Some Key residents, area business owners and the Longboat Key Public Interest Committee (PIC) are upset by the Town Commission’s decision last month to approve a resolution to its town charter that allows the mayor to run for another two-year term.
The commission approved by a 5-2 vote at its Dec. 7 regular meeting a resolution that allows commissioners to serve three consecutive two-year terms, plus any time served as a partial term for being appointed.
So, Mayor Lee Rothenberg, who was scheduled to vacate office in March 2010 after serving what he thought was the end of three consecutive terms in office, can run again. Rothenberg has already been certified by the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office as a candidate for his District 1 seat against challengers Lynn Larson and Lee Pokoik.
But a string of letters and e-mails that have hit Town Hall recently begged the commission to reconsider its action.
At the Jan. 4 regular commission meeting, PIC President Beverly Shapiro asked Rothenberg to remove himself as a candidate for the District 1 seat.
“It is no secret that PIC would like you to preserve the spirit of the charter that provides for a limit of six consecutive years of service on the commission,” Shapiro said. “I urge you to expunge the vote made, or you, Rothenberg, can remove yourself as a candidate.”
Shapiro said by removing himself as a candidate, Rothenberg would also save the town $30,000 in preliminary election costs the taxpayers must pay for later this month.
The flood of e-mails regarding the matter started Dec. 21, when Longboat Key real-estate agent Marnie Matarese sent an e-mail to commissioners insinuating the commission ignored its voting populace and expressing disappointment in the mayor’s decision to vote on a matter that directly affected him.
“The voters made their voices heard when they voted for term limits and you are absolutely ignoring them,” Matarese wrote. “You are an intelligent and hard-working group of people, and I would ask you to revisit this decision, because it is patently self-serving to certain individuals and leaves the residents of Longboat Key wondering why they even bother to vote.”
Matarese also expressed concern in her e-mail about rumors circulating that Rothenberg will step down if re-elected so the commission can appoint someone else to his seat and that Lenobel will step down if re-elected so former Commissioner and Mayor Joan Webster can be appointed to his seat.
Both Rothenberg and Lenobel denied the claims in e-mails to Matarese. Webster is not eligible for another term in office for at least another year, which her husband, Dick Webster, pointed out to her in an e-mail.
None of the six commissioners at Monday night’s meeting, however, made a motion to revisit the resolution.
And, Rothenberg expressed no regrets for his decision to vote on the resolution or to run for another term in office.
Said Rothenberg: “Ethically, I think I am doing nothing wrong and have done the right thing. If you look at the facts carefully, nothing has been done wrong. The vote stands.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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