12 March 2005

Orlando Mayoral Witch Hunt

On Thursday night, a special prosecutor appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to investigate election violations in Orange County issued four indictments. Yesterday, we learned that Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, along with a local judge and two campaign workers, was included in this list. Let the political games begin.

Mayor Dyer, former Democratic Leader in the Florida Senate and unsuccessful candidate for Florida Attorney General in 2002, has long been admired by leaders of both parties for his mild manners and commitment to public service. Dyer's crime? During his recent reelection, Mayor Dyer paid a campaign consultant, Ezzie Thomas, to conduct African American outreach. Mr. Thomas then collected absentee ballots from the homes of voters in order to directly submit them to the Supervisor of Elections office. This act was made illegal during the 1998 Legislative Session following the disastrous Miami mayoral election, when Xavier Suarez was ousted from office and Joe Carrollo was awarded an office in city hall. The law, however, is poorly written. Section 104.047(1), Florida Statutes, makes it a third degree felony to pay another individual for collecting absentee ballots. The law does not require intent, and it does not even require that the individual making the payment know that the act is occurring. Under this obscure provision, candidates must now baby-sit all of their campaign workers to make sure that they are not doing anything illegal in the course of their employment. This is an extremely unreasonable standard - one that cannot possibly be met by your average candidate for public office.

While the fact that the prosecutor is Republican and was appointed by a Republican, and the defendant is a Democratic mayor in one of Florida's most prestigious cities doesn't necessarily prove a partisan witch hunt. What is amazing is that Mayor Dyer isn't the only one who broke the law. According to testimony by Mr. Thomas, he was also paid to collect absentee ballots for Florida Secretary of State, and Governor Bush appointee, Glenda Hood, and for newly elected U.S. Senator Mel Martinez. Hood was elected mayor of Orlando in 2000 and Martinez was elected chairman of Orange County in 1998. According to special prosecutor Brad King, the statutes of limitation have expired. Senator Martinez and Secretary Hood may walk on a technicality. How convenient!


Anonymous TDog said...

So, you are saying that the Republicans are being held to a more lenient standard than the Democrats? Wow! I'm shocked. (Sense my sarcasm.)

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