An Alachua County judge ruled Monday that Gov. Ron DeSantis was within his rights to remove Alachua County School Board member Diyonne McGraw last year.
“The Governor was authorized to issue Executive Order 21-147 through the power vested in him by the Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes,” wrote Judge Monica Brasington of Florida’s Eighth Judicial Circuit. “The Governor’s declaration that there was a vacancy of the Alachua County School Board District 2 seat was neither an unconstitutional abuse of executive power nor an improper encroachment on the powers reserved to the judiciary.”
McGraw was elected in 2020, but last June a petition began circulating that claimed she lived outside the district she was elected to serve. DeSantis declared her seat vacant on June 17 and appointed a replacement in August.
In her seven-page opinion, Brasington noted that McGraw did not dispute that she lived outside her designated district and said the governor was not obliged to wait for a court to rule on the matter.
“While a judicial determination may be necessary when there are mixed questions of fact and law, the uncontroverted evidence presented by both parties suggests that McGraw failed to maintain a residency in the residence area from which she was elected throughout her term of office,” the judge wrote. “The Florida Constitution and the Florida Statutes plainly authorized—indeed, required—the Governor to issue an executive order declaring that a vacancy exists due to McGraw’s failure to maintain the residence required of her by law.”
McGraw, who filed suit five days after DeSantis’ order, had asked the court for writ of quo warranto to require DeSantis to explain his authority for making the decision, declare whether the governor’s action amounted to an abuse of executive power, and determine whether his executive order violated the Florida Constitution. She also argued that she was “denied noticed of administrative remedies.”
Brasington ruled against her on all four points.
Last week McGraw’s attorney, Richard Keith Alan II, told Mainstreet Daily News he would not comment on the results of the case. The governor’s counsel also did not immediately return a request for comment Monday afternoon.
Gainesville attorney Jeff Childers, who represents the candidate who lost to McGraw in the 2020 election, said the decision upholds the rule of law.
“While I understand why Mrs. McGraw was upset, she has learned once again that the rules apply to everybody,” Childers wrote in a text message. “Although she seeks to blame others, the bottom line is it was her responsibility to ensure that she was in the correct district for her school board seat.”