Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Commissioners in Recall Suit Advised to Get Attorneys; Citizens Group Is Seeking to Determine the Number of Signatures to Collect

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Commissioners in Recall Suit Advised to Get Attorneys; Citizens Group Is Seeking to Determine the Number of Signatures to Collect

Article excerpt

Byline: DEBORAH CEARNAL

Clay County commissioners have been advised to get their own attorneys to defend them in a lawsuit asking for the number of signatures needed to have a recall election.

"I'm planning to represent the board and the county, but I don't think it appropriate for me to represent you individually," County Attorney Mark Scruby told commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday. "My counsel would be for you to get your own counsel."

Scruby said he had done his research and checked with the Florida Bar Ethics hot line and he had reached a decision that representing individual members would not be in their best interest.

The non-profit group Citizens for Term Limits and Accountability Committee has filed a suit -- naming the county, the board of commissioners and each board member individually as defendants -- seeking to determine the number of signatures to collect for a recall election. The issue in question is that commission members were elected in at-large elections, but the county charter has since been changed to single-member districts. The difference in numbers countywide or districtwide could cut a chunk of legwork for the citizens group, should it pursue gathering names and seeking the recall.

"We have not committed specifically to recall any commissioner," said Durwood Smith on behalf of the group. "All we are asking is if we are single-member districts."

Scruby said he believed commissioners met the two-part test under a state Supreme Court ruling that would allow them to have the county pay for commissioners' defenses: They were being sued by virtue of their position [as commissioners] and it meets a public purpose.

The attorney, however, told the commission this is a different kind of lawsuit.

"It's a pure question of law, which I am not vested with the authority to give," Scruby said. …

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