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Citizens begin recall process
Dade City Commissioner Camille Hernandez could face removal.
By CARRIE RITCHIE, Times Staff Writer
Published August 7, 2007
Dade City Commissioner Camille Hernandez could be removed from office within 220 days.
DADE CITY - In her July 19 letter calling for an investigation of Mayor Hutch Brock and former City Manager Harold Sample, City Commissioner Camille Hernandez stated she's trying to help her community.
She wrote that she has "a sworn duty to the citizens of Dade City" and that they "can no longer be governed by intimidation and fear."
But at a meeting Monday night, about 40 residents from the area made it clear they believe she's the problem. They formed a committee to begin the recall process, which could remove her from office within 220 days.
It was a unanimous decision.
"I'm not surprised," said Curtis Beebe, who organized the meeting and was elected chairman of the committee. "It's a pretty emotional response. People are unhappy. They feel like she has embarrassed the town."
Hernandez - who could not be reached for comment all day Monday - has been taking heat from residents and fellow city officials for flinging allegations of corruption at Brock and Sample.
In her letter, she wrote that having Sample serve as an adviser to the city was a conflict of interest because he took a position at the business center. She also accused Brock of talking the city out of buying a building on Eighth Street so his legal partner could buy it and silencing the council on the proposed landfill.
In addition, she alleged that Brock and Sample have been violating environmental laws regarding the city's water system.
Beebe said he decided to hold the meeting after he got several calls and e-mails of support for a July 24 letter he wrote to the Times calling for Hernandez's resignation.
At the meeting, no one seemed to be able to come up with solutions other than beginning a recall. People said they feared Dade City might never find another city manager, or if it did, that Hernandez would drive the manager away.
They also said she might eventually be able to control the commission if her supporters were able to win seats.
So they voted in an executive committee to take further action. Beebe will be chairman, Penny Morrill will be vice chairman, Mike Carr will be treasurer and Jeanie Germain will be secretary. At the next meeting, they hope to begin the petition, which is the first step in the recall process.
They'll need signatures from at least 10 percent of the 3,415- member Dade City electorate, according to a Florida statute.
If they get those signatures, they'd need 15 percent of the electorate to sign their petition with an attached defense from Hernandez, according to the statute. And if it moves on from there, Hernandez would have five days to resign. Otherwise she'd face a recall election, during which people would vote for her to stay or be removed.
Germain, who helped Zephyrhills recall two city officials in the early 1970s, said the process is challenging and emotionally draining, but she said she's ready to help and she's confident they can do it.
Morrill agreed but stressed the importance of involvement.
"I think the challenge will be to get voting citizens to understand the importance of them taking a stand," she said.
Sample appeared to listen in and give a statement. He told attendees not to make it personal, but to act in the city's best interest. He said he and Brock would support whatever they decided to do.
"I feel she's acted totally irresponsibly in the position she holds," Sample told the Times. "...When you accept that position, you accept some responsibility and accountability, and she's going to have to take some accountability for the statements she's made that contradict public record."
As for the letter, the governor's office is still reviewing it, said Anthony DeLuise, a spokesman for the governor. He couldn't say how long the review process would take or what would happen next if the governor's office decides to look into it.
But Beebe told the group he'd already taken matters into his own hands. He sent the governor's office a copy of the documents Brock used to dispute her claims at the July 24 commission meeting.
Sample and Beebe both said the attempted recall will negatively affect the community in some ways because it will pit one side against the other.
"It's a small, close-knit community," Beebe said. "There's no way to get through this without some divisiveness."