Gulf County staff had prepared to swear in two county commissioners at their regular session meeting on November 22, but when it came time for the elected to take their oaths of office, only one was in attendance.
Chairman of the Board Sandy Quinn, who ran unopposed in his reelection race earlier this year, was sworn in for a new term on the Board of County Commissioners by Circuit Judge Devin Collier before friends, family and colleagues.
Quinn is entering his third term as a county commissioner.
“I want to extend a huge thanks to all my constituents and the people in this community,” he said. “…I really appreciate serving not only my district, but serving the entirety of Gulf County, because that’s what it’s about. “
Billy Traylor, the newly elected Commissioner for District 2, was not present at the meeting.
“We were notified this morning that Mr. Traylor is ill and is not able to attend,” County Administrator Michael Hammond informed the board at the meeting. “I’ve asked the county attorney to research the situation with that, about not taking the oath this morning, and he will get back to me.”
Traylor, who won the District 2 election with 77 percent of the vote earlier this month, had been undergoing treatments for brain cancer while campaigning for office.
His absence occurred as a result of complications related to his cancer treatment.
While there is no statutory requirement for elected county commissioners to take an oral oath of office, they are required to sign a written version of this oath before being formally able to accept their office and its responsibilities.
Officials expressed that Traylor had not signed any such documentation through the county as of November 22.
“The statute and the constitution are pretty clear, as are Attorney General opinions from the past, about what needs to happen with state and county officials, and at the city level for that matter,” County Attorney Jeremy Novak told The Star. “There’s basic fundamental steps you’ve got to do. You’ve got to take the oath. You have to sign the form before you can assume that responsibility.”
In keeping with Florida Statute 100.041, county commissioners are supposed to assume office for their term on the second Tuesday following election day — which was November 22 — so long as their election win has been certified.
Gulf County’s election results have been certified, according to Supervisor of Elections John Hanlon.
Novak said that he was in the process of determining an exact timeline in which Traylor will have to sign the required documentation in order to assume office, as he was instructed to do by the county administrator.
“I’m going to get the secretary of state’s office to let us know what precedent has been set in the past and what timeline Billy has to come in and do that stuff,” he said.
“I know he’s sick, so it’s just trying to figure out how much time and what they can do in the meantime, because you really can’t perform the functions of the government without him.”
Should Traylor not sign the oath in any required timeframe, Novak stated that the situation represented a legal gray area.
Typically, if an elected official were to leave office before their term was complete, the governor would make an appointment to the seat until the next election, which in this case would be in 2024. But the county attorney was unsure if this process would still apply should the elected official never actually have assumed office.
“There’s voids where you lose elected officials in office. That’s pretty clear cut… This is a little bit different because we don’t have someone that’s actually taken the office.”