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Circuit Judge May Rule by Week’s End on Pollinger’s Eligibility as GOP Sheriff’s Candidate

| June 4, 2012

Weapons check: John Pollinger arriving at the Flagler County Courthouse shortly before noon today. (c FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: 7:42 p.m.

With four days left to make the Aug. 14 primary election ballot, John Pollinger, the Republican candidate for Flagler County Sheriff, arrived in court shortly before noon today to defend his qualifications as a Republican n an extraordinary case expedited before Flagler County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Craig.

After a 90-minute hearing, the judge adjourned, giving both sides until Thursday to turn in more briefs. The judge is likely to render a decision by Friday, though he’s not required to do so.

The case was brought against Pollinger by a political opponent–Ann-Marie Shaffer, until weeks ago the campaign manager of Ray Stevens, another Republican running for sheriff–over Pollinger’s past registration as a Democrat. New Jersey, Pollinger’s previous state, did not officially annul that registration until January, when Pollinger requested the annulment. Florida law requires a candidate to swear an oath that the candidate, averring himself to be a member of a specific party, hasn’t been a member of another party within 365 days of announcing a run for public office.

Pollinger registered as a Republican in 2009, but Shaffer claims he knew his registration in New Jersey had not been cancelled. In court today, Shaffer, through her Ormond Beach lawyer, Jake Kaney, was looking to prohibit Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks from including Pollinger on the primary ballot, as a Republican. Weeks was in court, represented by Ron Labasky, an attorney for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Election. (The Flagler County Commission this morning voted 4-1, with Barbara Revels in dissent, to grant Weeks’ budget an additional $2,500 for legal representation in this case.)

Michael Chiumento III and Ron Hertel are representing Pollinger. They argued that the case should be dismissed on its face, saying there is no case law that justifies keeping Pollinger off the ballot. “An injunction is absolutely improper here today,” Chiumento said. The judge said he’d take the argument under advisement, but allowed the hearing to proceed. At 12:40 p.m., Pollinger took the stand.

Kaney asked Pollinger several questions that established the timeline of Pollinger’s registration status and voter history in New Jersey and in Florida, where he first registered to vote in 2008, and as a Republican in 2009. Pollinger said he had registered as a Democrat when he was 20, in New Jersey.

Hertel, Pollinger’s attiorney, had just one question for him: “Have you ever been a registered member of the Democratic Party?”

“No,” Pollinger replied, making a central point of his defense: being a registered Democrat previously did not mean that he was a member of the Democratic Party.

Shaffer was then called to the stand, but only to establish the fact that she’s a registered voter who intends to vote–and has standing to file suit against Pollinger. That was it for witnesses for either side. The two sides then began arguing for a judgment from Craig.

“All that the plaintiff has shown anyway was that Mr. Pollinger was a Democratic Party affiliated voter in the State of New Jersey,” which, Hertel said, is not the same as having an active member of the Democratic Party.

Kaney did not buy the distinction so far as Pollinger’s registration is concerned: he was registered in new Jersey, as a Democrat, until January 2012, Kaney said.

Only then did the case move to the merits of the case: the actual interpretation of law that would justify an injunction. Kaney argued that the law is written clearly and without qualifications–that the candidate must not be a member of another party when qualifying to run as a candidate of a different party. Kaney rejected Pollinger’s defense that he had done what he was required to do, and that either New Jersey or Florida authorities hadn’t followed through with the proper paperwork. “What we have here is the fact that he remained until January 24 of this year registered to vote as a Democrat, and he knew that,” Kaney said, rejecting notions of ignorance of the law. “He did not take those steps to disaffiliate himself until January of this year.” That disqualifies him to be sheriff as a Republican, Kaney concluded.

Chiumento went up next, starting with this line to the judge: “They’re asking you to determine that Mr. Pollinger is guilty until proven innocent.”

