Governor DeSantis' Delayed Reinstatement of Suspended Commissioner Kris Fitzgerald Raised at City Commission Meeting
Commissioner Terrye Howell Demands Answers From Silent Governor
Last updated 3/4/2023 at 12:19pm
The expected reinstatement of suspended City Commissioner Kris Fitzgerald was raised again by Commissioner Terrye Howell, who questioned the lack of action from Governor Ron DeSantis at the most recent meeting of the commission.
DeSantis suspended Fitzgerald in June of 2021 after she was charged with two felonies. Fitzgerald was acquitted by a jury trial in October. Florida statutes call for the governor to end her suspension "forthwith" upon her exoneration of the charges. More than four months have elapsed without action from the governor.
"Are we inquiring (about) the holdup?" Howell asked. "Is she not allowed to come back up? We need to know. She needs to know."
Fitzgerald had run a successful underdog campaign against an incumbent city commissioner. She took office in May 2021 and was suspended by DeSantis on July 7.
"Someone needs to inquire about what's happening, so this won't happen again," Howell said, clearly suggesting that the commission take a more proactive stance and press the governor for answers. "Do our commissioners have to ask the governor about this? Because I would rather have the answer, yes or no."
DeSantis was "unavailable" when Fitzgerald attempted to meet with him in Tallahassee and has not responded to written requests. Multiple attempts by LakeWalesNews.net to obtain comment have failed to elicit any response from either the office of the governor or the governor's general counsel.
Attempts by The Ledger to determine DeSantis's position have also failed to gain a response, they reported.
Florida Statutes 112.51.6 allows the governor to suspend municipal officials, but says in part that "If the municipal official is acquitted or found not guilty...then the Governor shall forthwith revoke the suspension and restore such municipal official to office."
Following her suspension, Jack Hilligoss was chosen by commissioners as the interim commissioner. He subsequently ran for mayor, allowing Danny Krueger to seek and win election to the interim slot. The law, however, states that Fitzgerald is entitled to be reappointed to the remainder of her original term with back pay.
Although the city commission is elected and serves on a non-partisan basis, the highly-partisan DeSantis is known to address issues from that perspective.
DeSantis has freely wielded his ability to suspend officials against Democrats during his time as governor. DeSantis suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel after the Parkland school shooting in 2018.
DeSantis also suspended four Broward School Board members in August over an $800 million bond issue for school-construction projects. He appointed four Republicans to replace the suspended board members.
In August he suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren because he suggested he would not prosecute people under Florida's strict new anti-abortion laws.