SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. – Sumter County has two new commissioners that were sworn in Tuesday night.
Roberta Ulrich is a retired mathematician. She previously worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Scott Fenstermaker is a resident of The Villages. He’s lived there for more than10 years. Back in January he watched as news broke that deputies arrested Sumter County commissioners Oren Miller and Gary Search for perjury. The allegations came from an investigation in Marion County over the two having conversations of official business on their personal phones.
The governor appointed them after a perjury scandal involving two former commissioners that’s still playing out in court, but some in the community wish the governor had waited for the case to close.
Florida’s Sunshine Law requires discussions by two or more board members about officials' business must be open to the public.
While charges were filed, Fenstermaker feels they should have been given their day in court.
“Why did the governor under the circumstance not wait for the outcome of the criminal process,” said Fenstermaker.
He’s upset because the replacements were handpicked by the governor, not elected by the community.
But former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney David Haas says this is within the governor’s power.
“The governor does have the authority to exercise the removal of certain officials. Especially if there is some sort of criminal charge that’s pending," said David Haas.
This process isn’t uncommon. In 2005, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer was temporarily suspended and replaced by Mayor Ernest Page until Dyer’s name was clear. But even if the former commissioners are found not guilty, they might not get their spot back.
“If those individuals would say either in charge of gets dropped or they’re acquitted. There is a process in place for them to be able to petition to get those spots back,” Haas said.
Time will tell whether we see Miller and Search in office again.
The perjury case goes before the judge this Friday. Spectrum News 13 will let you know what happens.
We did reach out to Sumter County Commission as well for comment on this story. We haven’t heard back.