APOPKA, Fla. — A petition to recall Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson fell short on Friday.
What You Need To Know
- A petition to recall Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson fell short
- To get the recall process started, petitioners needed signatures from 1,806 people
- The recall attempt stemmed from the death of firefighter Austin Duran last July
- A lengthy process is required before a recall election can be scheduled
Organizers said they did not reach the required number of signatures — 1,806 — before Friday's 5 p.m. deadline.
Petitioners like Dennis New had urged a recall and said one of the reasons was the death of firefighter Austin Duran last July. He said he fears another department funeral.
“Because of mismanagement, lack of training, lack of supervision in the fire department, it’s come to a head,” New said. “I spent 35 years in the fire department, and I worry every day for every young firefighter they have working over here.”
New said in order to recall an elected official like Nelson, he had to obtain 1,806 signed petitions before 5 p.m. May 19. Then, he would have had to pay to have the signatures verified. Once verified, he would have had to turn in the petition to the city, and the mayor would have been allowed to write a 200-word contention to the recall. Once that process is completed, he would have had to do the same but would have needed even more signatures. Only then would the city have scheduled a recall election.
“It takes a lot of time and a lot of money,” New said.
The Apopka City Council voted 3-2 to recommend the firing of city attorney Michael Rodriguez recently.
On Wednesday, Rodriguez resigned in the middle of a city council meeting.
Also recently, two no-confidence votes for Apopka Fire Chief Sean Wylam came from a majority of the firefighters’ union and the city council. Nelson, who has the ultimate power, refuses to change leadership.
In response to concerns about the firefighter's death, Spectrum News sat down with Nelson, who took office five years ago.
“It was a tragic accident, and we all wish we could take it back,” Nelson said. “The trailer that was in the accident should’ve never been in service. It was never taken out of service.”
Nelson said the city is making major improvements across the Apopka Fire Department. He said city officials have added safety training, staff and 18 new firefighters.
New said he hopes to complete the recall process against the mayor soon.
“Or that Mayor Nelson sees the error in his ways and either resigns or corrects what he’s doing wrong,” New said
At the May 5 Apopka City Council meeting, Wylam gave a monthly update on safety and training, including improving emergency signals in front of some fire stations, conducting mold and air quality testing and a mass casualty drill.
Spectrum News reached out to all commissioners regarding this concern.
Apopka Commissioners Nick Nesta, Kyle Becker and Diane Velazquez said they would not comment on the recall petitions.
However, Velazquez said she still felt like the fire department should change leadership from the current chief to help with morale and trust.
Michael Duran, Austin Duran’s father, said he’s continuing to bring attention to better leadership at the Apopka Fire Department, which is why he did not want to comment on the mayor’s recall petition either.