Walton voters "duped" by gang of "powerbrokers"?

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by ecopal, May 30, 2006.

  1. ecopal

    ecopal Beach Fanatic

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    Please read the following incredible story about illegal political activity in Walton county.

    Does this mean that the democratic process in Walton county was corrupted by a gang of power brokers?

    Does anyone know the names of all the persons in this group that are being fined?

    Does anyone know the details and status of Commissioneer Scott Brannon's fine?

    Thanks.

    http://news.pajamasmedia.com/politics/2006/05/27/8930756_Walton_political.shtml

    By Tom Mclaughlin
    Story Date: 2006 -May -27 at 12:45:34

    Walton political group fined:
    Association of Voters agrees to pay for 30 ?willful violations' of state's election code


    May 27, 2006 (Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News delivered by Newstex)

    --
    The Walton Association of Voters, an organization former county Commissioner Lane Rees once called "an assemblage of lawyers, lobbyists and old powerbrokers," has agreed to pay a $15,000 fine to the Florida Elections Commission.

    In accepting the FEC terms, WAV officials have consented to pay $500 for each of 30 "willful violations" of the state's election code, according to a consent order made public on Friday.

    WAV, many of whose members belong to the Walton County Property Owner's Association, raised more than $77,000 in 2004 as an electioneering communication organization. It spent most of it on anti-Rees advertising.
    Rees, an incumbent, was soundly defeated that year by 23-year-old Scott Brannon in the Republican primary for the District 1 commission seat.

    "I'm very pleased that justice has been served," Rees said Friday. "Hopefully, future elections will be made better and more fair by the action taken by the Florida Elections Commission."

    Brannon and Mikel Lee Perry, who also ran for the commission in 2004 but lost, were also investigated by the FEC. Both have appealed fines for election code violations.

    Action was expected in Brannon's case when the FEC met on May 18. The outcome of the hearing was not available Friday.

    Lloyd Blue, a Walton County attorney and developer who served as WAV's local counsel, said most of the rules the FEC found WAV had violated were technical in nature. His opinion was shared by WAV attorney Jimmy Judkins. "This case was over very technical accounting issues," Judkins said in a press release.

    Twenty-three of the charges alleged that the group falsely reported information. Two other charges claimed WAV certified a false campaign treasurer's report. The remaining charges stated that WAV made prohibited expenditures.

    Blue said no violations would have occurred if laws regarding electioneering communication organizations had been clearer when WAV was formed.
    WAV was the first electioneering communication organization formed in Florida, and there were no clear rules to guide it, Blue said. WAV's founders had to rely on the best guesses of legal experts when raising and spending funds.

    Rees has said he thinks WAV was formed to carry out a vendetta against him because its leaders and their financers couldn't control him as a commissioner. He said the group and its lawyers knew or should have known the state's elections laws and he was gratified to see justice done.
    "Lawyers, lobbyists and old power brokers duped the people," he said after the FEC found probable cause to investigate allegations made against WAV. "I'm glad to see this is all coming out."

    The people who founded WAV and its directors tried from the outset to remain out of the limelight. But the FEC's report reveals that the group was largely comprised of Property Owners Association members. Its board of directors was made up almost entirely of employees of Tommy Sholes Inc., a real estate company.

    Testimony presented to FEC investigators indicated the organization evolved from a group of Santa Rosa Beach businessmen who "met occasionally for lunch" into a local powerbroker.

    WAV's intervention helped make the race for Rees' commission seat the most expensive ever in Walton County. WAV raised $77,600 and Brannon raised $73,675 on his own -- with a lot of those funds coming from the same donors who filled WAV's coffers.

    Rees raised more than $82,000 himself, and said a lot of his funds were used to combat the WAV campaign against him.

    Blue told the FEC that he, James Eaton, a lobbyist with whom he shared "real estate interests" and several others regularly met and "discussed local political issues."

    During one meeting, Blue, Eaton and others agreed to increase their political involvement according to the FEC report said.

    "More specifically, the group was concerned with issues pertaining to the county budget, property and taxes."


    Newstex ID: KRTB-0068-8930756
     
  2. Jim Tucker

    Jim Tucker Beach Fanatic

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    That is old news to many. But i hadn't seen the final result - thanks for letting us know what happened about the hearings. I'm surprised they got off with a slap on the wrist. They smeared Rees and made up all kinds of lies and published them in full-page ads. They did it all without regard for following rules or keeping records and tried to hide who was behind it all. Guys that think they should be able to build what they want, anywhere they want. Ro Cuchens is one of their good ole boys.

