City Awaiting Word Whether Governor Will Suspend City Commissioner
Last updated 6/9/2021 at 9:58am
Lake Wales City Attorney Chuck Galloway has been tasked with trying to find out if Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to suspend City Commissioner Kris Fitzgerald from office pending the outcome of her criminal case.
Fitzgerald was arrested June 3 on two felony charges for allegedly taking an 11-year-old boy from his home without permission and threatening him with a loaded handgun. She was released from the Polk County Jail Saturday, June 5 after posting $11,000 bond.
At the end of their Community Redevelopment Agency meeting June 8, city commissioners agreed to direct Galloway to seek information about the governor's plans regarding Fitzgerald. Galloway said he would get the charging documents from the State Attorney's Office and contact the governor's general counsel.
According to Florida Statutes the governor has the authority to suspend municipal officials arrested on felony charges. If the governor suspends Fitzgerald the city commission would make a temporary appointment to fill her seat.
Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson, who chairs the CRA, said when he was general counsel to Florida Gov. Bob Graham, the governor consistently suspended any public official arrested for a felony. But for Gov. Rick Scott suspensions were not automatic; instead, he chose to seek the opinion of the local governing board before deciding whether to suspend.
"We don't need to be in the dark as to what this particular governor is going to do," Gibson said.
Fitzgerald was elected in April and took office in May, less than a month before her arrest.
If the governor suspends Fitzgerald and she is found not guilty or is otherwise cleared of the charges she would be awarded back pay and returned to office for the remainder of her term. If her term of office has expired she would receive back pay but not be reinstated, according to the statute.
If he suspends her and she is convicted of any of the charges or pleads guilty or nolo contendere, the governor would have the power to remove her from the office permanently.
Fitzgerald was accused of taking the 11-year-old boy for a drive to confront him about an accusation that he touched her 13-year-old daughter sexually in 2020 and holding a handgun in her lap and threatening him while driving him home. The boy denies the allegations.
For the story about Fitzgerald's arrest, go to https://www.lakewalesnews.net/story/2021/06/02/news/new-city-commissioner-arrested-accused-of-using-handgun-to-threaten-child/2316.html