Judge dismisses suit filed against city regarding special election

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Delray Beach can’t be forced to hold a special election to fill an open commission seat because the time frame allotted to the city to hold that election hasn’t expired yet.

That’s what Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen ruled during a hearing Friday afternoon.

Resident J. Reeve Bright filed a lawsuit against the city in December after commissioners failed to appoint an interim commissioner to a vacant city. Per the city’s charter, the city must hold a special election within 60 days if commissioners fail to fill the seat after two attempts.

Bright said he wants the city to follow its rules and hold the election. In court, he said the city is running the clock out on holding the mandated special election.

The city argued it would be impossible to hold a special election. The city’s defense states that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections can’t help run the election in time and the city doesn’t have the time and it would be too costly to run its own election.

Judge Gillen didn’t side with either Bright or the city, technically. He stated Bright had the right to file the suit against the city, but he dismissed the case because of when a writ of mandamus, which is what Bright filed, should be filed.

A writ of mandamus is a judicial remedy where a superior court can order a public authority to do a specific act that the body is required to perform under the law. Judge Gillen said the time the city has to hold the special election hasn’t run out yet, so the writ shouldn’t be filed until that time.

He dismissed the case without prejudice, which means Bright can resubmit the writ after the 60 days expires on Feb. 4. By the time that date comes, it likely will be too late for the city to hold an election. A regular election is scheduled for March 14.