Election lawsuit tries to get West Palm Beach mayoral challenger tossed from March ballot

(As originally published with bells and whistles, Thu, December 8th 2022, 1:05 PM EST)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — It may seem elections are held and then lawsuits are filed, but it’s the opposite in West Palm Beach.

Mayor Keith James is running for a second term and filed a complaint to get his opponent in next spring’s election off the ballot.

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The opponent is Rodney Mayo, a local businessman and restaurant owner.

…is not qualified to pursue this candidacy

The complaint, filed Monday, said, “Mayo does not qualify to be a candidate for the office of Mayor of the City of West Palm Beach,” and James wants to stop Mayo, Palm Beach County supervisor of elections Wendy Sartory Link, and the city “from taking any further steps in connection with Mayo’s candidacy.”

James claims Mayo “is not qualified to pursue this candidacy” because he lives in Lantana, rather than West Palm Beach.

According to the court document, Mayo filed paperwork to run on Nov. 14, with a home address on Clematis Street.

According to Mayo, there is an apartment above one of his businesses, listed under the Clematis Street address.

“Respectable Street Café. It’s 518-520 Clematis [Street]. It’s a two-story building I bought in 1982. A former Salvation Army Building. I converted the upstairs into apartments. I’ve been paying water bills, and electricity there,” Mayo tells CBS12 News.

The complaint cites section 2.01 of the city’s ordinance, writing, “A candidate for Mayor of The City is required to have continuously resided in The City during the six-month period immediately prior to the date of the election and is required to continuously reside in The City during the mayor’s term of office.”

required to have resided in The City…

And, “Since the mayoral election is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, any candidate who is seeking to be elected to this position is required to have resided in The City since approximately September 14, 2023 [sic].”

he has continued to reside at the Lantana address

“In fact, this statement by Mayo regarding his residence was false,” the complaint said. “The actual address of his residence as of the date of the commencement six-month required pre-election residency period and possibly including the date of his filing as a candidate was and is,” on Pine Drive in Lantana, “and he has continued to reside at the Lantana address following his filing.”

As for the supervisor of elections, “James does not know whether or not Link is aware of the fact that Mayo cannot qualify as a mayoral candidate for The City, and therefore she has been included in this litigation to enjoin her from proceeding forward with any steps she might be taking as if Mayo was a candidate qualified to seek the office of The City’s mayor.”

Wendy Sartory Link told CBS12 News, “We were likely named in the lawsuit because everybody knows that we prepare the ballots, even though we prepare them in accordance with what the city has sent to us. The City Clerks actually do the qualifying. Once they have completed the qualification period, they notify us and tell us what should be on the ballot.”

In a separate document, James is asking for an emergency hearing on the matter.

James did not respond to CBS12’s request for comment, but we did speak to his lawyer, Gregory Friedman.

According to Friedman, an emergency hearing is planned for sometime next week.

Mayo told CBS12 News, if he’s disqualified: “Then their election is canceled because the mayor goes unopposed. That would just be the worst thing because then people would not get a chance to vote. But, we are pretty confident we’re going to win.”

Mayo called James’ filing “ludicrous” in a lengthy Facebook post [deleted], accusing the mayor of costing legal fees in an “attempt to go unopposed.”

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James was elected mayor in March 2019 and served as the District 4 city commissioner for eight years before that.

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