In her six years as Flagler County Elections Supervisor, Kaiti Lenhart developed the kind of seamless, impartial operation and relationships with local municipalities, the county, political candidates, committees and voters of all stripes that immediately won her universal praise.
The governor had appointed Lenhart to the post in 2015 to replace her often noxious and ultimately criminal predecessor. In 2016 Lenhart won her first election with a crushing majority. She was unopposed this year. She got along with previous county and Palm Coast administrators even when they were embattled with everyone else. Until now she’d gotten along with all current administrations, too–in Flagler Beach, Bunnell, Palm Coast and the county, doing so with the kind of eternally optimistic and cheery disposition more often associated with Disney’s customer service reps than a constitutional officer navigating the high-stress tensions of electoral labyrinths, especially this season.
It took Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron to end that streak. What Jim Landon, Craig Coffey and Kimberle Weeks couldn’t do (Lenhart had worked in the office for years when Weeks was the supervisor), Cameron did this week, rattling and angering Lenhart to such a point that she abruptly ended a meeting with him Thursday after she’d “had enough” of his contempt.
As FlaglerLive first reported Friday, she’d gone to his office upset over his reversal of a pledge not to keep roads closed for construction around the Government Services Building during election weeks. She was hoping he’d change his mind or at least compromise. He did neither, instead speaking offensively about voters who can’t read signs.
“Say what you will about me, just don’t mess with my voters,” Lenhart wrote of the meeting in an email to Flagler County Commissioners this morning. (FlaglerLive obtained the email independently of Lenhart, who did not share it with the site. But she authenticated it when asked.) “I take this contempt very personally and as a public servant, I am ashamed that anyone in a position of authority in this county would have such a negative attitude and zero compassion for those whom they are supposed to serve.”
Lenhart alluded to Cameron’s apparent deception, as he reversed a pledge not to carry out the $730,000 construction project upending the Government Services Complex’s grounds during election weeks, then as he displayed contempt for voters and for Lenhart herself when she pleaded her case that construction should be suspended and roads reopened at least for the two weeks of early voting and through Election Day.
“I must share that I am outraged that our County Administrator did not plan this project around a Presidential Election cycle from the beginning, as he said he would do at our meeting in August,” Lenhart wrote the commissioners.
“Now,” she said of Cameron, “he has stated it will cost $18,000 to suspend construction and open the road–only because of his poor planning. The construction contract should have been made with a pause during early voting and Election Day as part of the terms of agreement. Now that the election is apparently an afterthought, thousands of early voters will be forced to navigate around the courthouse and maneuver the tight curve through our back parking lot. It is not a safe and direct route to our office. Will voters find their way through the detour? Of course they will, but that’s not the point. If I had known sooner that the construction would not be halted, I would have had the time to inform the public. Now we have lost that precious time. This entire situation could have been avoided, clear and meaningful communication regarding the plan should have been shared from the beginning.”
The elections office has been receiving numerous complaints about the construction.
“I have always had a great working relationship with the county and their staff and I was under the impression that we were all working together to make this historic election the best voting experience possible for the people of Flagler County,” Lenhart wrote the commissioners. “Unfortunately, I learned on Thursday that the County Administrator and I do not have the same priorities. Not only was I told that the construction project would not be suspended, Jerry actually said that if voters can’t figure out the detour, they shouldn’t be voting. He wants the project completed on time, before he leaves. After a few more disrespectful comments, I said that I’d had enough and got up and left his office. He should know me better than that.”
The county commission approved the bid for the project in mid-July, a full two and a half months after the bids were received. (The bid went to S.E. Cline.) The project will result in the addition of 62 regular parking spaces. Meanwhile it’s closed the access road to the Government Services Building and the Supervisor of Elections Office, requiring drivers to loop around the courthouse, assuming they notice the meager “detour” sign posted at the main entrance into the complex, with no others signage about elections or the supervisor’s ballot drop-box, though a record number of voters are voting by mail. (By early this week, more people had voted by mail in Flagler than had voted by mail in the entire election in 2016.)
Construction began on Sept. 25. “This is a long overdue project, and the county took the first viable opportunity to address the severe lack of parking at the GSB,” County spokesperson Julie Murphy said in an email. The Government Services Complex has gone without the extra parking for 15 years. Nothing stopped the county from delaying the start of construction for barely six weeks, until after Nov. 3. Instead, in an election season riven by mistrust, allegations (and evidence) of voter suppression efforts and an unusually tense election season that’s drawn calls by the sheriff and the supervisor for calm, Cameron–an arch-conservative tied to the Republican Party in St. Johns–appears to have needlessly fueled discord and at least appearances of suppression with a decision that could have been mitigated, had he stuck to his original pledge to Lenhart.
