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Judge disqualifies Rodney Mayo from March 14 election, giving WPB Mayor Keith James another term

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

RODNEY MAYO’S BID to challenge West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James in the March 14 election is over.

A Palm Beach County Circuit judge today granted James’ request to disqualify Mayo, siding with evidence presented by the mayor at a trial last week that his challenger does not live in West Palm Beach.

The ruling effectively cancels the March 14 election and gives James another four-year term without voters casting a single ballot.

“While this Court believes that Mayo’s intention to get involved in the election was good, the rules governing eligibility for an individual to qualify as a candidate for Mayor of West Palm Beach require that Mayo have had continuous permanent legal residence in West Palm Beach for six months prior to the election. Mayo did not,’’ Judge Joseph Curley Jr. said in a ruling issued Jan. 17.

“The greater weight of the evidence presented to the Court established that on the date that he registered as a candidate for Mayor, Mayo did not qualify under the residency requirements and his candidacy must be terminated.’’

Mayo said he probably won't appeal the ruling but he planned to launch a petition to recall James.

West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James

In a statement released through his campaign, Mayor Keith James said, “This was about having a fair and equitable process and protecting the integrity of the elections. You can’t run for Mayor if you don’t live here. We are grateful the Judge agreed with our evidence. I am going to transition my re-election campaign to a listening tour and go out and talk to residents over the next few months. We will continue the work that we have done for the last four years to improve West Palm Beach for all residents and businesses. I am honored and humbled to continue my service as Mayor for the next four years.”

Evidence in the case supported James’ contention that Mayo’s full-time residence is his home in Lantana, not an apartment above a bar he owns on Clematis Street, the judge said.

The “court does not find his testimony that the Clematis Street apartment was his permanent legal residence for the purpose of meeting the six-month residency requirement to be credible,’’ Curley said in his ruling.

“Rather, the facts surrounding the Lantana house are consistent and supportive of the position of James that this Lantana home was Mayo’s domicile and permanent legal residence at the time that the six-month residency requirement commenced and continued at least to the dates he changed the address listed on his driver’s license on November 10, 2022 or when he changed his voter registration address with (the Supervisor of Elections) office on December 29, 2022.’’

Rodney Mayo (Photo courtesy of West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority)

The judge noted that Mayo testified at the Jan. 10 trial that numerous people knew about his use of the Clematis Street apartment as his residence, but he failed to call any witnesses “to corroborate his testimony as to his use of the apartment as his permanent legal residence.’’

Curley also noted that when Mayo filed campaign papers at City Hall to register as a candidate, “he did not provide his driver’s license or other paperwork that reflected Lantana as his residence. He offered his passport which does not contain an address of the owner of the passport.’’

Rodney Mayo speaks to his attorney, William Spicola, at a trial Jan. 10, 2023

The judge added, “Had it been necessary, he could not have used his old driver’s license since it would have shown his Lantana address.’’

Evidence introduced at trial showed that Mayo on Nov. 10, 2022, applied for a new driver’s license containing the Clematis Street address “to conceal his then-true residential address in Lantana,’’ the judge said.

“As James has argued, Mayo sought to turn back the clock and ‘reinvent himself’ realizing he did not have proof of continuous residency to establish his ability to run for election,’’ the ruling said.

“Mayo had more than a decade to change his ‘permanent legal residence’, and had he done so prior to the required six-month residency it could have been viewed by this Court as a factor to be considered in his favor. To the contrary, Mayo did little until he was advised by one or more individuals that he needed to do something to change his ‘permanent legal residence’ to the Clematis Street address in order to qualify as a candidate for mayor.’’

A day after testifying at the trial last week, Mayo posted this statement on Facebook.

"I wish I had a better read on what the judge’s decision might be, but I do not,'' he said. "I relived my life for the judge living in West Palm Beach starting in 1974; growing up in Northwood on 29th Street and then Clematis Street, renovating the old condemned Salvation Army building, which is now Respectable Street, going through all the businesses I have opened in this City. I realized I was most likely the most consistent resident of West Palm Beach in the courtroom. Having to prove my residency to be able to have a chance to serve our community and run for mayor of the city I grew up in was a bit frustrating, to say the least. I kept looking over at mayor Keith James and his team of lawyers along with support personnel and asking myself, is this what it's all about? Is this what democracy looks like? To put it mildly, it did make my stomach turn.''

And early on Jan. 18, he posted a message acknowledging the judge's decision and announcing plans to launch the petition to recall James.

"The required number of signatures needed is 3,500. We want to double that! We want to send a message that we want our city back! We deserve to have an election and have a choice in our future,'' Mayo wrote.

He also said he is "fearful of retribution. Mayor Keith James is a vindictive person. Anyone who did not support him may suffer. Many folks stayed out of this race because of that fear. For those that stood up, we applaud you!''

Here is the judge's ruling:

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About the author

Joe Capozzi is an award-winning reporter based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years writing for newspapers, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020. View all posts by Joe Capozzi.



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