Winter Park Commissioner Todd Weaver apologizes for missing key vote

Lisa Maria Garza, Orlando Sentinel
·3 min read

Winter Park Commissioner Todd Weaver publicly apologized Wednesday for missing a crucial vote last week that would have let voters decide whether to change the city’s election system.

His absence from the Nov. 11 commission meeting blindsided advocates critical of the city’s charter, which says all commissioners are elected citywide — a system they say has shut out Black candidates from the powerful seats for more than 130 years.

Weaver had been supportive in recent months of putting a question on the March ballot that would have asked voters to create districts that would each elect a commissioner. But without Weaver’s vote, the ordinance failed on a 2-2 vote.

In an open letter posted Wednesday by the Winter Park Voice, Weaver said he developed a “severe migraine” the morning of the meeting and other symptoms that were similar to COVID-19. He has since tested negative for the virus.

“I want to apologize to all my constituents and to my fellow commissioners for missing this very important meeting,” Weaver said. “If there were any way I could have participated in the meeting, even virtually, I would have, but unfortunately I was physically unable.”

Three hours before the meeting, Weaver notified City Manager Randy Knight that he wouldn’t participate. City officials have declined to provide the Orlando Sentinel with the correspondence, citing HIPAA and then the Americans with Disabilities Act. A First Amendment lawyer has said neither of those federal acts are legitimate exemptions to the public records law in this instance.

Commissioners have been divided for months over the issue of single-member districts despite pleas from a group of residents in the city’s historic Black neighborhood of Hannibal Square who have argued for years that creating districts would give a fairer shot to minorities seeking public office and increase representation on the commission.

Mayor Steve Leary and Vice Mayor Carolyn Cooper have strongly opposed changing the voting system, asserting that no part of the city is ignored. Commissioners Marty Sullivan and Sheila DeCiccio supported creating the ordinance to give voters the choice.

A public records request shows commissioners received heated emails from some residents in the two weeks leading up the vote.

One resident wrote that creating districts would “lead to infighting” and that “Winter Park isn’t so dominated by a single demographic, that we need to Balkanize.”

Residents in the city of about 30,000 are about 76% white, 10% Hispanic and 7% Black, according to U.S. Census data.

“This fool hardy referendum is an effort [that] promotes racism and separatism. Strike it down for what it is,” another resident told commissioners in an email. “Wake up or expect to be voted out of office.”

But other cities such as Ocoee and even Orange County elect commissioners by districts.

The Coalition for Access and Representation, led by Hannibal Square residents, said they are determined to keep up momentum despite the failed vote. An online petition garnered more than 100 signatures from residents in various neighborhoods.

But to get it on the ballot without an ordinance supported by commissioners, the group needs to gather petitions in-person from 10% of the registered voters, or about 2,300 signatures.

Weaver, who previously voiced concern about the petition requirement during a pandemic, said in the letter he supports the group’s continued effort to get the issue on the ballot.

“This will give our citizens an opportunity to learn more about the pros and cons of Single Member Districts so they can make an informed decision,” he said. “Again, I’m sorry my illness caused me to miss such an important meeting.”


©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.