“I am one of the citizens who called to complain about the confusing entrance to the SOE’s office because I have received numerous calls from my constituents complaining about this very confusing situation,” Mike Cocchiola, who heads Flagler’s Democratic Party, wrote commissioners in an email, asking them to overrule Cameron. “I’m a frequent visitor to the GSB and the SOE’s office and I had to drive around a bit to figure it out. There were no signs at all. Now there’s maybe one? Should elderly or impaired residents who may become confused by the lack of directions be disqualified from voting ‘if they can’t understand the detour’?” Cocchiola concluded: “This is not the time to discourage voters, but to ensure they get to cast their votes unimpeded by the county administrator and his regrettable lack of empathy for this most important of our democratic processes.”
In an email to Lenhart after their meeting, Cameron claimed that the county was taking “extraordinary” measures to make voting “more convenient than ever,” even though the county had nothing more than install a few detour signs the entirety of the construction period that had coincided with mail ballot drop-offs until then. He also falsely claimed voters would have to drive “approximately the same distance” to vote–a claim shown to be false by an image of the complex his own PR office posted Saturday, showing the distance around the complex that drivers would have to travel to get to their destination.
Schematic drawings of maps with red lines are not usually necessary to point individuals in the right direction if access is presumed to be “more convenient than ever,” but that’s what the county posted Friday above a happy-faced statement claiming there will be a “smooth voting process” at the GSB despite construction. The map, published below, may make more sense to people familiar with the complex than for those who might go there only once every few years.
The county is offering “accommodations” that include electronic and directional signs, while the county “offered to hire people to direct traffic during voting hours.”
“These accommodations were offered during early discussions of the multi-month project to increase parking,” Cameron–who did not respond to a text asking him about today’s email by the supervisor–is quoted as saying in the PR release. “They have been available all along to the Supervisor of Elections office, and we are happy to support them now.”
None of those accommodations were in evidence in the weeks of mail-in balloting. And Cameron’s version of events was at odds with Lenhart’s, who’d been assured that construction would be suspended during election weeks, making Cameron’s “offer” unnecessary.
The county’s map, as published on the county’s site late Friday:
Cameron should be fired. Or arrested for voter interference.
This Cameron guy is a petty, childish bully, like most Republicans these days. He needs to be removed from office. and replaced with a grown up who deserves to be there.
James M. Mejuto says
Well . . . don’t say we didn’t tell ya so!
Flagler County and the entire state of Florida is controlled by one party and has been throughout its history.
Florida republicans under the demands of Tumpty-Dumpty in the W.H. are running scared and
any way they can find to make voting difficult, they’re at the front of the line.
There’s no one in this state with authority to demand they stop and desist The governor, the courts
and the legislatures are all in the hands of this motley crew.
Well, we have ourselves to blame for installing these bloodsuckers.
“If voters can’t figure out the detour, they shouldn’t be voting” What kind of arrogant statement is this coming from someone who was elected to serve the citizenry? When does he come up for a vote?
HE NEEDS TO GO – WE DON’T NEED DICTATORS IN THIS TOWN.
Trailer Bob says
I went to vote today at the County Building on 100. Signs were many, and it was quite easy to follow them all the way to where you need to be to vote. I don’t know what it looked like prior to my visit today, but now it is easy peazy. Had to be signs all along the way, about ten or so feet apart. The world is still spinning…lol
Is there any Republican politician in this city that possesses morals, and wants to do the right thing for its citizens, instead of cowering under their beds, and hiding from the bully? Get a pair of b…. guys, and start representing the people !! When the time comes, the public needs to get rid of all of you!! Time for fresh blood!!
I do, Cameron needs to be term limited.
No Mark, he needs to be terminated!!
Trailer Bob says
I’m all in for that “Enough”. Politics in Flagler are a joke. I was a politician up north and can tell you that this place is represented by self-fulfilling morons in most cases.
Also, where I moved from we tried to get along and get things done for our constituents, even if we were of a differing political party.
The downside is that someone will probably try to dig up something stupid I did when I was in my teens…I am 65 now. It’s a dirty game.
Jeff Sica says
When is that protest outside Cameron’s office scheduled for? I’ll even adjust my schedule, if I need to.
Let me guess Cameron is a Republican, after all they are cheating at this election everywhere and anywhere they can.
Cameron needs to be fired he is not a public servant, he is obstucting the right of the people in this county vote not make it harder on them.
Why are the Republicans so insecure about this election that they have to try and cheat to win?
Cameron’s plan to do this didn’t work for me, I drove around until I found a way to get to the Election Office and if I had to walk there to cast my vote I would have done that too.
Hats off to Kaiti Lenhart for standing up to a bully who needs to be fired. She stood up for us voters which is our legal right Cameron in case you haven’t heard.
John B McDonnell says
I negotiated the ridiculous maze to drop off my ballot and thought “how stupid” of Flagler County to have so many roadblocks for people trying to vote. Now I see why! Cameron, the carnival barker, is at it again.
Donna F says
Proud of you, Kaiti! Stick to your guns! It is outrageous that you approached County officials a year ago to ensure there would be no disruptions during the election period.
