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Oakland launches recall drive

Updated: Apr 18

Commissioners Rick Polland and Joseph McMullen in the crosshairs.



Signing petitions
Shaun and Anne Fulton (left), encourage angry Oakland residents to sign recall petitions for commissioners outside Oakland Meeting Hall on April 9, 2024. Photo: Andrea Charur/VoxPopuli


The moment Oakland’s April 9 public work session ended with three commissioners nominating unsuccessful mayoral candidate Sal Ramos to his former seat on the commission, resident Anne Fulton set up a bench outside of the Oakland Meeting Hall with petitions to start a recall campaign to remove them all. 


“Please go outside, and sign the petition to have these donkeys fired,” Shaun Fulton, Anne’s husband, shouted inside the Oakland Meeting Hall. 


By the end of the night, they’d collected approximately 75 signatures. 


Now, Anne Fulton’s resident recall movement is circulating two petitions to recall Commissioners Rick Polland and Joseph McMullen — and they’re waiting to start petitions for the other two. 


She launched the website Recall Oakland to facilitate the effort.  


“My personal opinion is that the three commissioners had their minds made up before  they went to the meeting,” Anne Fulton said in a recent interview. “I believe that they always planned on putting Sal back in as commissioner.” 


[The commissioners have denied working together to re-appoint Ramos.]


As a reminder of how we got to this point, Polland, McMullen and recently re-seated Vice Mayor Mike Satterfield chose Ramos to reoccupy his seat after hearing from 12 interested applicants at the April 9 public work session to choose a new commissioner. 


Ramos vacated his commission seat to run for mayor, and the seat remained open during the election. Vacancies on the town commission are filled by the commission and require a majority vote of three commissioners, according to the town charter


Thirteen Oaklanders applied to fill the vacancy after the town opened the application process; one withdrew and one did not meet the 12-month residency requirement. The application process was Mayor Shane Taylor's idea to create an “equitable process” for selecting the next commissioner, VoxPopuli reported. Ramos was among the applicants. 


With a dozen applicants with engineering, financial, legal and health backgrounds asking to be considered for Seat 3, many residents wanted — and expected — another new member to be appointed to the commission. Many residents have said that electing Taylor as mayor, with 65 percent of the vote, was a clear indication that the town wanted change and wanted people on the commission to help Taylor bring it about. Still, others have said they thought Ramos served the town well and wanted him to remain on the commission. 


Meanwhile, the Oakland Residents Facebook group has been buzzing about the recall effort, with many members eager to sign the petitions. Residents said that the Poland-McMullen-Satterfield decision to appoint Ramos “smells like ‘shady politics’” and “seems like cronyism.”


“I haven’t signed yet but I will,” one member of Oakland Residents wrote in the comments. “This last disgraceful meeting was waste [sic] as the fix was in [sic] the keep the ole boys together. They just spit in the faces of the applicants ignoring all qualifications.” 


Fulton, who had applied for Seat 3, experienced a minor setback after she learned that two commissioners could not immediately be recalled and that petitions require a statement of the reason for the recall. She started over with fresh petitions and has since collected 50 signatures. She needs 338 signatures, 10 percent of registered voters, to move the recall forward. She plans to send out a mailer soon to alert all Oakland’s registered voters about the website and recall effort.


Under Florida Statute 100.361, elected officials cannot be recalled until they are a quarter of the way into their term. That means Satterfield and Ramos, who just started their new terms, are protected from the current recall drive, but only temporarily. Fulton's website has timers that are counting down to the minute until petitions can be circulated for their recall.


Timers on Recall Oakland track when Sal Ramos and Mike Satterfield will be ready for recall.

Fulton is working to document the “reasons there’s distrust in the commissioners” on Oakland Recall, she said.


“I'm shooting for straight facts. If I don't have hard evidence, I'm only going to be putting strong circumstantial evidence on there so people can draw their own conclusions,” Fulton told VoxPopuli in a follow-up interview. 


