With one of its five members suspended after getting embroiled in a drug-related charge, the DeLand City Commission is short-staffed.
Now, the remaining four members on the board are looking for someone to fill the seat left vacant by the suspension of City Commissioner Jeff Hunter, who was arrested June 27 and charged with selling or delivering hydrocodone, an opioid painkiller and a Schedule II controlled substance.
On July 13, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order suspending Hunter from office. Florida law gives Scott the discretion to suspend municipal officials accused of crimes, and to remove them from office if they are convicted.
At the City Commission’s July 16 meeting, City Attorney Darren Elkind laid out the process for filling the seat.
“The suspension is temporary, during the time the criminal-justice proceeding takes its course. If he’s acquitted or the charges are otherwise dropped, then he’s reinstated to office,” Elkind said. “If he pleads, even if it’s a no-contest plea or adjudication is withheld, or if he’s found guilty by a jury, the governor is required to remove him from office.”
The appointed replacement will serve the term of Hunter’s suspension. If Hunter is permanently removed, the replacement commissioner would serve the remainder of Hunter’s term, which ends in November 2020.
DeLand’s charter generally requires vacant seats be filled within 45 days. That puts the commissioners’ deadline at Aug. 27 — the day before this year’s City of DeLand election, in which a second seat is on the ballot.
That puts the City Commission on a tight deadline.
Those interested in the position must submit applications by the close of business Tuesday, July 31. Depending on the number of applications received, the commission may review the applications and create a shortlist at its Aug. 6 regular meeting.
Commissioners will then interview the candidates at a 6 p.m. special meeting Thursday, Aug. 9, and at a 6 p.m. meeting Monday, Aug. 13, if necessary.
Once the interviews are complete, the commissioners will select a replacement, to be sworn in at the board’s Aug. 20 regular meeting.
DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar acknowledged the unusual circumstances.
“It could be for three weeks, or three months, or the balance of the term,” he said. “I don’t know what that would do in terms of people’s thought process.”
While serving, the appointed commissioner will earn the city commissioner salary of $11,600 per year.
Applications are available on the city’s website, at www.deland.org, or at the City Clerk’s office in DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave.
The charge that resulted in Hunter’s suspension came after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation.
The State Attorney’s Office formally filed the charge June 28. Hunter said the charge was fabricated by a woman he dated briefly in 2017, in retaliation for Hunter getting the woman’s boyfriend in trouble.
Hunter pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released from jail hours after his June 27 arrest, on $25,000 bail.
A pretrial hearing is currently scheduled in Hunter’s case Aug. 10.