They were all there—all the ogres and bugaboos who’ve animated Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks’s little shop of horrors for the past months: Sheriff Jim Manfre, County Administrator Craig Coffey, County Commissioners George Hanns, Charlie Ericksen, Frank Meeker and Barbara Revels (how Nate McLaughlin escaped the list is a mystery), the city of Palm Coast, the media—albeit in a minor role–and the star of them all, Weeks’s reigning bête noir, County Attorney Al Hadeed.
After her epic, almost Job-like accusations leveled week after week against what she sees as a world of law-breaking, malfeasance and illegal prohibitions of microwave usage (one of her poll workers was apparently denied the use of one at the Palm Coast Community Center), Weeks on Wednesday delivered a four-page, single-spaced coda to her Tribunal of One. She once again indicted a slew of local officials on evidence no less fictional than before while portraying herself as voters’ last great hope. The document is replete with the language of conspiracy and a deep sense of persecution, with phrases such as “hidden agenda,” “stunt and false accusations,” “those who have proven to be the problem,” “outside interference, obstruction and manipulation”—and all those in just the second paragraph.
“As supervisor of elections, I have been impartial and have gone above and beyond to maintain the voter’s [sic.] confidence that our local elections are fair and honest,” she said, reading the saga in its entirety at the meeting the way Supreme Court justices sometimes read their choice opinions from the bench. She never mentioned that it is she, and not any of the individuals she was accusing of improprieties, who is under criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. (FDLE said today the investigation is still active.)
The document features small armies of straw men—instances where Weeks claims words spoken or actions taken by officials such as Coffey or Hadeed that were not spoken or taken, at least certainly not the way Weeks interprets them, only to tear down those alleged words and actions. The document hints at its sloppy accuracy as quote marks open but never close or when she goes as far as stating flatly and in contradiction of state law—not an uncommon practice by the supervisor over the past months—that county commissioners should not have been serving on the canvassing board, or that Hadeed should not have sat as the board’s attorney, even though it’s common practice across the state. The phrase, “It was al Hadeed who…,” recurs with the frequency of an Ahab obsession.
Weeks has not needed particular fuses to set her off: her sudden anger has taken many a local official by surprise, as it did Palm Coast for months earlier this year when the city was her preferred bombing range. But something may have set her off this time: as the Palm Coast Observer’s Jonathan Simmons first reported Wednesday, the county administration has asked for a legal opinion by the Attorney General on the canvassing board’s removal of Hanns the night of the election.
The removal, at Weeks’s request and with County Judge Melissa Moore-Stens’s surprise endorsement, happened after Weeks had objected to a Hanns quote that appeared to endorse Meeker on a mailed piece of campaign literature. Canvassing Board members are required to stay neutral during elections. Meeker admitted to have erred when the quote was used, and Hanns, who said he was unaware that it was used, was upset by its use—and by its fabrication: he said he’d never uttered the words.
At Monday’s county commission meeting, Meeker—who’s not enamored of Weeks, whose husband accosted him in a 19th-century-duel sort of way—spoke of his concerns about the canvassing board, and who has the authority to remove members from it. “I’m wondering if I need an attorney general’s opinion on this,” he said. He added later: “It didn’t feel right.”
“If the board would like us to request that for clarification purposes to the state, we could do that,” Coffey said, “as well as any other questions that you would like us to put forth, I’m not sure if it rises to an attorney general’s opinion, but it could be a simple question to the elections division of the way they interpret that role.” In the past, however, Weeks has not necessarily felt bound either by laws or attorney general’s opinions cited to her by attorneys.
“I’d start with the office of elections before you go to the attorney general,” Ericksen said. The rest of the board agreed. Ironically, it’s now Meeker’s turn, as chairman of the commission, and a commissioner not facing an election this year, to serve on the canvassing board: more such meetings are ahead as a pair of special elections to fill a House and Senate seat unfold.
Weeks seemed refueled by the commission’s action.
“All that has been proven during the 2014 election cycle is that while one finger was being pointed at the supervisor of elections and staff, three other fingers were being pointed back at the accusers, the board of county commissioners, county administrator and county attorney,” and all fingers were Weeks’s, though even in that rhetorical flourish she was overstating the case: none of the people or agencies she had mentioned had pointed fingers at her or “blamed” her for anything. She was asked to be more cooperative on matters so minor that few people outside her office or her coterie of partisan would consider them worth more than a minute’s attention: the positioning of parking signs, for example. At no point was there “interference” with voters or even, for that matter, a lack of parking spaces at any voting locations. The election’s dismal turnout, second-lowest in at least 40 years for an off-year election, helped.
While Weeks sought to buttress her speech with a claim of documented public support for her stance, the most she could offer—as attachments to her speech—were one phone message of support taken on Nov. 18, a breathless but somewhat incoherent and possibly slanderous attack by a Palm Coast resident on the Palm Coast observer for not taking Weeks’s side, and a couple of emails, some of their contents cut and pasted from each other, from Weeks’s usual partisans at the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies, the extremist pressure group.
With the November election over the public might have expected, or hoped, to be spared further episodes from what has become a local reality show at the supervisor’s office, at least for a while. That’s not to be. With the special elections for Florida House and Senate scheduled for January and April, and both elections contested by Democrats and Republicans, the local canvassing board will have to convene again. And with it, presumably, the supervisor’s latest single-spaced scripts.