Broward County To Review Gov. Scott's Decision To Replace Brenda Snipes

Dec 4, 2018

The Broward County Commission on Tuesday directed the county attorney to review whether Gov. Rick Scott’s recent decision to replace elections supervisor Brenda Snipes is legal. 

Commissioner Steve Geller said Scott does not have authority to permanently suspend Snipes and appoint Peter Antonacci as her successor. Rather, the senate must approve Snipes' removal before the position becomes officially vacant, he said. 

"I don't believe the governor can appoint a permanent replacement when there's not a vacancy yet,” said Geller, who sponsored the motion. He also questioned the motivation behind Scott’s appointment of Antonacci, who is the Republican governor’s former general counsel and does not live in Broward.

The county could decide to challenge Scott's move in court, depending on the results of the review.

Michael Udine was the only commissioner who did not vote for the motion. He said Broward would look bad if it pursued legal action against Scott.

In response to Broward's decision, a spokeswoman for the governor said he "laid out his action clearly." 

Scott, a Republican, ordered Snipes’ suspension and the appointment of Antonacci even though Snipes had previously announced her resignation effective January. In response to Scott’s move, Snipes rescinded her resignation and vowed to fight the decision. 

Snipes received national attention after her office struggled to count ballots following the Nov. 6 midterm election. In his executive order on Friday announcing the move, Scott noted that her staff failed to meet a recount deadline for the U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner races and initially submitted more than 20 invalid ballots to the state.

Scott, who won the Senate race, also successfully sued Snipes for not releasing vote count totals to his campaign.

On Tuesday, Vice Mayor Dale Holness said it was wrong to suspend Snipes so soon before her resignation went into effect. 

“We’re talking about a little over 30 days she would have been out,” Holness said, regarding Snipes’ initial decision to resign. “Why you have to do this?”

Geller added that Governor-elect Ron DeSantis should be the person to appoint Snipes’ replacement. And although the commissioner called Antonacci "extremely competent," he noted that news reports have labelled him Scott's “hatchet man” and “go-to guy.”

Antonacci could potentially sway presidential election results in 2020 in the heavily Democratic county, Geller said. He will have the ability to affect voter turnout by changing early voting hours and the locations of polling places. 

“I don’t think that a Republican operative should be appointed Supervisor of Elections by a governor on his way out of office when that governor is known to be close to President Trump and may be trying to deliver Florida to President Trump,” Geller said.