does not meet due process because it's missing an impartial fact-finder.
"If Social Security denies you a benefit or unemployment denies you a benefit or your driver's license is at stake, you get a hearing officer," he said. "I think the least that you can do is have a hearing officer in this proceeding."
In a statement, Shearon said the attempt to oust him has taken unknown hours of time from staff, the city commission and the public. He said the city attorney will not be further involved in the process. The mayor's statement included an email from Metz, which reiterated some of what he stated earlier in the meeting.
Robertson said she's been opposed to this process from the beginning because of cost.
"We owe it to the citizens to find the money to do what's right in this situation," said Vice Mayor Clarke.
Clarke, who is leading the effort to oust Shearon, said the city's legal expenses are much higher this fiscal year than last and said he's been made aware that Shearon frequently calls on the city attorney outside of business hours for advice and discussion.
City described as 'polarized'
The vice mayor said above all else, Shearon has "polarized" the city. He said feelings run strong on both sides of the issue.
"Do the right thing, Mr. Mayor -- resign and let the city move forward," Clarke's statement concluded.
After the meeting, Shearon shared his reaction to the new resolution.
"I think it's improper. I don't think it's due process. I think it's going to be challenged. I think the resolution's going to be challenged, the process is going to be challenged. ... Everything's going to be challenged," he said. "Unfortunately, it's going to be a long year as mayor."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.