Note: Monday we began publishing the Live Interview with candidates for local office, starting with the Elections Supervisor race. Individual interviews will post every morning at 10. We started with incumbent Kaiti Lenhart. Kimble Medley runs today, Abra Seay on Wednesday. Interviews with candidates for sheriff begin publishing Thursday. On occasion, follow-up questions may be added to an interview even after it’s been posted.
Kimble Medley is a candidate for Flagler County Supervisor of Elections. Her opponents are incumbent Kaiti Lenhart and Abra Seay. All three are Republicans.
In this race, the vote on Aug. 30 is not a primary: it is, in fact, the deciding election, because no Democrats or independents are running. Whoever wins on Aug. 30, even if by less than 50 percent, will be the Supervisor for the next four years.
Because it is the deciding election, all registered voters, regardless of affiliation, may cast a vote in this contest on Aug. 30 (or in early voting).
None of the three candidates have won an election before. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Lenhart to the position after Kimberle Weeks, who had been supervisor for six years, resigned in January 2015 in a swirl of controversies that preceded her indictment on 12–now reduced to nine–felony charges for allegedly illegally recording phone conversations. Weeks’s tenure was roiled by her combative confrontations with local government agencies, including Palm Coast and, more bitterly, county government, culminating in the political-circus atmosphere of the canvassing board meetings in which she participated, and on the periphery of which some of the recordings were made on her cell phone.
That history has inevitably framed the current campaign as the candidates hoping to be the next elected supervisor each in her way seeks to project a new, non-partisan, non-controversial regime.
The supervisor of elections is paid just over $100,000 a year, following a raise approved by the Legislature in spring. The salary is set by state law, based on county population, but paid out of local dollars.
FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges on the record. The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.
But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- What qualifies you to run?
- Character and temperament
- Post-Kimberle Weeks
- Office needs
- Election errors
- Felons’ voting rights
- Length of early voting
- Precincts: too few, too many?
- Turnout accountability
- Criminal record
- Individualized question
Place and Date of Birth: Rockledge, Fla., March 19, 1960.
Current job: Local Insider Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches, and Full Time Student Embry Riddle
Party Affiliation: Republican
Net Worth: $100,010 (See the financial disclosure)
As the Deputy Clerk for the Flagler County Clerk’s office, I listened to our customers. Every week, we had folks who would travel from either Daytona Beach or Jacksonville to look at hundreds of foreclosure case files. The clerks’ office had started the process of scanning documents. I introduced a new and innovative system that provides people with online access to everything they need to know to prepare for and attend foreclosure sales. My process allowed customers to find foreclosure sale procedures, dates of sales, and a list of foreclosures, all online. This not only saved our customers time and money; it saved our clerks who had to pull each case file for review and then re-file the same. I am always looking for ways to save money and streamline operations. Honestly, I thrive on it.
This fresh approach required not only gaining approval from the Clerk of Court, which was given with one meeting; it required coordinating with the Clerk’s Information Technology (IT) department. Within less than a year, I had been named Meeting Facilitator for the Circuit Civil division and within three years, as a Deputy Clerk, my duties expanded to include conducting foreclosure sales, processing foreclosure sale documents, processing all circuit civil cases to be heard by the 5th District Court of Appeals, and managing Probate cases.
In 2009, I was given the opportunity to serve the voters of Flagler County as Deputy Supervisor of Elections. The job itself was a perfect fit. I successfully ran three city elections in March of 2009. It was during my tenure I began to establish relationships I maintain to this day. I served for seven months; yet, what I learned in seven months, some have not learned in seven years. After months of being subjected to a hostile, sometimes down right belligerent, work environment, I held my head high and resigned; but, I never abandoned my community.