    The shocking thing was that Lee Perry lost to Cindy Meadows. The Walton County POA was formed largely due to their hatred of her and her popularity and the common sentiments of the majority of residents. I'm sure they were shocked when she won. They felt that her and other environmentally sensitive and modest-growth minded people in the community had to much power over the county.
     
  3. Richard

    Richard Beach Comber

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    What's new is the $15,000.00 fine for the 30 "willful violations" of the state's election code, according to a consent order made public this past Friday, 5/26/06.

    The WAV group would have the public believe that the violations were just technical in nature but many of the 30 violations cited were quite clear, clear enough to be called ?willful violations? by the Florida Elections Commission.

    The Walton County Property Owner's Association mentioned in the story is a private organization closed to the public and is composed mostly of developers and their supporters. Meetings are closed and membership is by invitation only.

    As to the WAV group, the newspaper article noted, ?The people who founded WAV and its directors tried from the outset to remain out of the limelight. But the Florida Elections Commission's report reveals that the group was largely comprised of Property Owners Association members. Its board of directors was made up almost entirely of employees of Tommy Sholes Inc., a real estate company.? Seems like if they were proud of what they were doing they would not have tried to disguise their idenity.

    Citizens interested in open and fair elections might consider these facts when doing real estate related business in Walton County.
     
  4. DBOldford

    DBOldford Beach Fanatic

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    Not to mention the attorneys who represented these guys, who were all over the place trying to exert inappropriate pressure. If the political action group did not know the laws, their attorneys surely did. They chose to proceed in spite of the law. The public will never know even half of what really transpired with this group. And that's all I'm saying about that, as Forest Gump said.
     
  5. waltondude

    waltondude Beach Lover

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    I was at a meeting that Cindy Meadows spoke at the other night, and she said that the Planning Commission is currently working on an affordable housing proposal, that she appeard to be in favor of, that would allow 100% increase in densities and would waive the traffic concurrency requirements on the developer. I am not seeing how this fits into a modest-growth plan.
     
  6. SHELLY

    SHELLY SoWal Insider

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    It doesn't. But IMO, cramming housing closer together or stacking it skyward isn't as bad as waiving the traffic concurrency requirements. :shock:
     
  7. TooFarTampa

    TooFarTampa SoWal Insider

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    It appears that from a quick read of the Walton County Land Development code that the requirements for affordable housing are no more than 10 units per acre. That is about double the usual residential requirements, from what I can tell. (Though I guess everything seems to be negotiable.) Is the 100 percent increase you are referring to up from the standard affordable housing guidelines?

    I agree with SHELLY. It depends on where the project is located and how difficult it is to get to. I can't imagine being upset about a similar project 1 mile or more from the beach on a main road. The county definitely needs affordable housing.
     
  8. SoWalSally

    SoWalSally Beach Fanatic

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    Terms of Brannon?s consent order released by FEC
    By Rachel Kyler

    The Florida Elections Commission released the terms of Walton County Commissioner Chairman Scott Brannon?s proposed consent order for campaign finance violations on June 9.
    Brannon?s defense and the FEC attorney negotiated the FEC?s draft proposal. Terms of the agreement are still under negotiation and Brannon has 20 days to accept the proposal.
    If finalized, Brannon agrees to two counts of violations pursuant to Section 106.07(5) F.S.
    The two counts surround claims that on or about Aug. 13, 2004, Brannon failed to correctly list expenditures to three area television stations for airtime purchased by the Petermann Corporation.
    The proposed order calls for a $500 fine for each count.
    Brannon reserved the right to comment at this time.
    ?We can now see how Scott Brannon was elected by ?willfully violating? state election laws,? former county commissioner Lane Rees said.
    Brannon defeated incumbent Rees in the 2004 District 1 primary.
    Former Rees election staff member, Guy Davidson filed the complaint, which the FEC received on Aug. 23, 2004, alleging Brannon had violated state election laws.
    ?He got by pretty good,? Davidson said. ?I?m disappointed I didn?t file complaints about the other advertising (Brannon) didn?t report.?
    Davidson claims Brannon used other advertising that was not reported in a timely manner. He thought the FEC would investigate Brannon further.
    ?I figured they?d look at everything he was doing,? Davidson said. ?There were other things he was doing, but they didn?t investigate because I didn?t file a complaint.?
    Rees said he was pleased to see ?some accountability,? but fines are not enough to prohibit future election violations.
    ?A gentlemen breaks the law in order to get a position that generates and makes law for the county,? Davidson said. ?Maybe it?s just me, but that just doesn?t seem right.?
     
