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Commission Chairman Questions Election’s Integrity in Broad Criticism of Supervisor Kim Weeks’ Methods

| September 16, 2014

County Commission Chairman George Hanns has generally been supportive of Elections Supervisor Kimberle Weeks, above. Not anymore. (© FlaglerLive)

County Commission Chairman George Hanns has generally been supportive of Elections Supervisor Kimberle Weeks, above. Not anymore. (© FlaglerLive)

George Hanns, the usually laid back chairman of the Flagler County Commission and a member of the county’s canvassing board, unleashed an unusually blunt and broad critique of Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks Monday at the end of a county commission meeting.

Hanns raised questions about the integrity of the last election. He suggested that the supervisor orchestrated the unusually large and partisan audience at the last canvassing board meeting. He questioned her authority to appoint an attorney that she portrayed as representing the board, rather than herself. And he went as far as questioning whether it was time to involve the state Division of Elections “about some of the things that are transpiring.”

His fellow-commissioners, who have been fearful of taking on Weeks in the past, remained silent.

It was Hanns’s first publically critical statements about the supervisor since he’s sat in on most of a series of canvassing board meetings before and after the primary, the last and in his view most unusual meeting on Sept. 12, where Weeks rejected a negotiated plan by County Attorney Al Hadeed to smooth out issues between the supervisor and Palm Coast government over the use of the Palm Coast Community Center. Weeks also rejected further intercessions by Hadeed on the matter. Instead, Weeks said she and her own attorney, Roberta Walton, of Orlando, would negotiate directly with Palm Coast.

Weeks during that meeting repeatedly addressed an audience of about 25 supporters—poll workers, poll volunteers a former and a current candidate for office—who in turn repeatedly heckled and at times insulted Hanns and Hadeed while calling them rude or inattentive to the public interest. Hanns raised his voice only once, to tell a member of the audience not to point his finger at him, but clearly stewed during and after the meeting. His statement at the end of the commission meeting was deliberate and appeared to be the thought-out response he was not able to give at the canvassing board. He termed it a “report to the board.”

“Our last canvassing board meeting was quite interesting,” he began. “I’ve served on the canvassing board before, several times. Over the years it’s always went smoothly. For some reason, this here election season has been quite frankly full of surprises and heartache, and one thing after another, and to be honest, as your chairman and member of the canvassing board, I’m very concerned about it because I believe some of the integrity of the election is in question.”

Hanns did not specify which part of the election he was having doubts about, though several county and city officials have privately spoken about their worries about tampering with election ballots within Weeks’s office, or with election machines. Hanns serves on the canvassing board by law, as the representative of the commission and a member not involved in an election this year. His alternate is Commissioner Charlie Ericksen.

County Judge Melissa Moore-Stens chairs the canvassing board, and would normally be at the head of the table, by protocol. Weeks, instead, who is also a member of the board, has sat at the head of the table and herself conducted the meetings as if the board chairman. Friday she had an additional surprise: she sat her own attorney, Walton, at the other end of the table, identifying her with a yellow cardboard name plate as the “Canvassing Board Attorney.”

George Hanns. (© FlaglerLive)

George Hanns. (© FlaglerLive)

“Our county attorney has been the canvassing board attorney for as long as I can remember, 23 years, and even longer, up to 25 years or more,” Hanns said, “and when we went to the meeting the other night there was a lady sitting at the end of the table and her name tag said ‘Canvassing Board Attorney.’ Well, I automatically assumed it was someone from the State of Florida canvassing board, board of elections, that would be sitting in to see how we handled our meeting, I guess. But the room was filled with an unusual amount of people, it was made up of a number of people who were prior candidates, a number of people from the–some political group, and there was a selected number of people who were poll workers and poll watchers, if you will.” Hanns almost, but did not, name the political group by name: they were members of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies, a local pressure group, as well as members of the local tea party. The two organizations have a significantly shared membership.

“And quite frankly, after the meeting was in progress for some time, we realized that this attorney was someone that was hired by Ms. Weeks, our supervisor of elections, and this person was not approved by the canvassing board, myself and Judge Melissa Moore-Stens,” Hanns said. “None of us realized, including Mr. Hadeed, who was there, that that’s what this person was doing there. Ms. Weeks said she did not want Mr. Hadeed representing her in discussions with the City of Palm Coast because she felt like, for whatever reason, he wouldn’t be fair with her. So we just let it go at that. But what’s troubling me is, I don’t believe that Ms. Weeks has the authority to replace Mr. Hadeed on the canvassing board.”

