Questions surrounding the tenure of Winter Park Vice Mayor Todd Weaver were the subject of a special City Commission meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
The controversy stemmed from a Feb. 3 email, titled “Stepping Down,” in which Weaver thanked supporters and explained that business responsibilities were creating time constraints with his city schedule. The email sparked discussions, during the Feb. 8 City Commission meeting, on whether commissioners had the authority to accept a resignation or confirm a reinstatement of one of their own.
Section 2.03 of the City Charter states that, “City Commission shall be the judge of the qualification of its own members, subject to review by the courts.” However, in an effort to prevent allegations of wrongdoing or bias on the part of commissioners, Mayor Phil Anderson asked City Attorney Kurt Ardaman to consult a human resources attorney on the matter. A letter from Benton Wood of Fisher & Phillips LLP had been presented to commissioners for their consideration.
In his letter, Wood states that, “Federal and state law does not specifically govern the meaning of this email.” He also expresses his own opinion on the intent of Weaver’s email. “My professional and legal opinion is that Commissioner Weaver’s email conveys a clear intent to resign as a City Commissioner,” Wood wrote, adding that the use of “Stepping Down” in the subject line conveys an intent to resign immediately.
“There’s no ambiguity in the definition of what ‘step down’ means,” said Mayor Anderson at the Feb. 15 meeting, citing the Merriam-Webster definition of the phrase during his opening remarks. He also cited the email signature – Todd Weaver, Winter Park City Commissioner, 2019-2023 – as proof of resignation. Weaver’s term ends in 2025.
Anderson added that Weaver called him on the day the email was sent, advising him of an intent to resign but not giving a date. The full discussion was not recounted.
Commissioner Marty Sullivan pointed out that Wood’s expertise was in employment law, and that Commissioner Weaver was not a city employee. He also read a section of Wood’s letter that states, “Winter Park City Commissioners will be tasked with determining Mr. Weaver’s qualifications to continue.”
“He stated in the public record that he wants to continue serving,” recalled Sullivan of comments Weaver made during the Feb. 8 commission meeting. “And he was chosen by Winter Park citizens to represent them; Those are some key points to consider on what action we take today,” Sullivan added.
In her comments, Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio referred to Wood’s opinion that the email was an immediate resignation. “As an attorney, I am guided by the law and the legal opinion,” she said, citing section 2.07A of the City Charter which states:
“The office of a commissioner or the mayor shall become vacant upon the death, resignation, removal from office in any manner authorized by law or forfeiture of the office, such forfeiture to be declared by the remaining members of the commission.”
Commissioner Kris Cruzada pointed out a lack of clarity in Weaver’s email, adding that “Stepping Down” could also have referred to his position as Vice Mayor. “When I read this email, I really see no expressed will of intent,” said Cruzada. “We are now giving an opinion on what another commissioner is doing, and that is a very slippery slope.”
Vice Mayor Weaver, who attended the meeting remotely, said that he did not send a formal letter of resignation, nor did he clearly state that intent in his email. “I should have given it a little bit more time before I hit the Send button,” he said. “It wasn’t a resignation letter, it was just like a courtesy to any employer – I maintain that it was just a stupidity move on my part.”
A total of 10 residents spoke during public comments, six did not consider the email to be a resignation. Pat Mcdonald, who resides on Summerfield Road, defended Weaver’s change of heart by asking commissioners, “Have you ever changed your mind about something?” She went on to reference the recent commission vote to restart the RFP process for the reuse of the old Winter Park Library. “You changed your mind about that, didn’t you?”
The meeting ended with a yes/no vote on whether the email was legally sufficient as a resignation. When asked by Commissioner Cruzada if Commissioner Weaver should vote on the matter, City Attorney Kurt Ardaman cited a provision that states commissioners can vote on matters pertaining to their salary as elected officials.
“I think it would be improper to ask him to recuse himself,” said Ardaman.
The vote was 3-2 that the email was not legally sufficient with Mayor Anderson and Commissioner DeCiccio casting the two “yes” votes.
The next City Commission meeting will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 22.