Chiumento then argued that there is nothing in law that makes it Pollinger’s–or any prospective voter registrant’s–responsibility to annul a previous registration in another state once the registrant fills out a new registration in Florida. But for the state’s failure to send a registration notice to New Jersey, he said, “we wouldn’t be here today.” The only facts in the case are that he once registered as Democrat and that he changed address. Shaffer, Chiumento said, is “stirring the water” to look for reasons to question his qualifications. “There are no common law rights that they’ve talked about that gives them the right to be here,” he continued, referring to Pollinger’s challengers.

The last thing we want to do is this court to disqualify a candidate under this statute, because what it will be doing is creating a new law,” Chiumento concluded, again focusing on the temporary injunction, not the underlying merits of the case–an injunction that “fails on its case.”

Kaney retorted that the injunction is not aiming to keep Pollinger off the ballot, but to keep him off the ballot as a Republican only. He then argued that if Pollinger were placed on the ballot and won as a Republican, but was later deemed ineligible, the Republican Executive Committee would pick an alternative. Shaffer is part of a local political group, the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies of Florida, that has an ongoing, separate, legal case against the Republican Executive Committee.

But then Craig asked a pointed question to Kaney: what if New Jersey made a mistake? Is that enough to keep Pollinger off the ballot? “Yes,” Kaney replied, New Jersey’s mistake not being a defense.

Craig asked what the effect was on New Jersey, once an individual registers to vote in Florida. “Nothing,” Kaney said. Craig was skeptical.

“So there’s nothijng that stops people from registering in two states” absent informing the previous state of their change, Craig said. Kaney said that’s a different issue. The case he’s arguing is party loyalty, not eligibility to vote in one state or another, since it would have been unlawful of him to go back to go back to New Jersey and vote there. No one is alleging that Pollinger did that. But that’s a separate issue, Kaney told Craig.

At 1:30 p.m., Craig said he’d take all those matter under advisement and give both sides an opportunity to define the legal issues more clearly by Thursday, end of business, suggesting that Craig would render a decision the following day, in keeping with the end of the qualifying period for the primary ballot. Court then adjourned.

But Craig is not required to render a decision this week, or according to any specific timeline. Absent such a ruling, and because of the timeline, Pollinger may qualify for the ballot as a Republican, pending legal changes to the contrary, at which point the supervisor would have to reflect the changes either with an addendum to the ballot or with special directions to voters that Pollinger does not qualify as a Republican candidate. In that sense, today’s inaction by the court–at least on the merits of the case–was more a victory for Pollinger, who wanted to ensure that his name would appear on the ballot as a Republican, than for Shaffer, who was seeking a stop to that process today. Still: Craig may yet do just that this week.

Immediately after the hearing before Craig, Pollinger was at the Supervisor of Elections Office, signing his oath as a Republican, and qualifying himself for the ballot. A giant, invisible asterisk hung over the proceedings, pending Craig’s next move.

John Pollinger turned in his disputed oath as a registered Republican soon after appearing in court to defend his registration against a Republican rival's challenge. Kimberle Weeks, the supervisor of elections, who was also in court, accepted Pollinger's papers. click on the image for larger view. (FlaglerLive)

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38 Responses for “Circuit Judge May Rule by Week’s End on Pollinger’s Eligibility as GOP Sheriff’s Candidate”

  1. Linda H. says:

    He did know his registration had not been cancelled, since January, and we have proof of that. This isn’t a war. We’re asking him to follow the law, that is all.

    Most people would be able to say they did not know. He cannot, without lying.

  2. SAW says:

    I have no dog in this fight, but it looks to me that this guy could be just another opportunist trying to take advantage of the system .

  3. Robert Lewis says:

    I did this case to be very interesting. I always enjoy political satire. Observing this from the sidelines, I have a few questions that seem to be unanswered.

    1) What does or did Mr. Pollinger have to gain by being dual registered?
    I hate getting solicitation from the RNC, imagine having to deal with advertisement from the DNC too..