  9. Nancy James

    Nancy James Beach Crab

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    Local politics, anyone?

    :eek:
    About a week ago it was announced that Scott Brannon had "accepted" a fine of $1,000 from the Florida Elections Commission (FEC) for irregularities during his 2004 campaign for county commissioner, 1st district. He defeated Lane Rees in the Republican primary for that position. Brannon had said earlier that he had done nothing wrong and would fight the charges. But he apparently changed his mind. The charges involved his certifying campaign finance documents as "true, correct and complete" when they were not.

    In May the Walton Association of Voters (WAV) had been fined $15,000 by the FEC for similar financial reporting irregularities--chump change for the developers, attorneys, and others who financed the $77,600 that WAV spent on advertising to defeat Rees. Brannon was not implicated in WAV's series of wrongdoings, but of course he was the beneficiary of the ugly advertising campaign and of funds from many of the same contributors--to the tune of $73,675.

    Newspaper accounts have said that WAV was largely made up of individuals who belong to the Walton County Property Owners Association, and WAV's board of directors was made up mainly of people on the staff of Tommy Sholes, Inc., Appraisers and Realtors. The WCPOA is a secretive group that hand-picks its members and does not know the meaning of working in the sunshine. In case you prefer to use a Realtor or attorney with higher ethical standards, here are the names of some of the WCPOA and WAV members you might wish to avoid, as revealed in various accounts.

    Developer Jay Odom gave extensively to WAV both personally and through his nine businesses. WAV's attorney was Franklin Watson, who gave $500 to Brannon and $1,000 to WAV. Legendary, Inc., through owner Peter Bos, contributed $500 each to WAV and Brannon. Nita Lusa Properties, based in California but planning a development in Freeport, gave $1,000 to each.

    Other individuals involved with WAV, as mentioned in the 19-page Florida Election Commission Staff Recommendations, were Lloyd Blue, Richard Stafford, Verdon "Bud" Rahal, James Eaton, Steven Petermann, Mark Herron (a Tallahassee attorney), William Gorman, and Steve Evans.

    Last we heard, the WCPOA had as its executive director one Ken Shannon, who formerly worked for Walton County--in the Planning Department, where else? Reminds us of the way our "public servants" in Washington leave office and go to work for the lobbyists they used to regulate. Whatcha think?
     
  10. redrocket

    redrocket Beach Lover

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    Re: Local politics, anyone?

    i love small town politics.
     
  11. redrocket

    redrocket Beach Lover

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    i've got to get into an income bracket that allows me some say so in these matters. what would that bracket be?:oops:
     
  12. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    A Voter's Registration card would help.

    For what it's worth, several months ago, Brannon stated that he was was innocent of all charges, yet he was thinking that he could get on with County business if he pled guilty and paid the fine. He also noted that the fine would be cheaper than attorney fees. He stated that he didn't want this to drag on, preventing him from focusing on his duties as County Commissioner. I think a week passed from the announcement of the allegations before Brannon was seated as Chairman of the County Commissioners. Just didn't make since to me. All I could think about was the good ole boy network. It is alive and well in Walton County, and don't you think otherwise because they will walk all over you and then spit on you.
     
  13. SoWalSally

    SoWalSally Beach Fanatic

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    Brannon: Campaign finance controversy "wrapped around an axles"

    By BRUCE COLLIER
    Walton County Commissioner Scott Brannon wants to set the record straight on what he considers to be an unfairly and unduly complicated set of issues regarding his campaign finances.

    The Florida Elections Commission (FEC) has investigated a complaint that Brannon violated Florida law in certifying as correct a campaign treasurer's report that was allegedly "incorrect, false, or incomplete." The inquiry focuses on Brannon's 2004 campaign for the Board of County Commissioners (BCC). The complaint was brought by Guy Davidson, campaign manager for Brannon's opponent, former commissioner Lane Rees. Brannon defeated Rees in a sharply contested race.

    Specifically, Brannon is alleged to have purchased television advertising time through the Petermann Corporation, and failed to report that expenditure on his 2004 campaign treasurer's report (CTR).