I returned to school in 2009. I had been awarded a scholarship through CareerSource of Flagler and Volusia (formerly One Stop). At the tender age of 49, I courageously returned to school, at Daytona State College Flagler/Palm Coast Campus, and fulfilled my father’s dream of obtaining by obtaining my Associate of Arts degree. My family and professors encouraged me to continue, so I did. On August 12, 2014, I received my Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management through Daytona State College’s nationally recognized program.
I am the only candidate who is a graduate of the Flagler County Citizens Academy and the Flagler Public Leadership Institute.
My education continues today. I am a full-time student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, currently pursuing my Masters in Leadership. In my spare time, I write for Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches as a local insider offering a local’s perspective for favorite tourist destinations.
2. Describe your character and temperament, and what people you’ve worked with—or customers you’ve interacted with—would say are your most serious personal flaws, in so far as how they affect your job. What do you do to address those flaws? (Please don’t interpret the question as a way to veil qualities as flaws. In other words, please don’t tell us you work too hard or are too honest or too much of a perfectionist, but rather, tell us honestly where you need most self-improvement, but only within the scope of your public job, not in your private life, which is not our business.)
I am a steady, hard-working individual who is passionate, thorough, and even-keeled. As a Type-A personality, I recognize everyone is not as dedicated or motivated to this particular job as I am. I know people learn in different ways. I have seen this throughout my 40 years of working and with my educational experience. I am a what, then who extroverted, logistical leader. I prefer facts; however, others may process differently, indicative of a different leadership style, such as strategic. Those exhibiting this style focus on who, then why.
Knowing this, I understand the importance of including all and understanding what motivates others. My work experience, coupled with my education and my leadership skills, gives me a tool chest from which to not only nurture a culture of employee empowerment; it helps me to continuously self-reflect and learn what drives others.
You described your character and temperament somewhat, but did not answer the rest of the question–about your flaws.
I recognize my Type-A personality as a flaw; hence, the answer given.
3. Felony indictments aside, what, in your analysis, were the most serious flaws of the Kim Weeks administration of the SOE office? How do you propose to separate your administration from that previous one, and how will you avoid conflicts between the SOE and the county commission, which holds budgetary sway over the supervisor?
My analysis of Ms. Weeks is she was confrontational and exceeded her authority at every level. Weeks was confrontational with every county and municipal entity one could possibly imagine. Her belligerence even reached Tallahassee.
Throughout my entire tenure as Deputy Supervisor of Elections, I had repeated discussion with Weeks on the need to offer an open-hand to all, rather than an iron fist. She simply would not and did not listen; and after months of exposure to a hostile, belligerent, office where I could no longer be productive, I decided I would be more useful to my community as an outside voice of reason as opposed to the antagonism and chaos that existed inside the Supervisor of Elections office. I have a tough skin; but I am not an ostrich. My parents taught me right from wrong and leaving was not only the right choice, it was the only ethical choice.
The current administration is led by Ms. Lenhart, who was hand-picked by Weeks, and appointed by Governor Scott. Lenhart acknowledged staff morale was at all-time low. Relationships were broken. Poll workers were discouraged. The acting SOE failed to bring any of this to Weeks’ attention. She failed to provide alternatives. She chose to stay. She chose to accept bonuses at a time when no one in the county received raises.
Weeks had favorites, including several prominent members of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies of Flagler. This was demonstrated with preferential treatment given by Lenhart, who was the candidate qualifying officer at the time; and, was further shown when candidates were refused help as she became the acting SOE.
As opposed to the current, I bring a fresh perspective, untainted by the Weeks administration and the culture she created. I have developed, maintained, and expanded positive relationships with the Board of County Commissioners, and staff; one that is founded in trust, earned by providing accurate and reliable information. I chose to leave the office; but, I never abandoned my commitment to my community.
