The suggestion that City Commissioner Shannon Snyder should be appointed to serve the remainder of the term to which he was elected caused outrage among citizens at today’s Sarasota City Commission meeting.
Snyder, who was defeated by fellow City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo in the Republican primary for the District 2 County Commission Seat, was forced to tender his resignation to enter that race, per state law. Today, the city began taking applications for those interested in filling the District 2 and District 3 seats to be vacated by Snyder and Caragiulo in November.
On July 21, the commission established a process for candidates to submit their applications for those seats. At today’s meeting, Caragiulo broached the subject of potentially appointing Snyder to serve the remainder of his term, set to expire in May, rather than conducting the search process for a District 3 commissioner.
Caragiulo, who placed the item on the agenda for discussion Thursday, said he was interested in maintaining continuity on the commission. Because the Government-in-the-Sunshine law prevents Caragiulo from contacting Snyder directly to gauge his interest in serving the remainder of the term, he said, he broached the subject at today’s meeting.
When asked, Snyder said he was willing to finish his term if that was the will of the commission. He did little campaigning to regain his seat and put up no fight when a majority of the commission indicated they weren’t interested. In between, however, eight residents spoke about their varying degrees of displeasure with the proposed appointment of Snyder.
Those citizens urged the commission to stick with the already approved process for filling the vacancies on the commission. Several speakers said questions of impropriety would be created if the commission did not follow the procedure established roughly six weeks earlier. Others suggested that the proposal was politically motivated.
Many who spoke said they were fine with Snyder submitting his own application to fill the vacancy, but wanted the city to follow through with a thorough search.
“This alternative proposal is not the transparent process that has been agreed to by all of you and understood by all of us,” said city resident Kate Lowman.
The rest of the commission agreed, declining to deviate from the established process for filling the vacancies. The city will accept applications until Sept. 12, and the commission will fill the open seats at a November meeting.
Commissioner Suzanne Atwell said she was stunned by the proposal, and said she agreed with every speaker at Tuesday’s meeting. She said the suggested appointment process seemed careless, and that she valued the commission seat too highly to diverge from the procedure in place.
“We're using this particular seat as a hostage to actually fundamentally stick our nose at a clearly established process,” Atwell said. “This flies in the face of public process.”
Caragiulo said he was merely proposing one option as the city faces an unusual situation, and characterized the response from the public as toxic. He said the rhetoric employed by the citizens — many frequent speakers at commission meetings — was not conducive to productive discourse, arguing that the unanimous opposition presented Tuesday was not necessary reflective of the will of the general public.
“These same citizens that are coming down and saying the same types of thing are not the entirety of the city,” Caragiulo said.
Perhaps surprisingly — and uncharacteristically — Snyder was one of the least impassioned speakers on the topic. After a majority of the commission indicated a desire to stay the course, Snyder downplayed the controversial nature of the initial proposal. He declined to comment following the meeting, but indicated that he would depart from the commission as scheduled.
“I was asked an honest question,” Snyder said. “I gave an honest answer. I clearly can count there's not three votes here. That's all that needed to be established.”
Contact David Conway at [email protected].