She does not. But, as Hadeed told the commission, she has the right to hire her own attorney, just as other constitutional officers may and do when necessary hire their own, though they also use the county attorney’s services. Historically, however, the canvassing board has always used the county attorney as its legal counsel, as election-law attorneys are rare. “So we have used, or the county has used the county attorney’s office for that reason, the experience,” Hadeed said. “But also I assume, I don’t know that this is what you’re actively speaking of, but there’s no additional bill, there’s no legal cost that’s generated because everybody that works in the county attorney’s office is on a salary.”

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“So this attorney she hired is for her personal use but it’s also an additional burden on the taxpayers,” Hanns said.

“I assume, I obviously I do not know the nature of the relationship. I do not have the details. I only learned about it when I walked into the room, and even then, I really wasn’t quite sure what the situation was.”

FlaglerLive submitted a set of questions by email to Weeks at 10 this morning, asking her how much Walton was charging to be her attorney, what she’s cost so far and why her name plate referred to her as the canvassing board attorney. Weeks, who usually answers, did not do so, though she has been cagey in the past about financial matters. Three years ago the commission, which approves her budget, repeatedly asked her for payroll documentation to verify bonuses Weeks had awarded employees. Weeks did not produce the documentation.

Walton on Friday told Hadeed that she was not representing the board, but was there as Weeks’s counsel.

“So she is permitted to do that,” Hadeed said. “But it would be at the expense of the supervisor’s budget if she were to continue to employ that person. But I don’t know—I mean I doubt that the individual is pro bono, because she’s coming from Orlando, so I’m sure there’s some financial arrangement there. But I don’t know the specifics of it.”

“I’m confused,” Hanns said. “Does the canvassing board itself have to approve an attorney?”

“Yes,” Commissioner Frank Meeker said, the only word that would be spoken by any commissioner other than Hanns during the discussion. Meeker is running for re-election. Nate McLaughlin is, too, but by then he’d left the commission meeting to attend the arts in schools celebration at the Flagler Auditorium, along side two school board members.

Hanns told Meeker that he wanted to hear the answer from the attorney. “I know the answer,” Hanns said.

“The canvassing board is a statutory body,” Hadeed said. “It’s a three-member board, and if the canvassing board did not want a particular person as a lawyer, somebody in the county attorney’s office, they certainly are free to make that decision. It would be essentially the canvassing board’s judgment about who should be the canvassing board attorney.”

“The judge and I were not aware she was there for that purpose,” Hanns said.

“That appeared to be true,” Hadeed said. “Obviously I don’t know what may have been spoken or communicated, but I did not know about it.”

Listen to the Full Discussion
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Nothing could have been spoken or communicated about it, at least not legally, between the members regarding the attorney—or any other matter involving the canvassing board–outside of the canvassing board meetings, which are controlled by Florida’s sunshine law.

The next meeting of the canvassing board is scheduled for October 17. Hadeed will be there. “I imagine this might get discussed in some way,” Hadeed said. “The thing that would concern me really is the duplicative nature.”

Hanns said it was his intention to make a formal motion to re-affirm Hadeed as the canvassing board’s attorney.

“But the supervisor of elections could still have her own attorney,” Ericksen said.

“She could have five if the taxpayers could bear the burden,” Craig Coffey, the county administrator, said dryly.

“There’s quite a bit more that happened at that meeting but I don’t believe we need to get into that, do we Mr. Hadeed?”

“No, we don’t have to.”

“I’m sure it’ll come out eventually,” Hanns said. “There’s no need to concern the Department of Elections with the State of Florida about some of the things that are transpiring?”

There was a silence, broken by a knowing laugh from Hadeed, before Hanns ended the discussion and, moments later, the meeting.

21 Responses for “Commission Chairman Questions Election’s Integrity in Broad Criticism of Supervisor Kim Weeks’ Methods”

  1. Biker says:

    I certainly hope the state takes a look at the last election. With all the reports of errors made by Weeks staff how can one possibly trust the outcome?

  2. Annoyed says:

    Lets get the state involved. I’m normally against needless oversight, but someone has to stop her nonsense. If a recall vote where particle, I’d support that.