    2) Ms. Shaffer was Mr. Stevens campaign manager, since her resignation what has been her activity level with the campaign? Did Ms. Shaffer resign in name only?

    3) Should a citizen be punished because of an administrative error of the state?

    There sounds like a serious administrative error. It raises eyebrows to me that if the election system is flawed, what other systems have serious flaws?

    4) How can Ms. Shaffer or anyone else prove Mr. Pollinger knew of his previous registration? Did he speak of it? Was it brought to his attention?

    5) Does the burden of responsibility of removing oneself from a voter registration roll from ones previous home state fall upon the citizen if the state fails at its duty?

    If that be the case, should citizens be penalized of their drives license was not surrendered? Should a citizen be penalized if their car registration in the previous state was not canceled?

    Overall observance, if you do not like a candidate then do not vote for them. Cast your ballot for someone else. I have no dog in this fight and besides the news stories have never met any of the candidates.
    My gripe is that government has become so large at the idea that it will help people, while this is a perfect example of big government trampeling the rights of a citizen.

    I wish all involved luck. I have confidence in our judicial system and that the law will be interpreted in a fair and equitable manner.

    • Linda H. says:

      Robert Lewis, suggest you look up the Charlie Crist law and why/how it came about. That will explain what this is about.

      Nobody stands to gain anything by this, it is THE LAW. He is being asked to obey it and that is all.

      He is not being punished, nor blocked from running. He is being asked to obey THE LAW. He wants to be our new sheriff. Is that too much to ask? All we want him to do is to obey the law.

      Many here in the Republican party have seen a copy of his voter registration. It was announced in January to the Republican party and a few days later, Mr. Pollinger contacted the state office and asked them to change it, telling them it was no longer valid. He now cannot say he did not know about it.

      Nobody here is being punished.

  4. elaygee says:

    When you move to another state, you have NO responsibility to inform your former state that you no longer live there or intend to vote elsewhere. You simply register to vote where you NOW live. This whole case is BS.

    • Think first, act second says:

      That may all be true, but if you plan to run for a political office in Florida that is not all you have to do.
      It is not BS it is the law.

  5. I don't know says:

    Since a decision is not expected until Friday, will this automatically disqualify Mr. Pollinger from running on the Rep ticket since the deadline to qualify is noon on Thursday?

    • Think first, act second says:

      The deadline to qualify is noon on Friday and if he legally qualifies before then he is then legally qualified to run, don’t meet the deadline and you are not eligible. I find it amazing that (not you I don’t know) but others on this site do not understand that a law is a law and you would think that they would want the chief judicial officer of the county to obey it. I am sure Mr. Pollinger will obey the law so I am not sure why people have a problem understanding the concept. Run a red light where there is a camera and the City of Palm Coast is going to send you a ticket because running red lights is AGAINST THE LAW.

  6. Joe A. says:

    Linda H

    You repeated “its the law” three times. Redundancy does not prove your point.

    You said it was announced in January at a Republican Party meeting that Mr. Pollinger was still registered in New Jersey. Then he canceled it several days later.

    Don’t you think if it was never mentioned he would of never taken the steps to remove himself from to voter rolls?

    This is just a witch hunt being head up a group of intolerant republicans attempting to take over the county. Maybe one should research the law and find out if manipulating the ballot by forcing closed primaries in races with no Democratic opposition.

    • Think first, act second says:

      I agree Joe. Give us the benefit of your research on the law on closed primaries when you finish the research.

    • Linda H. says:

      Joe A

      The law doesn’t state that Pollinger has to be aware of his dual registration for there to be a legal issue. There is an additional burden for those seeking public office to be in compliance with the law. You’d think a sheriff’s candidate would want to be in compliance with the law?

      Pollinger is asserting that 3 government bodies in 2 states screwed up, but Pollinger provided no proof (nor does any proof exist in the state of FL) that he provided his former NJ address to the motor vehicles or the SOE when he registered to vote in FL. He also failed to notify Monmouth County in 2005/2006 that he moved…and subsequently he voted in the wrong voting precinct in 2006 & 2007. That evidence was entered into the court records on Monday.

