LAKE PARK -- After two attempts to begin proceedings to remove longtime Mayor Keith Sandlin failed, Lake Park City Council succeeded Thursday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd.

Before making a motion, Councilman Russell Lane read a nearly six-page complaint against Sandlin that asked for the mayor's immediate resignation. If the mayor did not resign, the Council then would remove him from office. The written statement accused Sandlin of misconduct.

"We find that Keith Sandlin has shown preferential treatment, interfered with and bullied the zoning administrator (Ann Peterson), violated his oath of office to support and defend the Charter of this city," Lane read from the statement.

Background in the statement makes reference to a case involving Velma Baxley. Peterson had cited Baxley for code violations that resulted in Baxley appearing before a county judge. Baxley was given a suspended sentence and 30 days to meet code.

Baxley and the mayor have been subject of the Council before Aug. 15, 2000. Peterson cited Baxley then for the same issue involving mobile homes on the Baxley property that are rentals.

After the reading of the complaint, Lane made a motion seconded by J.E. Fender to begin proceedings to remove Sandlin. The mayor then called for discussion in which he asked that his attorney, Guy Terry, speak on his behalf.

Terry questioned the wording of the motion that sought to "remove the mayor." Sandlin asked Peterson, who is also city clerk, to reread the motion as it stood. He then asked Lane to restate the motion. Lane did and set the date for the mayor's public hearing to be July 10.

Fender again seconded the motion, and Councilwoman JoAnne Rutland was the third vote in favor. Johnny B. Corbett voted against the motion.

Lane said the entire process is nothing personal against the mayor.

"This is the business of city government trying to act in the best interest of the both the city and the citizens of Lake Park," Lane said. "This is not personal, and we hope that it won't be taken personally."

The mayor insists the actions taken with Peterson have been misconstrued and were done after Lake Park Municipal Judge George Hart made his ruling on the Baxley case.

Sandlin has served as mayor for the last three terms. He has served continuously for six years.

Terry said that the burden of proof lies with the Council, and they could follow the due process that is permitted under the charter.

The July 10 meeting will serve as the public hearing in the Council Chambers in the Lake Park City Hall at 7:30 p.m.

Sandlin sees this as another hurdle to cross during his terms in office.

"I've been through battles before, and I'll go through this one," he said.

To contact Tanya B. O'Berry, please call 244-3400, ext. 239.

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