ST. LEO — With Gov. Rick Scott expected to sign into law a bill to de-annex 85 homes in the sprawling Lake Jovita community from tiny St. Leo, the town Board of Commissioners is in a state of flux.
If Scott signs the bill before the town’s meeting Monday night, two members of the five-person board will be disqualified from participating because they live in Lake Jovita. Commissioners must reside within town limits.
The commissioners living in Lake Jovita are Robert Inslee, the board’s liaison to state Rep. Amanda Murphy, a New Port Richey Democrat who sponsored the de-annexation bill, and Raphael “Ray” Davis, who defeated longtime Commissioner Donna DeWitt last month.
Inslee and Town Attorney Patricia Petruff have said that they see no reason why the governor won’t sign the bill, which was overwhelmingly passed in the state House and Senate last month.
For years, Lake Jovita residents in St. Leo have complained of paying high town taxes for relatively little service.
“There’s no expense related to it, so I don’t see any negatives (for Scott) regarding the bill,” Inslee said.
“I assume there’s a lot of bills that he puts through on a daily basis.”
If Scott signs the bill by Monday, Davis would relinquish his seat before ever serving on the board. Should Scott sign the bill, DeWitt and two others — Ed Dadez and C. Arnold Curington — have expressed interest in Davis’ seat. DeWitt, a member of Holy Name Monastery, had served on the board since 1997.
During a special meeting April 29, Commissioner James Wells, a Lake Jovita resident, resigned.
Mayor Jack Gardner, who also resigned at the end of that meeting, nominated St. Leo resident Greg Smith to replace Wells, and Smith was unanimously voted into office.
On Monday, Smith will join newly elected Commissioner Richard Christmas, who ran unopposed this year, Commissioner James Hallett, a monk at Saint Leo Abbey, and Inslee. Even if Scott signs the bill and Inslee must resign by Monday, the board will have a quorum. A new mayor and mayor pro-tem are expected to be named at Monday’s meeting.
If Inslee resigns, the mayor will recommend a replacement.
Because of his work on the de-annexation bill, Inslee said that he does not plan to resign until the bill officially becomes a law.
“I spent so much time and work on it that I don’t see any reason to voluntarily resign,” Inslee said. “I’m biding my time and letting the cards fall where they may.”