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Outside legal counsel determines Ocoee special election can be “lawfully” postponed until next year

Argument appears to hang on when residents would vote on charter amendments.

The outside legal expert consulted by the Ocoee City Commission has determined that the special election for District 4 city commissioner scheduled for next month can legally be cancelled and then rescheduled for next year.

In an April 27 letter to City Manager Robert Frank, included in the agenda packet for the May 2 meeting, government law expert Richard S. Geller wrote, “The City Commission can lawfully cancel the June 13, 2023, special election and call a ‘general city election’ for March 19, 2024, to decide Charter Amendments as well as the election of former District 4 Commissioner George Oliver’s ‘successor [who] shall serve for the unexpired term of the member who created the vacancy.’”

Oliver resigned January 10 to launch an unsuccessful bid for mayor. His resignation became effective March 21, 2023, when Mayor Rusty Johnson was sworn in for his final term.

According to Ocoee's City Charter, a special election needs to be held if there is not a "general city election" within 12 months of the vacancy. Geller, a partner in the Winter Park firm Fishback Dominick, was tapped to evaluate Ocoee's City Charter to determine if the March 19, 2024, election, which just falls within the 12 months, qualified as a "general city election."

Geller’s assessment appears to hinge on when residents will vote for amendments to the city charter, which will be on the Presidential Primary election ballot. Since charter amendments don’t require special elections for a vote, Geller wrote, “It reasonably follows that an election to decide Charter amendments would be a ‘general city election.’"

Geller notes in his letter that the city commission could still designate March 19, 2024 as a special election, explaining that a special election needed to be called or announced within 90 days of the March 21, 2023 vacancy, but “need not take place within the 90 days…”

Postponing the special election would save the city an estimated $10,000 by piggybacking on the March 19, 2024, Presidential Primary election and allowing Orange County to cover the expenses for printing ballots and hiring poll workers for the city’s 10 poll locations.

Oliver, who is campaigning for his old seat, said he had “no comment at this time,” in response to a VoxPopuli text.

Nate Robertson, also a candidate for District 4 Commissioner, reiterated a previous comment, via text, that he wished “if they wanted to have [the election] in March 2024, it was discussed before the June 13 date.”



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