West Palm Beach Mayor seeks to derail rival’s campaign with residency challenge

Keith James says Rodney Mayo can't be Mayor of West Palm Beach — he lives in Lantana. Not so, Mayo says.

In a new lawsuit, West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James is claiming his re-election rival doesn’t live in the city and is asking for a judgment that will stop restaurateur Rodney Mayo’s bid.

Mayo’s election documents filed with the city show he lives at 518-520 Clematis St., Apt. 1. But James’ complaint, filed Dec. 5, argues Mayo really lives at 6171 Pine Drive in Lantana, which he has continued to live at since he filed to run for Mayor Nov. 14.

“The address of his ‘residence’ that he stated in the filing was false; and therefore, he is disqualified from seeking the position of Mayor,” the lawsuit reads.

City candidates are required to live within the city limits for six months prior to the March 14 election.

Mayo, however, posted a 529-word rant, first reported in The Palm Beach Post, about what he calls the “LUDICROUS” lawsuit on Facebook, saying that James just doesn’t want the competition. Without his bid, West Palm Beach would have not had any city elections for the first time in its history, he said. Two other Commissioners are running for re-election unopposed.

“Most folks who know me know I live, breathe and work in Downtown West Palm Beach and have for over 35 years,” Mayo wrote on Facebook. “I bought my first property, an old 1923 condemned Salvation Army building slated to be torn down in 1983. I spent 4 years renovating the structure myself, built 4 apartments on the 2nd floor, and created Respectable Street Café, which opened in 1987.”

The Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office shows that the only property that Mayo owns under his name is the Lantana address, but it does not show that he took a homestead exemption for the property, which would have kept his taxes from increasing beyond a certain percentage.

The addresses on his city election papers are owned by a company, 518 Clematis Realty LLC, which state filings show is connected to Mayo, as the title manager.

James’ legal attempt to throw him out of the race also names the Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link, asking that she not go ahead with processing Mayo’s candidacy.

“James does not know whether or not Link is aware of the fact that Mayo cannot qualify as a mayoral candidate for the city, and therefore she has been included in this litigation to enjoin her from proceeding forward with any steps she might be taking as if Mayor was a candidate qualified to seek the office of the city’s Mayor,” the lawsuit says.

In the lawsuit, he asks for the city he runs to do the same.

Determining which city candidates can qualify to run is a function resting solely with the West Palm Beach City Clerk, however. West Palm Beach has a strong Mayor form of government and the position is part of the office of Mayor, according to West Palm Beach’s city charter.

Rick Asnani, James’ political consultant, said that both the Clerk and the Supervisor of Elections were included because they are both part of the elections process.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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