You start your answer by referring to the belligerence Weeks displayed, only to then unleash quite a belligerent attack on Lenhart: how are you different from Weeks? In the FlaglerLive cover letter that accompanied these questions, you were asked not to make unsubstantiated allegations or attacks. Most of your response to this question does not answer the question so much as attacks Lenhart with unsubstantiated claims: what proof can you give us that she “failed to bring any of this to Weeks’ attention”? What proof do you have that she “chose to accept bonuses,” in the plural no less? What candidates, and what proof do you have, that “candidates were refused help as she became the acting SOE”? Those are serious charges–the sort of open-ended, personal attacks you criticized Weeks for. You substantiated none of them. Here’s your chance.
[Ms. Medley’s reply regarding Lenhart not bringing matters to Weeks’s attention was not first-hand documentation but Medley’s assumption, based exclusively on “Lenhart’s own story posted February 27, 2016 to the Facebook Group, ‘Flagler County Politics.'” We explained to Medley that assumptions may not substitute for evidence. She did provide a copy of the check Lenhart was issued at the beginning of her tenure for Weeks, that has been termed a bonus check, in the amount of $2,257.32, one of several written to various employees at the time. Medley apologized for referring to such checks in the plural, as there were no more than one. The claim that candidates were refused help actually refer to only one candidate. Medley was reporting the information third hand rather than through documented evidence, so we are not reproducing it here.]
Trust. Establishing a new trust between the public and the Supervisor of Elections office is the most serious need.
Adequate staffing and poll worker training. No person or organization should have to wait three months for election information because the acting SOE is out of the office.
Transparency. To this day, neither elected officials or taxpayers have a definitive answer about the bonuses; and, in light of missing 2010 payroll records, we may never know. Instituting transparency by using a secure tool box of technology will allow the public to witness the fiduciary commitment the office must adopt. The office’s budget will be online and justified with Florida Statutes.
Anticipating future election needs, rather than reacting to situations, such as replacing voting equipment old enough to vote, is the first step. Our equipment should have never reached the age of 18. I have already been anticipatory by forecasting, planning, networking, and instituting best practices so the needs of the public are met in advance, not last minute.
Again with the unsubstantiated claims: “No person or organization should have to wait three months for election information because the acting SOE is out of the office.” What are you referring to? And can you name individuals other than those connected to your campaign who have waited three months for election information? You again refer to the bonuses and note that “we may never know” definitively what took place with those alleged bonuses, yet your were quite confident to indict Lenhart as having received not one bonus, but bonuses. Which answer should we go on?
Ms. Lenhart lists her personal creation and maintenance of “every brochure, poster, and the Flagler County Voter Guide… I manage and maintain the content and graphics” on the elections website in her Feb. 27 statement posted to Flagler County Politics. In a report titled, “Flagler County 2014 General Election Official Observation Report”, “redundancy for the key duties of all employees” is listed as one of three recommendations “to mitigate potential problems”.
This lack of redundancy significantly impacted Flagler Federated Republican Women in the summer of 2015 and our efforts to obtain current information for offices on the ballot in 2016. Susan Moya was the PR Committee Chair for the group and is the PR Chair for Florida Federation of Republican Women. Our group, along with other clubs, begins planning for elections months in advance. Ms. Moya followed up with the elections’ office staff for months and was repeatedly told Ms. Lenhart was the only one to answer her request for the offices on the ballot for 2016. As a mother of three, I can certainly appreciate maternity leave; however, proper contingency planning accounts for just such events to insure customer service requests can be processed.
By August 22, 2015, having called the office twice, our club eventually gave up trying to get the information from the elections office. We developed our own voter’s guide; and, had we not done so; we would not have been able to have this piece of literature to distribute in October at the Creekside Festival. Ms. Moya compiled the list of offices. I reviewed them. From that, we designed a voter’s guide, approved by our Board, including Gail Wadsworth, Jeanette Parker, and Debbie Laury. Ms. Moya did not become my campaign manager until December of 2015. Bonuses were paid in 2010, one to each of five staff employees, totaling $11,286.60.
Note: See Kaiti Lenhart’s statement on the “bonus check” issue here.
