The Villages Developer has hundreds of millions of dollars riding on control of the Sumter County Commission. Thus, he employed massive spending and questionable tactics in his efforts to keep Craig Estep, Oren Miller and Gary Search from ousting his puppets in last year’s election.
After Estep, Miller, and Search were elected in a landslide, the Developer has been unrelenting in trying to neutralize them.
Under the Florida Constitution, Gov. DeSantis has the power to remove county commissioners for “malfeasance” and then replace them—even before their trial. The investigation leading to the arrest of Commissioners Miller and Search is based on three anonymous complaints. One of those complaints appears to have been filed by attorney George Angeliadis on behalf of a deep-pocketed client– who could it be? The arrest warrants are based on alleged lies about the existence and dates of phone calls made months ago, a subject that appears neither material nor one that Miller and Search had any reason to lie about. In a nutshell, the arrests appear to be the latest step in the efforts to neutralize Miller and Search—this time by having the governor remove and replace them with people acceptable to the Developer.
The Developer has made huge campaign contributions to DeSantis. For example, on Sept. 1 of this year, The Villages of Lake Sumter, Inc. made an in-kind contribution, valued at $119,734.77 to Friends of Ron DeSantis. If Miller and Search are convicted, and that is a big “if”, they should be removed and replaced. However, if DeSantis removes and replaces them before they are convicted and they are subsequently acquitted or the charges are dropped, it would certainly appear that he persecuted a couple of innocent guys on behalf of a large donor. That scandal could, and should, come back to haunt DeSantis if he runs for president in 2024.
Therefore, while DeSantis could legally remove and replace Commissioners Miller and Search before their trial, it would be both unjust and politically unwise for him to do so.