A petition to recall one Islamorada councilman is circulating in the village.
Signatures of registered village voters are being sought in an effort to recall Henry Rosenthal from office on claims of malfeasance. The recall stems from Rosenthal’s supposed efforts in trying to get the village planning director to poll the council on an amendment he needed for a project to bring a theater and entertainment venue to a former church building in Islamorada.
Whispers of a recall began in late July, when an anonymous letter received by the village’s code enforcement department was forwarded to the village clerk on July 27. It stated a group of concerned Islamorada voters were gathering in an attempt to recall Rosenthal, a councilman since 2020, and potentially another council member.
“As you know, an official complaint has been filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics against Henry Rosenthal,” states a letter that alluded to Rosenthal’s alleged commingling of his role as councilman and his business for personal financial gain. Deb Gillis, former councilwoman who ran against Rosenthal in the 2022 election, said during a July 17 meeting that she filed the complaint to the state commission.
Rosenthal attempted to purchase the former Island Community Church building with plans to bring a theater-like venue to the village. Rosenthal worked with Dan Gulizio, development services director, on his project before Gulizio was fired by Ted Yates, former village manager whose contract wasn’t renewed by a council majority at a special July 17 meeting.
Per the petition’s grounds for recall, Rosenthal interfered with lawful performance of the planning director Jennifer DeBoisbriand’s duties. It states the councilman instructed DeBoisbriand to unlawfully serve as liaison to other council members to ask them in advance of a meeting how each one would vote on an amendment Rosenthal needed for his project. The petition states it’s a “violation of Section 5(12) of the village charter (malfeasance), as well as Florida’s Government in Sunshine laws, Florida’s code of ethics for public officers and employees for misuse of public position and article 2 of Florida’s constitution related to breach of public trust and abuse of public position.”
Chairman of the recall committee is Casey Watkins, Islamorada resident who ran for village office last year against Rosenthal and three other candidates. Rosenthal won the seat by five votes over second-place Gillis. Watkins was fifth in votes for the seat.
Watkins told Keys Weekly there was a series of events where he questioned if Rosenthal’s actions stayed within the boundaries of the village’s charter and constitution. He said he took the concern to a friend who understands the laws and confirmed there was enough evidence to present the allegations.
“I am following the statues to present this to the general public,” Watkins said. “Either we agree or disagree. I’m always willing to work hard ensuring we properly care for our village.”
Rosenthal told Keys Weekly he had the chance to review the petition. He said he knows he did nothing wrong.
“One never knows what motivates people to do what they do,” he said. “And ultimately, the truth will prevail.”
The petition needs the signatures of 10% of Islamorada’s roughly 5,320 registered voters 30 days after the first signature is obtained. The recall chairman would file the signed petition forms with the village clerk, who then sends the documents to the county supervisor of elections for verification of signatures.
If enough signatures are obtained, the village clerk would send a copy of the petition to the person being recalled. Within five days, the person would have the opportunity to provide a defense with a statement of 200 or fewer words to the clerk. Five days after the receipt of the defensive statement, the recall committee would need to secure 15% of registered village voters within 60 days. The supervisor of elections would then certify whether 15% of the qualified electors signed the petition.
If the signatures are secured and verified, a special recall election would be held in the village. Voters would have the choice to remove or keep the person in office. The ballot would also contain names of candidates seeking to fill the seat if the person being recalled is removed by majority vote.