5. What specific procedures would you put in place or refine to minimize errors and increase efficiency in the elections process, including rapid and accurate results reporting from precincts on election nights?
We all are human and we all make mistakes; however, better training and education of our poll workers and our electorate will address the majority of issues and provide for efficient elections.
For example, by having the voter read his or her ballot style number, found on the ticket printed by our EVIDs, electronic poll registers, to the poll worker tasked with giving the voter the ballot, a check is put in place that could mitigate distributing a wrong ballot to a voter. We will have in excess of 100 ballot styles for the August 30 Primary Election. Wrong ballots were distributed in the 2016 Presidential Primary with only 5 ballot styles. While Ballot on Demand technology will provide assistance during Early Voting, Election Day is another story; and, no amount of new technology will correct training and education issues. That same check and interaction between the voter and poll worker is critical to decreasing errors. Incorporating “what if” scenarios with poll worker training, which must be hands on training, not simply reading from a manual or following a PowerPoint presentation, is a must and will be implemented. When workers are shown that mistakes can and will happen and are then shown how to correct those mistakes and why processes are put in place to reduce errors, poll worker and voter confidence is enhanced.
The key to election night reporting is making sure our polling places are equipped with up-to-date technology. In 2014, ten telecommunication errors were reported. At the time, we had 23 precincts. This is still a problem today which is why the availability of current technology is an important factor that must be considered when selecting sites for polling places.
Finally, a strict policy regarding staff members entering secure locations, including video surveillance, capturing entry to and exit from all areas containing ballots, especially when ballots are present, will be adopted and vociferously enforced!
[Note: Medley’s original answer to FlaglerLive included a paragraph lengthy with unsubstantiated claims. We asked her to substantiate them. One of those claims went as follows: “Col. Jack Howell contacted me in March, by telephone, and advised he was told his military ID was not acceptable because it could not be swiped for the EVID. He was told to produce his driver’s license. I had been trying to set up a meeting with him. I sent him a follow up question, through Facebook messenger and asked if his military ID was active. He replied and confirmed his ID was active.” We decided to verify that claim. Howell told FlaglerLive that yes, his military ID was denied in one case by a poll worker, but he attributed the issue to the poll worker alone: “It’s just a matter of one individual being lazy,” he said, with the issue happening only once and not reflecting on Lenhart. Nor was he kept from voting. Howell went on: “One of the One of the poll workers screwed up on me, but does that mean she should be tarred and feathered? No. Bottom line is, Katie stepped into a pile of crap when she took over that office and she’s done a wonderful job.” Of Medley’s claim, Howell said: “She’s trying to make more of this than what there is.” We chose not to track down further unsubstantiated or unverified claims.]
Currently, Florida is one of three states with long waiting periods before felons, who have completed all requirements of sentencing, including probation and parole, can apply. The change required to expedite the restoration of civil rights, including the right to vote, is not under the purview of the office of Supervisor of Elections or the Florida Legislature. Do I believe the current waiting period is too long? Yes; but, absent further in-depth research, I do not know what that magic number for a waiting period is. The overall process for the restoration of civil rights is too long and can take as long as eleven years. Since 1975, there have been 31 changes to the rules that govern the application process. These changes have been impacted by budget cuts, reductions and/or eliminations in staffing levels, and increased workloads. Stability and consistency are needed in the application process; however, absent the political will to resolve this, the issue is left to the people. A Constitutional Amendment, titled “Voter Restoration Amendment 14-01” is on track to for placement on the 2018 General Election ballot. If enacted, I will do everything in my power to make sure those who have had their civil rights restored, including the right to vote, have the fullest opportunity and ability to vote. Folks who have completed their sentencing, probation, parole, all requisites, demonstrated remorse, and commitment by securing employment and/or furthering their education should be welcomed into the democratic process of voting.
