Governor chose to make Clerk an unnecessary political appointment

The gubernatorial appointment ad interim of Hunter Conrad is not the first controversial appointment that Governor Scott has made, nor was it even the last one he has made in St Johns County.

These types of political appointments are exactly why it is so important that elections for those local offices be made non-partisan; to insure that all voters are able to have a say in confirming or rejecting the appointment by the time the next election rolls around.

In the case of the St Johns County Clerk and Comptroller, 78,211 registered Democrats, independents, minor party registrants, and St Johns County voters registered without party affiliation, will not get to oppose the governor’s override, or vote for Lareau — because an unqualified Republican signed four pieces of paper and paid no money to declare themselves a “write-in” candidate for Clerk of Court, closing the Primary Election to registered Republican’s only.

In a July 16th article that appeared in Historic City News, titled “Former clerks of St Johns County say office needs better qualified leader”, a local resident, Debra Trevlyn Alexander, who happens to be a member of the Florida Bar for the past 18-years, made two comments that we find troubling.

In a single post made the following day, July 17, 2016 at 10:22 a.m., the self-employed attorney wrote:

“I never understood why he quit days after Governor Scott appointed Hunter Conrad since everyone knew he would run for this position. Cheryl Strickland retired early so the Governor had to appoint.”

What’s troubling is that, as a Florida attorney, she knows, or should know, why the appointed Clerk of Court “quit days after Governor Scott appointed Hunter Conrad”, as if to say George Lareau had a choice — because under state law, he did not.

George Lareau quit because he would have been breaking state law if he had stayed, and for the very reason Alexander said, “everyone knew he would run for this position”.

  • 99.012(4) F.S. says, “A person who is a subordinate officer, deputy sheriff, or police officer must resign effective upon qualifying pursuant to this chapter if the person is seeking to qualify for a public office that is currently held by an officer who has authority to appoint, employ, promote, or otherwise supervise that person and who has qualified as a candidate for reelection to that office.”

Debra, you should know better than make such a false implication.

Also troubling is that, as a Florida attorney, she knows, or should know, that it is not true to say “the Governor had to appoint”, he did not. Governor Scott used the power of an “Executive Order” to rescind George Lareau’s appointment that was already in full force and effect.

Simultaneously with the early retirement of the existing clerk (Strickland), the Chief Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit (Perkins) appointed George Lareau as Clerk ad interim; so, as of that moment, no vacancy existed.

The governor has the power to override the Chief Judge’s appointment, just as he has the power to override the death sentence of a convicted murderer; that does not mean he is going to do it. But, it is his choice.

Debra, you should know better than make such a misstatement of fact.

What’s done is done. All that we can do to help right this wrong is spread the news that those 78,000+ registered voters ALSO have a choice. They can still change their party affiliation to Republican until August 1st, thus regaining their right to say who will serve them as the local Clerk of Court.

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