    • Linda H. says:

      Joe A:

      Forcing closed primaries is legal, Joe. What a novel concept, Republicans voting for Republican candidates in Republican primaries.

      Sounds suspicious to me… Why would you object to this?

      Nobody is trying to take over the county. We are working to increase voter turnout, clean up the vetting process a little, and in the case of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly, making endorsements. We are encouraging people to take more of an interest in this process, to know more about the candidates BEFORE they go to the polling places and we are encouraging people to run for local office. Just because they decide to do it outside the local political machine is not reason to criticize; it is their right to do so.

      Could it be that the people in Palm Coast are tired of uncontested primaries, and long standing incumbent candidates? I guess we will find out, won’t we?

      • tulip says:

        ALL registered voters from all parties should be the ones to decide who gets voted into office Not the manipulators of candidate races from a particular party organization, which seems to be going on as I look at the Flagler Elections site.

        • Linda H. says:

          Tulip, we have a two party system. Republicans have the right to pick their own candidates IN THE PRIMARIES. You may vote for whomever you wish in the general election where candidates from both parties run against one another.

          Run a candidate, Tulip. In fact, run LOTS of candidates.

    • tulip says:

      @JOE A I think there maybe trouble brewing regarding your last paragraph.

  7. David says:

    How dumb does this guy think us Floridians are. He comes here from another state with issues, and tries to illegally register. He broke the law and should be punished. Plain and Simple.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    @ I don’t know. Looks like you really don’t know yet, that in this county anything is possible. Florida law…uhhh let me see is like a rubber band very flexible in the eye of the beholder, specially for new arrivals.

  9. Donna Heiss says:

    Joe A. I agree with you about that group of Republicans trying to takeover the County elections. I also believe this deserves some investigating of it’s own. Here is my take.

    Did you know if 2 people from the same party are running for the same office the primary is open to all voters, regardless of your party affiliation?

    Did you know that if a WRI (write-in candidate) enters the race, they do NOT need to get petitions signed or do NOT have to pay a fee to be on the ballot? The reason they do this is so that only people registered in one particular party can vote in the race. (If it’s only 2 Republicans running and a WRI enters the race–it denies Independents and Democrats the RIGHT to vote in that race. The same thing if only 2 Democrats are running and a WRI candidate enters that race. In essence these Write-in Candidates have taken away your right to vote in certain races. That DENIES approx. 16,000 Independents and approx. 24,000 Democrats from voting in those races!

    Is this fair? Absolutely not and it appears to be election manipulation.

    This very situation is going on now in 3 races–CLERK of COURTS–Mazzie/Wadsworth.
    DISTRICT 1–Peterson/Ericksen
    DISTRICT 2—McDonald/Meeker

    . People from the Ronald Reagan club have entered these races as write- in candidates in order to decrease the amount of votes of Non-Ronald Reagan members, and give the Ronald Reagan members a better chance to win This is a very unethical thing to do to anyone! Mr. Peterson. Mr. Mazzie and Mr. Meeker are NOT members of the Ronald Reagan Club.

    Did you know that you can do something about it? You can change your party affiliation to Republican up to 29 days BEFORE August 1st, so that you WILL HAVE THE RIGHT to vote in these 3 Primary races, which WILL BE DECIDED on Primary Day. Wouldn’t you want to have a say in the matter by voting? You may switch back to your original party after the Primary. You can even do it online at Flagler Elections.

    Does anybody really believe these write in candidates want to win in any of these races? Of course not. That is not what they are there for.

    I am not hiding behind a screen name. I stand behind what I believe in.

    Voters have a right to know this information and hope it has been helpful.

    • Linda H. says:

      Donna Heiss: Your information on Mazzie is incorrect. He is a paid up member of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly. Peterson has been attending our meetings.

