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Dinerstein v. Bucher

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

January 15, 2020

SIDNEY F. DINERSTEIN, Appellant,
v.
SUSAN BUCHER, Supervisor of Elections in Palm Beach County, THE CITY OF PALM BEACH GARDENS, PATRICIA SNIDER, City Clerk of Palm Beach Gardens, VOTERS IN CONTROL, Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Janis Brustares Keyser, Judge; L.T. Case No. 502018CA010672XXXXMB.

          James D'Loughy of Advisor Law, PLLC, Palm Beach Gardens, for appellant.

          R. Max Lohman of Lohman Law Group, P.A., West Palm Beach, for appellee City of Palm Beach Gardens.

          MAY, J.

         The plaintiff appeals a final judgment in favor of the City of Palm Beach Gardens ("City"). He argues the trial court erred in applying the "magic words" test in finding the City did not expressly advocate in favor of a ballot initiative and in finding the ballot initiative's title and summary valid. We disagree and affirm.

         In May 2018, the City Council passed and adopted three ordinances to appear on the August 2018 City Election Ballot as Ballot Question Nos. 1, 2, and 3 (collectively "August Charter Amendments").

Ballot Question No. 1 (Ordinance 7-18)
Sought to increase term-limits for city council members from two to three consecutive terms.
Ballot Question No. 2 (Ordinance 8-18)
Consisted of several amendments to remove and modify provisions of the City Charter.
Ballot Question No. 3 (Ordinance 9-18)
Sought to remove the requirement that the City Manager be a resident within one year of appointment.

         In an article published August 17, 2018, the Palm Beach Post reported that the City paid Cornerstone Solutions Florida, LLC, a local political consulting company, $43, 200 to plan, manage, and execute the City's voter education campaign before the March 2018 City Election. And, the City planned to spend no more than about $65, 000 on the August 2018 campaign.

         On August 22, 2018, the plaintiff filed a verified emergency petition for declaratory and injunctive relief as to the misuse of public funds for unlawful government advocacy and injunctive relief against a political action committee concerning the dissemination of deceptive advertisements.

         Ballot Question No. 2 passed in the August election, but Ballot ...


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