  3. Will says:

    Does the phrase ” runaway train ” bring to mind any similarities?

    Or maybe, ” a legend in her own mind ” ?

    Bringing in the state is a good idea. Putting some manners on the SOE would be nice, but a high school classmate of hers said she was always this way, so maybe replacement would be better. Two more years of this silliness makes no sense.

  4. m&m says:

    Bravo George. At least someone has some gumsion in our local political cowards.

  5. Retired FF says:

    Something is very wrong with what is transpiring with the Supervisor of Elections Office. I believe the State needs to look into it.

  6. Michael says:

    Weeks should be susspended from office pending an investigation by the State, it is absurd that this woman can cause this much havoc.

  7. carol bennett says:

    Ms. Weeks for County Commissioner!!!!
    True representation for all the voters!!!!

  8. confidential says:

    Commission Chair George Hanns and also Meeker don’t know jack what they are talking about. The Canvassing Board doesn’t have to have a Board Attorney. Nowhere the law gives the right to the commission chairman or any alternate or other commissioner to appoint a “canvassing board attorney”. Laughable!. Read below the law:
    Estatute 102.141
    (1) The county canvassing board shall be composed of the supervisor of elections; a county court judge, who shall act as chair; and the chair of the board of county commissioners. Alternate canvassing board members must be appointed pursuant to paragraph (e). etc. etc.

    SOE Weeks has the right like Hadded says, to have her own attorney, like any other constitutional official have. She has Attorney Walton because is obvious that the County Attorney is on the same boat as the county commission trying to undermine and micromanage our SOE’s good work while she is looking for the best interest of her electorate, while observing the law.

    Is a real shame the FCBOCC chairman is again spearheading a new witch hunt against SOE Mrs. Weeks and also against all the dedicated poll workers, because by human error some notorious or not voters were handed the wrong ballots. Calling for frivolous investigations on the way our elections and ballots are handled? Or accusing her of partisan collusion that is a real libel against an honest constitutional official. If the residents voters decided to be present on the canvassing board meeting in unusual numbers is simply because they do not trust you Mr. Hanns, or the county attorney. In the same questioning then what was Mr. Meeker doing in the meeting too …supporting you? He was there because is his right too as of all the others present….or do you prefer, Mr. Hanns to suppress the people’s presence in the Canvassing Board meeting? Casting doubts in our honest held elections is an insult to our electorate intelligence, to our SOE and also to all the poll workers that sacrifice themselves so we can have elections! Mr. Hanns you owe them all an apology!

    Also Mr. Hanns when you say that Mr. Hadded is on salary and cost zero his services (that actually are uncalled for in the canvassing board), excuse us, but we still remember the bills publicly requested from past clerk of courts Mr.Syd Crosby in the first tenure of Mr. Hadeed, regarding the same legal team billed overtimes and his legal assistants fees. Mr. Hadeed is on salary plus any time he deems over

  9. tulip says:

    It’s too bad voters didn’t pay attention to what was really going on with Weeks back in 2012. Had she been voted out and one of the more qualified and classier candidates was voted in, we wouldn’t be in the position today of Weeks rules everybody and gets away with it. Practically no one stands up to her, holds their ground, puts her in her place and says this is what the law is and this is the way it stays. Instead they “compromise” and have many long and useless discussions, or they do nothing out of fear of her. That’s the type of behavior that makes bullies out of certain people.

  10. flagler boy says:

    Time for her to be voted out of office. She has been given to many weeks!

  11. Will says:

    @Confidential, almost every time there’s a story which in any way questions the current SOE, you jump to her defense. That’s your right, of course, but what makes you do that? She has some valid points now and then. but why can’t you take a deep breath and see that not everything she does is as pure as the driven snow?

    Remember snow? It melts in a while….

  12. Tired says:

    Regardless of whether she has the right to hire an attorney or not, is it fiscally responsible to hire an additional attorney when she’s spending taxpayer money? Very disappointing.

  13. Brad says:

    First of all, I commend George Hanns for finally saying what should have been said a while ago and questioning the behavior and actions that should have been questioned a long time ago. It is now time for the other Commissioners to stand up, get together, and reach out to Tallahassee. The SOE Office here in Flagler County needs to be reviewed thoroughly.