7. If you’re asked by the Secretary State or the Legislature whether the early voting period is too long or not, what would be your response and why? As a Supervisor of Elections, it would be within your discretion to add early voting days beyond the minimum mandatory period of eight days, up to and including the last Sunday before Election Day. To what extent if any would you take advantage of that allowance?
The answer depends on what type of election is scheduled.
Supervisors of Elections have flexibility. Municipalities have flexibility. The key with Early Voting is to be sensitive to both the number of voters affected by Early Voting and the type of elections being conducted. Would it have made sense for the City of Bunnell to have had ten days of Early Voting during its 2014 election cycle when a total of 281 votes were cast? The time period for Early Voting is contingent upon they type of election, i.e., municipal, countywide, state, special, referendum, or national. Here again, being anticipatory and proactive are key. In General Elections, particularly when voter turnout is anticipated to yield historically high numbers, it is important to be aware of what our neighboring counties are considering, too. Flagler County does not exist in a bubble. By using the maximum number of hours and the maximum number of days we not only provide voters with the fullest opportunity to go vote, we protect our county from voter disenfranchisement lawsuits.
So just to be clear, based on your last sentence, you are for expanding the hours?
I would love to be able to answer with a simple Yes; but, that would ignore the many variables that must be considered. This is not a simple Yes or No question. The totality of the election, voter turnout, voter education, voter engagement, along with who and what is on the ballot must be considered. To not do so would be irresponsible. I am in favor providing voters with the fullest opportunity to go vote, while protecting our county from voter disenfranchisement lawsuits.
8. Between early voting and voting by mail, far fewer people are voting in person on Election Day. Assess the effectiveness and geographical fairness of the current number of precincts, explaining where, if any, some might be closed and others opened. If you favor expanding the total number of precincts, how would you justify that in light of the falling numbers of in-person voters, and how would you finance the expansion?
The answer is not to reduce the number of polling places. The answer begins with a post-election debrief and a survey of our voters. I have already started this dialogue. We currently have 23 precincts at 22 locations. In 2012, we were told this would save taxpayers money. Has it? Has there been any assessment? Palm Coast resident Jack Carrell, referring to Palm Coast’s 2011 General Election that experienced voter turnout totaling less than 6,000, said, “By taking away these precincts… you’ll make (voting even) harder”. I agree. [Carrell was referring to the six polling sites the Palm Coast City Council, not the Supervisor of Elections, decided to have for its 2011 election, down from 21 precincts. The supervisor had no authority to decide how to run the city’s election in so far as polling places were concerned. That was a municipal decision intended to save money. At the same time, the precincts were changed to polling places enabling voters from anywhere in the city to vote at any of the polling places, as with the three countywide locations during early voting in broader elections.–FL]
If I have learned anything from College Statistics and Actuarial Mathematics, it’s this: using percentages creates a false premise, as is this case with this question. Since 2012, we have added almost 7500 to the total of registered voters. In 2012, more than 40,000 voters voted at the polls on Election Day. Although more and more people are choosing to Vote by Mail or taking advantage of Early Voting, as the total number of registered voters increase, even if Election Day voting percentages remained at the levels of 2012, the total number going to the polls on Election Day would increase. Likewise, we have a generation of baby-boomers who will be retiring over the next two election cycles who prefer to vote at the polls on Election Day.
Let’s start by looking at our current locations and asking questions. Do they still make sense? Do they take advantage of population centers and traffic patterns? Are the locations equipped with the technology required for our new voting equipment? While the Supervisor of Elections should be proactive in removing artificial barriers to voting, the office must take care to honor its fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. Are we utilizing county buildings rather than private facilities in order to save money? Seven of our current polling places are located at churches. Does this pose a problem with a church’s 501 C (3) status? Does a current site, like the VFW (Precinct 23) pose a safety concern? Currently, more than 8,000 voters are assigned to that precinct and in 2012, 60 percent voted at the polls on Election Day. We’ve all driven up and down Old Kings Road on Election Day and have witnessed the crowded parking, parking across from the VFW, and folks trying to cross the road to go vote.