    Brannon says that he did not report the expenditure on the CTR in question because at the time he filed the CTR, he had not yet received the invoice for the expenditure. Brannon had an agreement with Petermann under which Petermann would purchase media time, and that Brannon would not write any checks directly to television stations WMBB-TV and WJHG-TV. Brannon received a single all-inclusive invoice from Network Productions, a division of Petermann Corporation.

    This, said Brannon, was Petermann's standard practice. Brannon never received individual, itemized invoices from the stations themselves.

    "The commercials aired before the billing cycle of the TV station to Petermann started."

    At the time the commercials began airing, Brannon had not yet received an invoice, but had an expenditure report due to be filed. Brannon believes that the airing of the TV spots prior to a report of expenditures led some to believe that "I was being granted some kind of credit, I was being... somebody was fronting this money."

    Brannon said that he paid and reported the expenditure when he received the invoice from Network Productions. "The issue is the difference between cash and accrual accounting."

    Brannon adds that he could not have reported an expenditure without an actual receipt.

    "All money was accounted for, all bills were paid that I received."

    Also, says Brannon, all funds used to pay for the ads came from Brannon's campaign account, that the account was not underfunded, and that Petermann did not "use his credit" to pay for the ads. "My personal bank records clearly reflect that the entire amount of the invoice was transferred from a checking account, mine personally, to my campaign account. And it was paid. Was it an expenditure when the ads were placed, or was it an expenditure when I received it? It would have been improper and not even followed policy to report something I didn't receive. Accrual accounting has been used in political races forever.

    "This whole thing has gotten so wrapped around the axle, and so many other things into play."

    The FEC staff recommendation is that there is "probable cause" to charge Brannon with violating the statute.

    Responding to another newspaper's headline that he has accepted a $1,000 fine, "I have not formally accepted anything. That's totally misleading. I reported every expenditure as I have received them. I want to make the case clear to the people that I did nothing wrong."

    Brannon has 20 days in which to decide whether to accept the decision and pay the fine, or to proceed further. He has not made up his mind.

    "I've done nothing wrong," he said, "and there's nothing changed...."

    Commenting on the recent consent agreement signed by the Walton Association of Voters on campaign finance law violations, Brannon said, "it's a system that's designed... it will wear you down to the point that you spend thirty to forty thousand dollars on a thousand dollar fine. So what do you think most people do?

    "My attorney has handled clients all over the state of Florida and most of them pay the fine. Most of them don't have this media exposure, and they pay it."

    He also noted that the complaint was brought by Guy Davidson, the campaign manager of the defeated candidate Lane Rees. "Did an ordinary voter and citizen file this thing? No."
     
  14. SHELLY

    SHELLY SoWal Insider

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    Regis, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say "A"...final answer.
     
  15. DBOldford

    DBOldford Beach Fanatic

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    About the most positive thing one could say about these old boys is that they were rather cheap dates. :dunno:
     
  16. waltondude

    waltondude Beach Lover

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    None of this would even be possible if the registered voters would follow the issues and get out to vote. But if everyone is going to bury their head in the sand and ignore what is going on around them, then I guess Walton County is getting what it deserves. Everyone complains, but no one is doing anything about it. Like voting. Current candidates are getting together and telling everyone that will listen how good everything is..........and proposing things, such as instant run-off voting that can not even legally be implemented in Florida.......yet no one seems to care. Just a few minutes research on the internet of the whose who of Walton County politics and prominent citizens finds rampant misrepresentation and misuse of homestead exemption for no other purpose than to line their own pockets. Everyone wants to do something about affordable housing, taxes, and insurance, yet it seems the powerful do everything that they can to cheat the system, cheating all of us out of fair tax rates, needed schools, and actual elected representation. It is a sad day not only in Walton County but in the world in general as greed has taken a firm hold on all of us.
     
  17. Kurt Lischka

    Kurt Lischka Admin Staff Member

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    My feet are buried in the sand but I will dig 'em out and vote.
     
  18. DBOldford

    DBOldford Beach Fanatic

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    Sara Comander is an excellent candidate for County Commissioner. We sent her a generous campaign donation since we can't vote in Walton County. Sara is an independent thinker with a commitment to the environment and to our beautiful beaches. I think her platform will be similar to that of Cindy Meadows. And I know that she is in the pocket of no one or any special interest. Now there's a novel approach!
     
  19. SHELLY

    SHELLY SoWal Insider

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    When it comes to Panhandle Politics, Brannon's little folly is no more than a fart in a hurricane.............the REAL POLITICAL DIRT is swirling around the cabal of puppetmasters known as St JOE. :shock:
     

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