      Currently, we have a council and County Sups who have managed to hold a monopoly on their seats by manipulating elections in that often candidates ran unopposed and the Democrats actually knocked Republicans out of their own primaries, safeguarding the council and Sup. seats. it has been going on here for years, unopposed, and has worked well to protect the incumbents. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch your’s is the motto of many of our local elected officials.

      I stick with my earlier statement, a novel concept, a fair party primary where only party members vote. If you want to change your voter affiliation to vote in the Republican primaries, we’d love to have you.

      Currently we are working on submitting a proposal allowing only one party change per election cycle. We will see if we can get it passed. We are one of two Florida counties where Republican voter registrations have increased drastically in the past few months. This is due to the work of the Ronald Reagan Assembly.

      Political parties in this country have the right to pick their own candidates without manipulation from the other side.

      • Robert Lewis says:

        Ms. Linda H.-

        Welcoming new republicans is a great thing. Would accepting these new party members be conditional that they not seek office?

        From reading the blog entries, it seems there is a strict intolerance of those who were once democrats. Can you please clarify for me?

        Mr. Bob Hamby-

        I thought your reply to Ms. Heiss was done with little tact and grace. I would expect better conduct from a leader of a Republican club. Do not become defensive and think that this as an insult, but rather constriuctive friendly advice.

        Those that are on the fence are watching. Your comments can tip potential supporters either way if there is an implication of unethical activity or arrogance.

        On a personal note, let us pause to remember the great communicator. Yesterday was the 8 year anniversary of his death. I miss Ronald Reagan.

        • Linda H. says:

          Mr. Lewis, we have many new members who previously were life long Democrats but no longer. Our only criteria is that you must be a registered Republican to join.

          That said, none of them are running for public office and do not fall under the rule of the state law in that regard.

          You seem to want to blame somebody for Mr. Pollinger’s difficulties. Blame the law, Mr. Lewis.

          In the past couple of months hundreds here in Palm Coast have changed their party affiliation and some have elected to join the RRRAF. Why don’t you ask them?

  10. Ray Thorne says:

    Yes Donna, very helpful. The attempt at manipulation is disgraceful from the “write ins” to the case with Pollinger. Its dirty politics and these people put their names on it.

  11. Jason says:

    Thanks for the Info Donna! I wish that everyone could play fair, but I know politics can be dirty and it seems every voting year, it gets worse. Sad state of our Union…. :(

  12. tulip says:

    I know I will make sure that I vote for the 3 candidates that are NOT members of that group. It is a selfish, rude and unethical thing to do. The candidates should be allowed to compete and run their campaigns in a straightforward manner and those that want to have some kind over power because of their own selfish agendas should stay out of it.

    These same people who have deliberately made these 3 races closed to Republicans or those that temporarlly change to Republican and could care less that they have denied people their rights are probably the same ones that scream about the government interfering in their lives. I bet they’d be screaming loudly if they were the ones shut out.

    I’m sure the 3 Ronald Reagan candidates are all going to say “”gee, I had nothing to do with it”, “don’t blame me”. Those candidates knew it was being done, some of the WRI’s are friends or neighbors of the candidates, and IF the candidates didn’t want it done, I’m sure they could’ve talke the person out of running when it was pointed out that it takes away votes from the RR one, and also the credibility, and points out the sneakiness.

    People complain about low voter turnout, well now most people will have 3 rather important races they are being banned from, that ought to encourage people to vote–NOT.

    I am glad this is coming to light and that the average voters who had no idea what was going on behind the scenes will now be aware of the situation and can make their own personal choice. Either change temporarily to Republican and vote in those races or just not bother and vote in what’s left. At least they will have some kind of choice, since the others have been taken away.

    What I wish could be done is that this issue that has been brought up here in the last few hours could be separated into its own separate story so that everyone would read it, as people get tired of reading about Pollinger after awhile and wouldn’t know it was here. I discovered the beginnings of it this afternoon quite enexpectedly.

