PORT ST. LUCIE — Mayor JoAnn Faiella's critics hope to recall her with a petition started Monday citing her "incompetent," but her supporters said they plan to counteract efforts with a petition of their own.
Retired Port St. Lucie resident Kurt Hoyer has until Sept. 12 to collect 4,951 signatures from registered city voters and he'll need to pay about $495 to the St. Lucie County elections supervisor to verify the petition. If the first phase of his campaign is successful, he'll have another 30 days to collect an additional 14,853 signatures and pay an additional $1,485.
Faiella may submit a defense statement that would accompany the second recall petition.
From Aug. 13 until Friday, Hoyer and his team of about six people have had 400 people sign the petition, agreeing that Faiella is "incapable of performing her duties" as mayor, he said. He expects to get more support as word spreads over the weekend and petitions circulate throughout local businesses and neighborhoods.
Hoyer said he has people passing the petition around, but has yet to post it online or determine a location where residents can come and sign the recall. He said a location should be determined by next week.
"I think she's incompetent and I just don't think she's capable of holding that position," said Hoyer, who started his recall petition after Faiella's personal emails to a city resident indicated she was trying "to set up" the city attorney.
"I think she's in over her head," Hoyer said. "Nothing personal, but she doesn't take criticism and doesn't work and play well with others."
Resident Barbara Slack, a Faiella supporter, said a counter petition to show support for the mayor already is in the works and said Hoyer's petition is just preventing Faiella from accomplishing the real work of the city.
"(Hoyer) is going to meet stern resistance," Slack said. "I don't think on his best day he can get enough signatures. It's just a few people always making the big waves. I don't think he'll get enough people to say she's not doing her job. This nonsense of recalling our mayor is not important."
The city charter follows State Statute 100.361, which states the city's electors can remove any member of the city's governing body. Grounds for recall — they must be stated on the petition, but do not have to be proved — can range from incompetence, neglect of duty, drunkenness, permanent inability to perform official duties or if the official is convicted of a felony.
The initial recall petition must be signed by 5 percent of the city's 99,020 registered voters as of the 2010 general election. Signatures must be given to the city clerk's office 30 days after the date of the first signature. The elections supervisor's office then has 30 days to verify the signatures belong to registered voters.
If the petition is valid, the city clerk would ask Faiella to submit a defense, which the clerk would attach to a final petition that requires the signatures of 15 percent of the registered voters within 30 days. The elections supervisor would have another 30 days to verify those.
If Faiella does not resign at that time, the chief judge of the circuit court, Steven Levin, would set a date for a recall election.
The whole recall process, from petition to election, could go well into next year, Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker said. Faiella's term ends November 2014.
The city's charter dictates if there's a vacancy on the council and there are fewer than six months remaining on that member's term or if there are fewer than six months before the next regular city election, a majority vote by the council could appoint an interim successor who will fill the seat till the term expires.
However if there are more than six months remaining in the term and more than six months before the next regular election, the council will schedule a special election to be no later than 90 days following the vacancy.
Hoyer acknowledges it'll be difficult to collect all the signatures, but hopes with enough names, Faiella will see how many people are upset with her and she'll resign.
"To me, we need to get trust and integrity back in our government officials," Hoyer said. "Although the mayor doesn't have a tremendous amount of power, she is still the official spokesperson or figure for the city of Port St. Lucie. We've been embarrassed nationally."
Faiella, who did not return calls seeking comment Friday, has said she has no plans to resign thanks to the support she's received from numerous residents. Their petition would be an informal show of support for Faiella and would have no official bearing on a recall petition.
"I love the city of Port St. Lucie," she has said. "The majority of people who voted me in have said, 'We don't want you to resign. We know where your heart is at.' I'm not the same person I was two years ago when I came into office. People grow, they learn."