HAINES CITY – A settlement offer was made May 12 in reference to civil litigation associated with the Haines City municipal election that was held on April 7.
On April 20, former Haines City commissioner Don Mason filed litigation alleging that Haines City Commissioner-Elect Claude E. Holmes II is a convicted felon whose rights were never restored and that, as such, he is ineligible to hold elected office. Mason requested the court appoint longtime city commissioner H.L. “Roy” Tyler, who lost the election to Holmes, to keep his seat on the commission.
According to Haines City Attorney Fred Reilly, on May 12 an oral settlement proposal was presented to the court by Mason's attorney, Kirk Warren.
Reilly said the settlement proposal was the result of discussions between Warren and the attorney representing Holmes, Roderick Ford. Reilly explained that, under the terms of the proposed settlement, Holmes agreed he would withdraw as commissioner-elect and the court would in turn make a declaration that Tyler was the remaining eligible candidate in the election and thus would be the successful candidate in the election.
As of the time of publication on May 15, Circuit Judge Steven Selph has yet to rule on the proposed settlement.
“I made it clear at the hearing that my clients, the City (of Haines City) and Canvassing Board, would certainly need to review and consider the terms of the settlement proposal when it had been reduced to a written document,” Reilly said.
Court involvement in the election process appears to have confused a number of Haines City area residents, who expressed concern about the intervention during a city commission meeting May 7.
Some accused city staff of performing a secret criminal investigation on Holmes. City commissioners, who are listed as parties in the litigation, were legally advised not to answer questions about the election at the last city commission meeting.
Florida law forbids election officials from performing such an investigation. When someone wants to run for office, Florida law requires said person sign a form attesting that he or she is qualified to hold office. If an individual wants to challenge an election, those challenges are handled through the courts system and not through the municipalities or counties.
Other questions asked by citizens during the May 7 city commission meeting sought answers as to why there would not be a special election to award the seat and how a judge could appoint Tyler to the seat despite his losing the election.
Judge Selph has not answered those types of questions in the form of a public court order as of May 15.
There are multiple court documents online which appear to verify that Holmes owes more than $20,000 in court costs associated with a 1993 arrest.
Contact Charles A. Baker III at email@example.com.