Last fall, Glenda Hood dodged a recall petition after City Clerk Grace Chewning impounded signatures asking for the mayor's removal.
An ambiguous state law appeared to give Chewning that power. It said the clerk's office had the right to determine if the petition was "facially valid" before being sent to the supervisor of elections.
But that part of the law would render the process useless. What city employee would risk being fired by allowing his or her boss to face a recall petition?
One of the people paying attention was Rep. Tom Feeney of Oviedo. He discussed with his staff whether Chewning had the power to halt the petition. No, he was told. Still, an Orange County judge upheld Chewning's decision. So Feeney went to work in the Florida Legislature, pushing through an amendment to an election reform bill that effectively takes the city clerk out of the process. That change quietly took effect when Gov. Jeb Bush signed the reform measure June 7.
Feeney says he has nothing against Hood. "The mayor is a friend of mine," he says. Rather, he was motivated by the "horrible dilemma" faced by city clerks because he considered it unfair for legislators to place them in that situation. "It is very disturbing any time we have laws that are ambiguous to the democratically-elected process," Feeney says.
Doug Guetzloe, the political consultant and talk radio host who pushed for Hood's recall, encouraged Feeney, but says he has no plans to begin another petition against Hood.