9 Investigates Maitland mayor's charter violations

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MAITLAND, Fla. - The mayor of Maitland admitted to Channel 9 that he repeatedly violated the city’s charter.

Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said he’s had meetings with city staff and developers to talk about part of the financial deal for the $90 million downtown redevelopment project.

But the mayor told 9 Investigates he had no idea he was in violation of the city’s charter.

“I’ve done the same procedure for years,” Schieferdecker said.

“It may be hard out there for people to believe that you didn’t know you weren’t violating the charter,” said investigative reporter Daralene Jones.

“I’m not making excuses. I should’ve known it, and I’m apologizing for it. I’m not doing it anymore,” Schieferdeck said.

The mayor is a developer by trade and showed 9 Investigates how he directed city staff to re-work the financial incentive package.

He said he felt the numbers presented by the city staff didn’t provide a full picture of the benefits to the city, and he wanted to have additional evaluation.  

The problem is the mayor has no administrative power. Maitland has a “weak mayor” form of government and he is just another council member.

According to the city’s charter, “The council or its members shall deal with the city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the manager solely through the manager, and neither the council nor its members shall give orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately.”

"With your development background, this could be perceived as influencing the deal?” said Jones.

The mayor insisted that’s not the case, saying, "It’s not that I’m trying to pad the numbers. Just trying to show all of the numbers."

Longtime Maitland resident Bill Kahn wants the mayor to forfeit his office.

“I want someone in office who follows the law, otherwise why do we have a city manager.? What are we paying a city manager for?” said Kahn.

According to the city’s charter, council members shall forfeit their office for violating any express prohibition of the charter.

The mayor said he has no plans to step down.

According to the charter, council members are authorized to act: “The council shall be the judge of the election and qualifications of its member and of the grounds for forfeiture of their office and for that purpose shall have power to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and require the production of evidence.”

So far, council members have accepted the mayor’s apology.

“We are bypassing our city rules and regulations,” said Pushpa Seth.  

“It says to the employees we are not holding you responsible for doing anything that’s illegal,” said Kahn.  

The mayor said all council members will now be trained on the charter rules.

A spokesperson for the League of Women Voters believes the charter violation sets a bad precedent.

Outside of action from council, 9 Investigates has been told residents would have to file an ethics complaint.