Five of our current locations are schools; yet neither high school nor the local college are used. Wouldn’t this be a great way to not only take advantage of the on-site technology, which would help with the transmission of results on Election night; but, what if those students who are 18, could train as poll workers and work alongside experienced poll workers on Election Day? Think of the buzz that could be created at Daytona State College Flagler/Palm Coast campus if the college became a polling location.
Finally, relationships matter. Bringing all stakeholders to the table would help in identifying problems with existing polling sites, locating alternative sites, assessing precinct populations, and presenting a plan that is balanced with a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and providing voters with the fullest opportunity to go vote.
No. However, the Supervisor of Elections plays a part. The Supervisor of Elections is there to give voters the fullest opportunity to register and to vote with as few artificial barriers as possible. The Supervisor of Elections’ job includes providing timely, easy to read, complete voter materials and voter education.
Website design is critical. Studies show if information is not found after three mouse clicks, customers move on. Under my watch, a website will be designed that will include all election and candidate information, including financial reports for municipal candidates. In May, I observed a voter could find who was running for Mosquito Control, but not Mayor of Palm Coast. This topic was again broached at the June 21 Tea Party meeting. Again, voters were told this could not be done because of a software vendor agreement. Blame was also assigned to the City Clerk. Miraculously, by June 27, municipal candidate information appeared on the elections website; but, there is still more to do; and, I know how to get it done.
Further community outreach and education will be expanded. I have already been out in our community. I am a member of the Flagler Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Business Issues and Flagler Votes Committee. As a result, I am constantly hearing people are confused. This is not acceptable.
Working with Suzanne Johnston’s office to develop a script about Florida’s Closed Primary that would help mitigate confusion on Primary Election Day is one strategy. The default voter registration for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is No Party Affiliation (NPA). Those registered as NPA cannot vote in closed primary races. Since 1994, according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, NPA registrations have increased by 473%, most of which is attributed to the default setting.
Pre-registration of students, when they turn 16, would provide an opportunity to discuss the closed primary system and allow that student to gather information about political parties so that upon reaching age 18, the student can decide to choose a party or to remain an NPA. This would allow students to be excited to cast their first ballot, rather than disappointed, as many were during the 2016 Presidential Preference Primary. Although this information is easily found on the Voter Registration Application, it is not highlighted.
Social Media plays an increasingly important role with advertising. Adopting best practices from Election Offices that have developed a robust Social Media program would help get the word out in a more efficient and expedited manner.
Voter education is a 365-day job, not one that begins 6 months before an Election. Whether as a Merit Badge Counselor with Boy Scout Troop 402, a member of the Flagler Votes Committee, a member of the Republican Party, or as a mom; the opportunity to help educate is a passion I embrace.
Not only is this a false argument, it’s an excellent example of bandwagon fallacy and many other false premises. The absence of a political affiliation designation does not change the beliefs of a person. The presence of a political affiliation designation does not imply a level of favoritism. Under Ms. Weeks, a Democrat, who, like Lenhart disavowed membership in political parties, close ties were established with leaders of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly of Flagler. Inherent in the question is that because I am a Republican an assumption of dishonesty and prejudice of Republicans is presumed. The party label is just that, a label. Yet not all of my beliefs are summed up by the label.
Chapter 105 of the Florida Statutes designates judicial candidates as non-partisan races. County and city charters declare school board and municipal candidates as non-partisan; yet every year candidates’ political labels are discovered. Being a part of a political party provides insight that is very useful and helpful for the office.
I am a Republican; but, I attend Democratic Club meetings. I am a member of the NAACP Flagler Branch, I am the President of American Association of University Women, Flagler Branch, and I am member of the Flagler Votes Committee, currently abstaining while a candidate. I enjoy listening to and discussing opposing views as it only increases my knowledge and awareness which allows me to become with familiar with issues facing all voters. At the end of the day, sanctifying the office as non-partisan will not assure fairness. Fairness depends solely on the individual Supervisor of Elections, regardless of party affiliation. Voters need to know more about a candidate, not less.