    Then there are the people like “Confidential” (who is obviously someone close to Ms. Weeks or Ms. Weeks herself) that obviously have some history in the local government circles, have some axe to grind, like to think they have some “in” through her, and seem to want to portray themselves as some sort of self-proclaimed legal scholars. The truth is that none of it matters, and memorizing laws and cutting-and-pasting them doesn’t impress anyone especially when it is not relevant NOR is the person even remotely close to a legal professional.

    The real truth is this, “Confidential”, just as the SOE has a “Right” WE THE PEOPLE have rights. One of which is not to have OUR tax dollars wasted by OUR SOE Office for unnecessary Attorneys. We also have a right to know how much that Attorney has cost US. Ms. Weeks has time enough to right lengthy emails all day long when she is criticized or wants to wage a personal battle of some sort. So I am sure she has the time and opportunity to send over the cost of that Attorney.

    The behavior and actions of Ms. Weeks lately (and since she has taken office) has compromised OUR elections Office a great deal. This is no “witch hunt”. No one who is operating with the utmost integrity in that position demands an entire City is arrested for them removing signs yet is dismissive about her own poll workers who are handing out wrong ballots which calls the integrity of the entire vote into questions. The wrong ballots are the OMG moments and NOT some silly sign and a made up parking problem. That (or those) poll worker should be identified and banned from ever working our polls again. They are NOT volunteers since they are paid close to $200/day, and they MUST be held accountable.

    The bottom line to everything is the Elections Office is OUR Office and we SHOULD BE ABLE to trust the elected Supervisor will do everything within their power to protect our right to vote and actively remove ANY barriers for voters seeking to excercise their right to vote. Some examples of what that elected offical SHOULD NOT DO are:

    1. Purposely remove the Flagler Beach City Hall as an Early Voting site in a Presidential Election year reducing the number of sites to 2 as she did in 2012

    2. Use our tax dollars to pay bonuses, lie about it, and then not be held accountable as she did in 2010.

    3. Use that position to carry out a political battle started by the Ronald Reagan group in regards to the Community Center over it’s planned expansion putting it at risk of not be made available to us in 2016 as a much needed additional Early voting site.

    And the list goes on. Ms Weeks is not a victim of anything, and it’s time the residents of Flagler County demand our Commissioners call for a thorough review of that Office and the highly inappropriate behavior and actions of Kimberle Weeks. These are our lives, that is OUR office, and it is our rights she is putting into jeopardy.

  14. confidential says:

    Since our SOE was elected she has been openly witch hunted, micromanaged and even lately insulted by calling her a 4 letter word starting with B… by commissioner Meeker. Now we have him and chair Hanns calling for frivolous investigations of our SOE and the manner on which elections were handled and also calling to appoint “their county attorney Hadeed” for the canvassing board, when the statute 201.141 do not call for it. They can only do it by canvassing board majority vote, so out of 3 members, 2 will have to vote for that and I doubt that the honest county judge that we just voted in, Mrs. Moore Stens, will vote for that, disappointing us all. But we all know the pressures imposed can still change things in Flagler County unless we all stand against it. Lets be prepare to see a different demure on BOCC chair Hanns as his time term limit is over and he may volunteer to spearhead the innocent/difficult targets. SOE is one.

  15. Frank J. Meeker says:

    Confidential: I am unclear as to your comment regarding my attendance at a meeting. If you’re talking about a canvassing board meeting, I was not at the canvassing board meeting when Ms. Walton was present. I’m currently running for office and while it is a meeting open to the public, I consider it inappropriate to attend as I also have to work with the canvassing board members and would not want to have any perception of undue influence on their decisions. If you meant what was I doing at the meeting where Commissioner Hann’s comments came from, well of course I’d be there,…it was a publicly noticed county commission meeting.

    Here is my understanding of this issue. The county attorney has routinely represented the canvassing board on legal questions. The tradition dates back probably 25 years. It was done that way to save the tax payers the additional expense of legal consul for the canvassing board. As this article points out, Mr. Hadeed is on salary, and therefore, he’s already being paid by the tax payers of Flagler County. You could consider it an added service provided by the County Attorney’s office for the canvassing board, at no additional cost to the tax payer. I like that as I don’t like redundancy using tax payers dollars on any county function, but regardless, the canvassing board could hire another attorney, Ms. Walton for example. Since as you’ve pointed out, there are only three members of the canvassing board, to add an additional expense to that board would take a vote of the canvassing board (Judge Moore-Stems, Ms. Weeks and Mr. Hanns) with a resulting approval of the board. That is my understanding at least, and based on that, I replied “Yes” to the question raised by Mr. Hanns regarding the hiring of a canvassing board attorney at the county commissioner board meeting. To my knowledge, that kind of vote hasn’t been done. Any member of that board can have separate legal consul, but not at the canvassing board’s expense unless the board agreed to cover that expense. That hasn’t been decided either. So as a county commissioner, I would expect the cost of Ms. Walton’s attendance, and travel costs from Orange County, to come out of the Supervisor of Elections Budget until such time as the canvassing board votes to cover that cost, and I’m sure Kim is making adjustments as necessary for that in her budget until such time a vote has been motioned, seconded, and approved.

