Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ocala City Council seat race takes odd turn

By Susan Latham Carr
Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 12:12 p.m.

OCALA -- In expressing his hope of saving taxpayers the cost of conducting a runoff election for the Ocala City Council District 3 seat, candidate Glen Fiorello unwittingly opened up Pandora's box and sent city attorneys scurrying to the law books.

Fiorello, who is running against Jay A. Musleh for the seat, told the City Council Tuesday night that he would withdraw from the race, conceding the position to Musleh, in order to save the $55,000 cost of the runoff election on April 24.



“I would like to have my name taken off the ballot now so Mr. Musleh can fill the seat I am vying for,” Fiorello told the council.

But Assistant City Attorney W. James Gooding III stopped Fiorello in his tracks.

“You may not want to do this,” Gooding said. “It may not save the city any money.”

Musleh beat Fiorello and Robert “Bobby” Tillander in the Feb. 28 special election to fill the unexpired term of John Priester. Priester was removed from office by the City Council in December because he did not live in the district he represented. His term ends in 2013. Musleh got 48.87 percent of the 3,133 votes cast in February's special election. Fiorello came in second with 36.74 percent and Tillander came in third with 14.40 percent of the vote. Because Musleh did not receive the required 50 percent plus one majority vote required by the city charter to win the office, a runoff election among the two top candidates was called. Tillander, because he finished third, was eliminated.

“If Glen withdraws, under our charter there would still be a runoff between Musleh and Tillander,” City Attorney Patrick Gilligan said. “I have to find out what Mr. Tillander wants to do regardless of what Mr. Fiorello wants to do.”

Fiorello has not officially withdrawn yet.

If Fiorello does not withdraw, the runoff between Musleh and Fiorello will be held as planned, Gilligan said.

If Fiorello does withdraw and Tillander does not, then there would be a runoff between Musleh and Tillander.

But if both Fiorello and Tillander withdraw, Gilligan is not certain what the outcome would be and was researching that Wednesday.

“We're in a flux,” Gilligan said.

If Musleh is the last man standing, there is a question about whether the whole election has to be done over again because the charter said no one will become a council member unless they have received the majority vote of 50 percent plus one. So, under the charter, it is possible that Musleh may not be eligible for office. Or it may be that state law would kick in and that there would be a presumption of Musleh having a majority because it would be assumed he would vote for himself. That is what happened in the case of Mary Sue Rich and John McLeod. Neither had opponents, so it was presumed that they would vote for themselves and, therefore, have the majority, Gilligan said. But Gilligan and Marion County Supervisor of Elections Dee Brown were continuing to research all that on Wednesday morning.

“I am just trying to do a nice thing. Who in the world would have thought this?” Fiorello said Wednesday. “Lord have mercy.”

Fiorello is waiting to hear what the attorneys say before making a decision to withdraw or not.

If it turns out that there would be a runoff between Musleh and Tillander if he left the race, Fiorello said he would keep his name on the ballot.

Tillander said Wednesday morning he was talking to his advisors about what he should do.

“When it's official, I will give you an official answer one way or another,” Tillander said about Fiorello's withdrawal. “I will talk to my wife and my family and we will pray about it and see which way God leads me.”

Contact Susan Latham Carr at 352-867-4156 or

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...