    Ms. Heiss, thank you for this important information.

    • Linda H. says:

      What Ms. Heiss neglected to tell you is that her husband, Ken Mazzie, is running for Clerk of the Courts and is a member of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly.

  13. Bob Hamby says:

    MS Hess and Tulip:

    Why is your anger not directed at the Democrat Party fro failing to qualify candidates for these offices? The primaries are supposed to what “primaries: with winners challenging each other in the General election. This seems to be novel concept here in Flagler County. Do we need some elementary civics lessons for those like you who do not understand this simple concept.

    We are not disenfranchising any voters, the Flagler County Democrat Party disenfranchised voters by having no candidates.

    Conservative Republicans:
    We welcome all you to join us in changing the Flagler County political landscape in a positive direction. Help us restore fiscally sound government here and now.

    Bob Hamby, President
    Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly – Flagler

    • tulip says:

      Most of us want positive changes for Flagler County and things are a lot better now than they were several years ago. It takes time to do these things, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

      However, the underdhanded tactics being used by the Ronale Reagan club is NOT the right way to do it.

      Regarding the fact that other candidates attend different club meetings, some of them attend tea party meetings to learn things, and listen to a particular speaker, some attend all 3 of the clubs we have, Ronald Reagan, Flagler County and Palm Coast. It’s a good thing to be as informed as possible.

  14. Heidi Tassone says:

    I do not see that it really matters. He’s not a politician, he’s a police officer. He’s a Cop. If he were to apply for the Sheriff job, I think he’d get it, but since it is a political thing, people are forgetting the man and what good he can do for us to keep things safe.

    • Linda H. says:

      It amazes me that nobody sees the irony in electing a chief who wants to skirt the law before he is even in office. You don’t think that our top law officer should be expected to abide by the law?

      All he has to do is run as an NPA and this isn’t even an issue.

    • Linda H. says:

      Heidi, normally it wouldn’t, but this is a new law which was intended to prevent candidates from switching parties to run in order to give themselves a better chance. Sound familiar?

      Why would he object to running as an NPA? He is not being penalized, only asked to follow the law. As a potential new Sheriff, do you want him picking and choosing which laws he wants to obey and which ones he doesn’t? I don’t.

      This was one of the reasons he was placed on administrative leave before he left his previous job.

  15. Gail says:

    Go Pollinger!!!!!!! Maybe judge Craig will do the right thing for once.

  16. Dorothea says:

    @ Donna Heiss

    Thanks for the information. I was clueless until I read your comment. Click on the link for a list of candidates so you all can see exactly what Ms. Heiss is warning us about. The write-in candidates are just spoilers who will prevent Democrats and Independents from being allowed to cross over and vote in the Republican primary.

    • Linda H. says:

      Dorothea, would you mind calling the Supervisor of Elections office and asking her about this? Nobody else seems interested.

  17. Amanda says:

    Since we want to talk about upholding the law by none other than the sheriff, why don’t we examine how our current Sheriff Flemming accepted a gift of Hammock Dunes membership without reporting it!?! Ignorance of the law is no excuse… I will be switching my party affiliation to vote for John Pollinger! I’m tired of back-handed politics and dirty tactics!

  18. ihatepeople says:

    How bout this. both sides of this arguement quit bitc*in and let the court system handle it. And if they say Pollinger can run i garuntee linda H. Will say the judge broke the law or something. The members of Ray Stevens organization know that if they had to run against Pollinger they would have NO chance, so they attacked a BS “law”. All republicans should be who decide who will run in the general election. Not (some) republicans who want Stevens to win. This should be left up to the primary election to be decided. Granted what is said is already out and some people have been brainwashed by this pointless lawsuit, but i have faith that if the choice can be made in the primaries, the right choice will be made.

  19. Biker says:

    Please remember at the Polls which candidates camp was responsible for this debacle. A total waste of taxpayor money. Pollinger absolutely has my vote.

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