Satterfield, Polland and McMullen did not respond to emailed requests for comment about the recall drive. VoxPopuli also attempted to reach McMullen via text and received no response. 


Fulton, who was gathering signatures outside the Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center over the weekend, will be collecting signatures on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at Oakland General. Check Recall Oakland or the Oakland Residents Facebook group for dates and times.  


Meanwhile, she said she’s seen a steady stream of people joining Oakland Residents since the April 9 meeting in Oakland — more than 60 residents. And she hears from at least five residents a day, asking how they can get involved. 


“We’re just getting a lot of support every day,” Fulton said, “so it’s really encouraging.” 


 

Sidebar: The Recall Process

Elected officials aren't meant to be recalled on a whim, which is why the process is intentionally arduous. Here's what's involved, according to Florida Statute 100.361 and government law expert Clifford Shepard, founder and partner of Shepard, Smith, Kohlmyer & Hand in Maitland.


  • Each petition must have a statement of grounds explaining why the official is being petitioned for recall. The petitions for the Oakland commissioners state “Incompetence in the execution of town contracts” and “Neglect of Duty to his constituents,” according to the petition prepared for Joseph McMullen provided by Anne Fulton. 


  • The residents petitioning for recall are designated as the recall committee and must choose a chair to manage the process. Fulton is the committee chair.


  • The number of signatures needed for a recall election depends on the number of registered voters in the town. According to March 2024 data from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections, Oakland has 3,379 registered voters. Oakland would need 338 signatures, or 10 percent of the town’s registered voters, for the petitions to be approved.


  • The recall committee has 30 days from the first signature to file the petitions with Oakland Town Clerk Elise Hui. Although Fulton made new petitions to sign on Saturday, she plans to file the petitions 30 days after the April 9 commission meeting. 


“It was very public that I stormed out and threw my petitions on the table,” Fulton said. “So I'm just gonna keep going with [the original deadline].”


  • The clerk would then submit the forms to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Glen Gilzean. He has 30 days to verify the petitions. The supervisor follows Florida Statute 99.097 for signature verification. The committee either has to pay the supervisor 10 cents per signature checked or the actual cost of checking those signatures, whichever is less.


If the supervisor of elections determines that the petitions are valid: 

 

  • The town serves the petition to the official(s) being recalled. They can file a defense statement within five days of receiving this notice. 


  • The town clerk then prepares another round of petitions called the “Recall Petition and Defense,” containing the first petitions and the defense statements of the official(s).


  • The second round of petitions must get signatures from 15 percent of the town’s voters within 60 days after the recall committee receives the new petitions. For Oakland, that would be 507 signatures each. 


  • The supervisor of elections receives the new petitions and has 30 days to verify them. The recall committee pays 10 cents per signature checked.


  • Once the petitions are certified, the official(s) have five days to resign after receiving a notice. If the official(s) do not resign, the chief judge (Lisa Munyon) of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida will choose an election day for a recall election within 30 to 60 days after the resignation period expires. The town pays for a recall election. 


 During a recall election, voters will vote simultaneously on whether the official(s) should be removed from office and the candidates to replace them. It’s like any regular election, with officials campaigning to stay in office and challengers running to succeed them.


The candidates with the most votes would fill the empty seats for the rest of the official(s)’ term. The seat with the longest term is given to the candidate with the most votes, and so on for all the officials removed. 


In Oakland’s case, that would be Polland, re-elected in 2022, in the town’s first election in 16 years prior to the mayoral election. McMullen, unopposed in 2022, was also re-seated that year. Both terms are up in 2026, as is Ramos’ since he filled a vacancy. Oakland commissioners typically serve four-year terms. 


Shepard said in a Monday phone interview that unless the petitions are contested in court and brought before a judge, the strength of the reasons behind the recall doesn’t matter if the petitions garner enough signatures. 


“The voters decide whether it’s enough,” Shepard said. 





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