ACLU Defends Kenneth City Mayoral Candidate in Lawsuit Targeting Her Eligibility

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
March 6, 2009 12:00 am

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and its Pinellas County Chapter are defending Teresa A. Zemaitis, a Pinellas County public school teacher who is one of two candidates in a March 10 mayoral election. Zemaitis is being targeted in a lawsuit by the Town of Kenneth City, which alleges that no public employee may run for the seat of mayor; a position that only offers a $400/month stipend. As the stipend is not enough to live on, Zemaitis intends to continue with her current employment as a public school teacher.

“This ordinance is unconstitutional. The city is effectively saying that anyone who is an employee of any local, state, or national government agency may not serve as mayor of Kenneth City; this could include a sanitation worker for another city, a DMV clerk, a secretary at a police department, a lawyer employed by a government bureau, and of course any public school teacher,” said Bruce Howie, ACLU cooperating attorney.

The ACLU argues that the town’s ban serves no significant purpose to the city and violates Zemaitis’s due process and equal protection rights.

“Limiting the pool of candidates in an election by this manner is about as undemocratic of a system as one can imagine,” said Rebecca Harrison Steele, ACLU of Florida West Central Florida Regional Director. “Not only does the ordinance bar any public employee from serving as mayor for no good reason, it also interferes with the voters’ rights to elect the candidate of their choice.”

The ACLU is asking the court to strike the provision [4.01(d)] and rule that if Zemaitis wins the election that she be administered the oath of office and serve as Mayor of the Town of Kenneth City.

ACLU cooperating attorney in Town of Kenneth City, Florida vs. Teresa A. Zemaitis is Bruce G. Howie, Esq. Also representing Ms. Zemaitis is ACLU Regional Director Rebecca Harrison Steele.

Read the city’s complaint against Ms. Zemaitis:

Read the response, filed in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court:

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