District 3 school board candidate files suit

District 3 school board candidate files suit
Jack Daniels

By Susanna P. Barton


District 3 School Board candidate Jack Daniels has filed a lawsuit against Jerry Holland, supervisor of elections for Duval County, alleging signatures on the petitions of fellow candidates Ashley Smith-Juarez and Andrew Cordek were not properly verified.

When reached by phone in mid-July, Holland said the city filed a motion to dismiss the case on July 12. He did not know whether a hearing date had been set. When asked if such lawsuits were common, he said it was “not a frequent thing.” But part of Daniel’s lawsuit was about petitions relative to redistricting, which only occurs ever 10 years.

In an emergency complaint and amendment filed last month, Daniels alleged Holland “failed to perform his ministerial duty to duly check the petition signatures submitted for Ashley Juarez and Andrew Cordek and to verify their status as electors of both Duval County and district 3. Instead, performing his duty as prescribed for a year of re-apportionment, defendant checked them to verify their status as electors of only Duval County.”

At issue is whether the candidates’ petition-signers live in District 3. Daniels said that in the re-apportionment, or redistricting, year of 2011, candidates could gather signatures from non-district residents. But in 2012, a non-re-apportionment  year, candidates’ petition-signers must show a District 3 residency, which would be vetted by the elections office. To qualify for an elected race, candidates must either pay a fee or gather petition signatures.  Daniels’ suit alleges some of the gathered signatures of the other candidates should not have been validated.

“Instead, again performing his duty as prescribed for a year of re-apportionment, defendant determined that the required number of verified petition signatures of electors of Duval County submitted for Juarez and Cordek equaled at least 1 percent of the total number of electors of Duval County divided by the number of school district in Duval County, 7, as shown by the compilation by the department of state for the last preceding general election (Exhibit B),” the suit reads. “In 2012 defendant failed to perform his ministerial duty to duly determine whether the required number of verified petition signatures of electors of only district 3 had been submitted for Juarez and Cordek for their names to be placed on the ballot. Instead, once again performing his duty as prescribed for a year of re-apportionment, defendant unduly determined that the required number of verified petition signatures of electors of Duval County had been submitted for Juarez and Cordek for their names to be placed on the ballot for the election. Defendant unduly used verified petition signatures of electors not of district 3 to make his determination.”

Daniel’s suit demands a “preemptory write of mandamus compelling defendant to duly check the petition signatures on the petitions submitted to him for Ashely Juarez and Andrew Cordek to verify their status as electors of Duval County and the geographic area represented by their office sought; and to determine whether the required number of petition signatures submitted to defendant for Juarez and Cordek are of electors of district 3 and are equal to at least 1 percent of the total number of electors of district 3, as shown by the compilation by the department of state for the preceding general election.”

Daniels said in late-July that two judges already had recused from the case.            “It’s far easier for people to go to Gateway Mall or Town Center and have people say ‘will you sign this petition?’ and people say OK —  It’s so easy — you can get 100 a day like that,” Daniels said. “If you gather them from district, you’ll have to go door to door. Knowing that a lot of candidates like to cut corners, I checked petitions submitted by Ashley and Cordek and they’d come from all over the county — yet the supervisor of elections counted them as fcoming from the district.”

Carol Mirando, assistant general counsel with the city of Jacksonville, said the case will get reassigned. But she said it is the general counsel office’s belief that there is no basis to Daniels’ lawsuit.

“His complaint says what it says, but it is our position it doesn’t have any legal merit — which is why we have filed a motion to dismiss,” she said.

When reached by email, Smith-Juarez said she is “proud to have qualified by petition.”

“My campaign followed the outlined procedures and requirements for qualification and I have every confidence that the supervisor of elections office did their due diligence and properly requested and verified the petitions,” she wrote.

Cordek said he continues to move forward with his campaign despite his rival’s suit against Holland and the supervisor of election’s office.

“I spend every spare minute out there spreading the word about how I am the best candidate for the job, and ideas that I think can make a real positive difference in our public schools,” he said.

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