Suspended South Bay officials on Tuesday ballot; can’t immediately serve if elected, Scott’s office saysby George Bennett | May 8th, 2013
The city of South Bay will hold a special election Tuesday to fill two commission seats that have been vacant since commissioners John Wilson and Shirley Walker-Turner were charged with violating Florida’s Sunshine Law and suspended by Gov. Rick Scott in December.
The candidates for the vacant seats include Wilson and Walker-Turner, who have denied wrongdoing.
There’s nothing in state law to prevent the suspended commissioners from running, says Scott’s office, which points to an attorney general’s opinion from 1969 that addressed a similar question.
According to that opinion, Wilson and Walker-Turner wouldn’t immediately be allowed to take office if they win.
“In summary, a suspended indicted municipal official may run for reelection during the pendency of his indictment and suspension until he has been finally convicted of the charges made against him. If reelected, he may not assume the duties of his office unless and until he is acquitted of the charges,” the 1969 opinion says.
Wilson and Walker-Turner are scheduled to go on trial June 5, according to the state attorney’s office.
Wilson is running Tuesday against Olivia Anthony-Kerr and Shanique Scott for commission Seat 4. Walker-Turner is running against former city clerk Virginia Walker for Seat 5.
Scott suspended then-mayor Walker-Turner, vice mayor Linda Johnson and Wilson in December after they were charged with violating the Sunshine Law for allegedly meeting in private to approve $25,139 in vacation pay for former city manager Corey Alston, who has been charged with grand theft for accepting the cash.
Johnson was found guilty of the misdemeanor violation in April.
According to prosecutors, Alston called each of the three elected officials and persuaded them to support his request for payment. They agreed, and a check was cut to Alston totaling $25,139. The city’s finance director admitted to prosecutors he had deliberately kept information about the check from the commission. And the full city commission didn’t vote on approving the payment until three months after the check had been cut.