On day one, I will require any incident be reported, thereby allowing for an investigation to occur. Based on the outcome of the investigation and the severity of the violation, arrests could occur, followed by criminal prosecution, as well as termination.
In all instances, the Florida Statutes will be followed, and the action(s) will be stopped!
Yes, I have saved the city and county thousands in taxpayer dollars.
In 2009, I worked with City of Palm Coast officials and provided an alternative to the city’s then practice of holding separate city elections. Ms. Weeks required the City to pay a $25,000 deposit, plus an additional $12,500 for poll worker training to conduct the City’s election. The City did not hold elections in 2009 as incumbents were not challenged.
The former City Clerk and I knew Weeks’ adversarial and confrontational manner would not subside and the City would have to negotiate for its next elections. My concerns became a reality when Weeks’ then sought a deposit of $30,000 along with the $12,500 for poll worker training.
By August of 2010, the former City Clerk had retired and a transition period took place before the current City Clerk was named. By this time, my alternative, which was for the City to hold its elections with County-wide elections began to resonate with the City Manager’s office. Further research by the City Attorney, in conjunction with my recommendation, was requested at a January 2011 workshop. The measure, to change the charter and conduct elections with the County, received a unanimous vote by the City Council in March of 2011. This vote allowed the measure to be placed on the September 2011 ballot. It was passed by the voters.
In 2009, we had 36 precincts. To conduct a separate election for the City of Palm Coast, required 26 precincts to be opened. Conducting separate elections meant the City had to pay for all election related expenses. My simple fix, carefully researched and professionally delivered, was adopted and is still be utilized today. By moving its election cycles to coincide with county elections, the City now saves $42,500 for each election.
Weeks had already increased the deposit amount by $5,000 in a two-year timeframe, without any justification. Had the City not changed its charter to conduct its elections with the county, deposit amounts would have surely continued to increase with each election cycle. In 2014, the City was not required to pay any deposit.
Another example also took place in 2009. Ms. Weeks’ initial budget had already been increased by $75,000. Ms. Weeks then submitted a supplemental budget request for $358,000 for the Senate District 8 Special Election, scheduled to be a closed primary. This amount was $58,000 more than either St. Johns or Duval County, each of which had far more registered Republicans than Flagler. The request failed to provide any documentation as to how the $358,000 total had been reached. I knew the State would reimburse Flagler County; but, I also knew it would take months for the reimbursement to occur. Again, relying on statistics, I provided the Board of County Commissioners with not only facts and figures that demonstrated the absurdity of the amount; I proposed a services rendered agreement as a way to account for actual expenses. The Board of County Commissioners adopted this idea. Checks totaling $64,954.00 and $60,424.94 were paid for actual expenses incurred for the Special Election Primary and General Elections, respectively. My research and recommendation saved taxpayers $236,621.06.
I continued to review the budget process for years. I attended budget workshops and commission meetings. Many times, my points made in writing to the Board of County Commissioners were often echoed during extensive questioning of Weeks. I have noted the budget has increased under Ms. Lenhart and I look forward to scrutinizing the allocation of resources, streamlining processes, and providing Flagler County with a quality of service sorely lacking for nearly eight years.
I was not silenced by Weeks; nor did I capitulate. I have always found answers.
I found answers and offered help once again to Palm Coast in 2014 when Weeks held their elections hostage, finally requiring action from the Secretary of State. When candidates faced significant fines and the current administration either could not or would not help, I provided the solution and as a result, candidates were not fined. As I stated earlier, my voice of reason was of more use to my community outside an office that had been engulfed by chaos and hostility.
