A drawn-out battle over who should hold a seat on Palm Beach Gardens City Council has come to an end.
Carl Woods, a retired Palm Beach Gardens police officer who challenged longtime councilman David Levy in the March 15 election should be sworn in without delay, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Woods is the winner by default of a court-ordered runoff election because he’s the only eligible candidate, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Martin Colin ruled. Woods said he’s pleased with the outcome — and that the better part of a year’s worth of campaigning, 6,200-plus votes and thousands of dollars of campaign contributions haven’t been wasted.
“It would be unnecessary and unreasonable for the judge to make us do it all over again. It has been an unreasonable journey for us to have to go this far to be elected to this seat,” he said. “I’m very happy that the court proceedings are over with.”
Palm Beach Gardens spokeswoman Candice Temple said the city was notified of the final judgment today. They will be making arrangements to give Woods the oath of office and begin orientation, she said.
Colin in May ordered a runoff election to determine the winner, saying Levy had not won a majority of the votes cast in March. At issue was whether votes cast for a third candidate who dropped out after the ballots were printed should count toward determining a winner.
Palm Beach Gardens and the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections said they shouldn’t; Woods’ attorney Brian Smith said they should. Amid the dispute, Levy was publicly sworn into office in April.
However, an appeals court found Levy should never have been allowed to seek re-election because of term limits voters approved in November 2014. Levy’s four prior terms in office count against the two consecutive-term limit, the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled June 24, overturning part of Colin’s prior decision.
Former Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman Sid Dinerstein began challenging Levy’s eligibility in December, but Circuit Judge Meenu Sasser ruled Dinerstein lacked the standing to sue until after the election.
After the appeals court’s ruling, Colin ousted Levy July 6. Levy submitted a letter of resignation to the city the same day. That only left Woods in the race, but Colin stopped short of immediately naming him to the seat.
Palm Beach Gardens Attorney Max Lohman had argued there should be a whole new election that should coincide with other races to avoid the cost of a standalone election.
Now that Woods will be sworn in, what are his priorities?
He said he plans to meet with all the city personnel and familiarize himself with Seacoast Utility Authority and Florida Power & Light in case of a storm this hurricane season.
He wants to meet with the North County Neighborhood Coalition and the Avenir developers and hopes to take a tour of the site slated for development. He also plans to attend as many homeowners association meetings as possible to learn “intimate issues of the city,” he said.
Fall 2015 – Kevin Easton, David Levy and Carl Woods campaign for Group 4 City Council seat
December 2015 – Former Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein says David Levy shouldn’t be eligible to run again because of term limits
January 2016 – Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Meenu Sasser rules Levy can stay on the ballot, saying Dinerstein doesn’t yet have standing to sue
February 2016 – David Levy calls out Carl Woods for only voting in presidential election years
February 2016 – Kevin Easton drops out of the race. Ballots had already been printed.
March 2016 – David Levy is hit with an ethics complaint of ‘immoral behavior’ because of profiles on websites such as AsianFriendFinder and NoStringsAttached.
March 2016 – Results on Election Day show David Levy earned the highest number of votes. Whether he earned the “majority of votes cast” to win is disputed.
March 2016 – Brian Smith files a complaint calling for a runoff. Sid Dinerstein’s attorney James D’Loughy files a new complaint challenging David Levy’s eligibility
April 2016 – David Levy is sworn into office at a City Council meeting.
May 2016- Judge Martin Colin says a runoff election is required.
June 2016- Term limits make David Levy ineligible for office, an appeals court rules.
July 2016- Judge Martin Colin ousts David Levy from City Council. David Levy resigns the same day.
July 2016 – Judge Martin Colin declares Carl Woods the winner of a runoff election by default and says he should be sworn in without delay.