    Frank J. Meeker, District 2
    Flagler County Board of County Commissioners

  16. Anonymous says:

    The canvasing board does not pay the attorney and should have no weighted decision on who the canvassing board attorney is. The Supervisor of Elections is responsible for the conduction and is her call. The supervisor must have council that she can trust and depend on. Obviously that is not Mr. Hadeed.

  17. confidential says:

    To commissioner Meeker …the canvassing board does need or have to have and attorney per Florida statute when we have a county judge being the chair member of that board. At this point and even before the voters surely are concerned of the potential conflictive legal advise during your 25 years mentioned utilizing the county attorney on the canvassing board given the latest news reported.
    I am sure that SOE is responsible and aware for her attorney’s cost. I never seeing any BOCC member including seating then Hanns, be so concerned with a constitutional official spending taxpayers $$ on an attorney when past law enforcement chief had more than one, actually a legal team defending him on several proven issues and on the taxpayers dime.
    As far is concerned the bipartisan presence of the residents taxpayers voters of Flagler County in the Canvassing Board meeting in great numbers, better BOCC get used to as is our right and we have plenty of reason for doing so. Not exactly to prove the honesty of our SOE but of others instead.
    Other than calling derogatory insulting names to our SOE you should be supporting her as incumbent running to retain your seat. She is fighting for the electorate rights in the county and also on the city as the Florida statute reads:
    (5) Public, tax-supported buildings shall be made available for use as polling places upon the request of the supervisor of elections. Says “buildings” not just a room or rooms.

    As city decides that elections are not as essential as other paid uses for the community center then should agree to mark at least one or two handicap spaces for voters and also mark few of the regular spaces for voters as well. Otherwise non essential activities users of our community center on the facilities and parked for hours in same spot, during our early voting on primaries and general elections can be suppressing the voters to vote, due to lack of parking, taking in account that numerous elderly voters with physical impediments that show up to vote will have to park faraway! You will benefit to volunteer for poll worker sometimes and experience yourself before attacking SOE and us all. Also will benefit to read next:

  18. confidential says:

    @ Will, yes I defend our SOE the same way as much as you jump to defend the BOCC, FCOC and any status quo entity that keeps trying to erode our rights and or benefit elites. SOE like anyone of us is human and prone to err but she has been the punching bag of special interest trying to control our elections outcomes from the start, as suppression works as much as gerrymandering tries, all while she is doing an honorable work in the most sensitive activity of our Democratic Republic, our ELECTONS!
    Not only we have to deal with the apathy of only about 40 percent of our population voting, also we have to deal with seating officials and their cheering buddies trying to further manipulate the process on their benefit. Shame!

  19. Scratching my head says:

    It concerns me that there is a taping of the county attorney and a commissioner about another commissioner doing something improper or even illegal, and that Hanns and Hadeed are raising such a stink about being together with the canvassing board. Having the county attorney and commissioner together is is a conflict of interest when the attorney represents the board of county commissioners day in and day out. No wonder Coffey added his two cents…..sounds to me like this is a a concern to these individuals to maintain the control of our elections by raising such a stick of who the Supervisor thinks should be the attorney available concerning elections. If the Supervisor is in charge and the canvassing board is responsible for specific duties and deciding who council is not outlined as being one of those responsibilities, the board need not expand their responsibilities, and simply let the SOE do her job. If Hadeed was not in the canvassing board meetings he could be doing work that he is normally paid to do, rather than catching up and costing us more later. I am sure he is paid more than the council Weeks has chosen, so in the long run Weeks may be saving us money. I wonder why she didn’t make this move along ago. Hmm.

  20. John says:

    I think it is time to RECALL her from office!!

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