You are taking credit for decisions voted on by the Palm Coast City Council and the County Commission. Both bodies may well have been acting on your suggestions. But many people make suggestions to elected officials, and while FlaglerLive covered the adopting of the city’s new system in some detail, the only input we recall from your end was in a comment summarizing the new agreements. Surely we missed your deeper involvement. Can you substantiate that involvement? Did you make those suggestions in appearances before the boards? In meetings with the city manager or council members? In emails? In written proposals?
I am taking credit for developing the idea, researching the idea, gathering data, and delivering the information, by telephone to the former city clerk. I am extremely thankful for not only the former city clerk’s willingness to listen to my proposal; but, for her persistence in helping this idea reach the City Manager’s office, the City Attorney’s desk, and finally the dais of the Palm Coast City Council. An idea that allows the City to save $42,500 each election.
I was the former city clerk’s liaison during the city’s pre-election process. All of our communications on this subject were by telephone. I was not permitted to take my work product notes with me when I resigned. The impetus for the meeting with the City was the significant increase in the amount to be paid to the Flagler County Elections Office. I phoned the former city clerk to tell her I left the office; but, that she and the city should still pursue the option I had presented to her. She told me the assistant city manager was pursuing the proposed change. As I stated, a transition period took placed with the former assistant city manager leaving in June 2010 and the former clerk retiring in August the same year; but, by this time, there was nothing more for me to research. I had already given the former city clerk all of the information the City needed.
My idea specifically outlined the need for the City to change its charter in order to piggyback with County elections. That took place. Once the City Council and the voters approved this idea; the practice, instituted by Weeks, of requiring a total deposit of $42,500 for each City of Palm Coast election, an increase of $5,000 from 2009 without any documentation, ended. The Board of County Commissioners questioned this practice in August of 2011. To this date, questions have not been answered.
It was because of this research I was able to provide assistance to Palm Coast in 2014 when the change was challenged. I wrote to Governor Scott. I made numerous phone calls and spent hours explaining the tenuous situation to Mr. Jordan Jones, with the Office of General Counsel. During a Republican Club meeting, held at Grace’s Place, I was approached by Councilman Bill McGuire. He said my city needed me. Weeks was attempting to impose an onerous Interlocal Agreement on the City. At the end of the day, I volunteered to run the City elections in the event a final agreement could not be reached.
I wrote a letter to the Board of County Commission dated September 7, 2009. It was sent to the Board through the County’s e-mail system. It included resource links along with a recommendation the county implement a services rendered agreement. This was to have been discussed at the September 8, 2009 regular meeting; however, it was subsequently discussed at the September 21, 2009 meeting during which an “Agreement for Special Election for Florida Senate District 8” was presented. This is but one example; subsequent letters followed during budget reviews.
I understand “many people make suggestions”; but, few provide the detailed research, with the level of documentation I do. This is how I have been able to not only develop relationships built on trust and credibility, I have been able to keep those relationships.
Again, you make impressive claims, but don’t provide any evidence, other than your own account, that you were as instrumental as you say you were in what amounts to changing Palm Coast’s charter and election policies. Can there possibly such a gap in the record for such a significant achievement?
The gap is caused from not being able to keep my work product when I left the Supervisor’s Office. I was asked by the former clerk to communicate by telephone. I did. I witnessed the level of frustration experienced by city officials. I knew negotiations for future elections would once again result in confrontation. I researched the statutes. I knew from having just researched the conduct of elections for Community Development Districts (CDD), other elections did take place with county elections. Based on research, the number of precincts, the amounts paid to poll workers, ballot costs, and all of the separate expenses incurred with a stand-alone, municipal election, it made sense for a city the size of Palm Coast to change their charter to have their elections coincide with county-wide elections. I know the timeline, which I have explained. I know the end result. I know my idea relieved Palm Coast of its frustration. I know the City no longer has to pay $42,500; and, knowing I helped my city is all that matters to me.