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Judge denies Sullivan’s motion to reconsider

March 14, 2014
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The judge who denied former Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan's request to have the Nov. 5 election results thrown out and a new election begun on Wednesday denied a motion to reconsider that decision.

But whether that means the case is over remains to be seen.

Judge Alane Laboda ruled she would not retry the case that she presided over a month ago in which she ruled Sullivan would not be entitled to a mulligan in an election where he lost by 121 votes to current Mayor Marni Sawicki, who said she hopes this case is finally over.

"I hope this is the end. I hope this is over and we can get to city business," Sawicki said. "It derails what we need to be doing. I'm sorry it came to this."

Sullivan said he would get in touch with his co-plaintiffs in the next few days to decide what their next move will be.

Whether it case goes forward, it does not mean Sullivan is any less intent on getting the rules changed.

Sullivan contends the composition of the canvassing board did not follow state statutes, that there was proof of people voting illegally and that there was question whether one precinct closed early.

"I'm disappointed and surprised by the way things went down, and yet (Laboda) totally disregarded them," Sullivan said. "I'm dismayed at how people from other counties can vote, and it seems there's a need for some checks and balances to be put into the system."

Sawicki said, as far as the charter goes, Sullivan was OK with the resolution both times he was mayor as far as the composition of the canvassing board (Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington, City Clerk Rebecca van Duetekom and Mayor Pro-tem Rana Erbrick).

Sawicki said Van Duetekom's residency had nothing to do with being able to do the job.

"Our city clerk does a great job and is very neutral on everything, I don't see anything that needs to be looked at," Sawicki said. "We may need to look at mail-in voting, and maybe using the registration for your car, but that's not Sharon's doing, that's the state's. We abided by all the statutes."

In her original decision, Laboda said she found Sullivan's claims of an illegal election "meritless" and that the plaintiffs did not provide any clear proof of any wrongdoing.

Laboda ruled that the plaintiffs would have to pay for the attorney fees and court costs, which currently stand at $155,000, with Sawicki's tab at around $65,000 and the city and county due the rest.

Sawicki said those costs will be paid by the plaintiffs and that is not negotiable.

"The recounts and the look at the ballots could have been done by a public records request. That's what's so sad about this," Sawicki said. "He could have just paid the cost for the county to be there and it could have cost $2,000 instead of $155,000, but he waited until Christmas to go there."

Sullivan said at this point, he will most likely not get his do-over, but that doesn't mean he won't fight to change the way elections are done in Cape Coral.

He also wished the best for the current mayor.

"It was important to solidify the election results because it was so close. It's also important to fix the system, more so than to put me in the mayor's seat," Sullivan said. "I wish Mayor Sawicki the best of luck and hope she succeeds in what she's trying to do."



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