Mr. Cameron, your pompous response (“If voters can’t figure out the detour, they shouldn’t be voting.”) to the SOE is insulting, demeaning, and RUDE, particularly to the many senior and disabled voters in our county. People like my parents. You owe them an apology. Anything less should trigger a big lashback from citizens at the next BOCC meeting. Shame on you. This is not a party issue, this is a leadership and trust issue. Go look yourself in the mirror, sir.
Meh, Caneron is right. This is drowning in a glass of water, and a lot of people do it these days and then yell & scream Racism and take offense. The Mail-In ballots/votes are a simple matter of putting the proper postage on the envelope and letting the USPS do it’s job. And if you’re dropping it off in a drop box, do you go there in a less traffic load of an hour and then dropping it off in the receptacle.
End of the day this much drop off mail-in voting volume is something new to everyone ? So there’s going to be those that get their anxiety anyway.
But some people can’t afford a stamp. Free stamps for everyone. Next years slogan.
Cameron is a coward. This “my way or the highway” mentality has gone on too long. Diversity is not a word he understands. I have contacted Rep Waltz’ Office. Let’s see if he dances around the issue.
Trailer Bob says
BTW, I voted today and had NO problems, other than too many people in line.
Perhaps the situation has changed since reading this article, but if you could not figure out how and where to vote, at least today, you probably don’t have the intelligence to even understand politics and Cameron is right on the comment that “if you cannot figure out how to vote…maybe you shouldn’t be voting”.
I doubt he literally meant for it to be about taking someone’s right to vote away, but because who is elected has a significant effect on our lives, it matters and people should know about the people they are voting for and why…there ARE consequences…
If our Commissioners don’t overrule Cameron at the Monday meeting we should be sure to vote for the opponent of any Commissioner on the ballet this November. Asking for a three week delay of a small construction project is not too much to ask.
Been There says
Who do you think he works for and on the behalf of? David Sullivan got him the job. Mullins buys him out of a bad land deal. O’Brien’s agenda is being accomplished by having a personal conduit in the Administration seat. He’s dirty, yes, but his handlers are filthy rotten. He’s just doing what they want so that he gets the fat pension that he couldn’t get in St. John’s County.
LILLIE V KEETON says
Sorry to see that this has resulted in political name calling of Democrats against Rebublicans.
Dolores g says
Check your facts Mr. Mc judo Flagler county was a democrat County in 1980 and heaven knows how far before that.
James M. Mejuto says
re: Dolores: Really! . . . Who has always controlled the politics in this state ? ? ?
Flagler County? . . . get real, lady.
Well, what would one expect from a trumper !
Oh . . . by the way, you misspelled my name.
Trailer Bob says
How do you know she is a Trumper?
Takes away any credibility of your comment.
White Bronco says
Give ‘em hell, Kaiti, thanks for having some cojones to call out these turds! 👏🏽
Trailer Bob says
These Turds??????? Who are they?
Flagler Co. Citizen! says
Cameron must be fired. His responsibility is to serve the public, and not the other way around. My husband and I encountered this “construction” project that closed roads and access points and forced us to keep circling the building to find a way in. IT WAS APPARENT it was intentional! No signs! FIRE HIM or is a Class Action Law Suit in the wind? All Flagler Voters are disrespected by this individual and his Office!
C’mon man! says
Seminole woods has been closed down for what feels like eternity. They can halt this project for a few weeks I’m sure
Gary R says
I went there Thursday 10/15/2020 to drop off my ballot. There were detour signs and signs with arrows showing those who aren’t blind or cannot read where the ballot box is. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue it is a whiner issues. We have lots of whiners in Palm Coast. How do you whiners navigate on Belle Terre Blvd, Old Kings Rd, and Seminole Woods Blvd where there is construction? You people are up for a challenge when they widen Old Kings Rd.
Bill C says
… like all the whining about wearing a mask in order to save people’s lives?
He continues to prove he is the self serving piece of trash that he has always been, first selling out the citizens of St. John’s County till they threw him out and now only filling his own pockets at the cost of the citizens in Flagler County! GO KAITI L. In serving the people of Flagler County as you always have!
Brava Kaiti!! You are an example of what a civil servant should be, if only these old guys like Cameron can learn from you! I was there today to drop off my ballot and seeing all the signs all along the way had “Kaiti was here” all over it :). You persist!! Thank you!!
Sue Hecht says
Tks to Katie for advocating for the public! And thanks to Flagler Live for reporting. I found access to mail my VBM ballot very difficult. Detours, no signage to SOE and limited parking options. As I was walking back to my car from dropping off my ballot, an older lady (I am 72) circling in a car, stopped me to ask how to get to the box. I told her how to get there…cars were waiting for my parking space.
Very disappointing. It sure seemed like the construction could have waited! Ask Commissioners to stop limiting access.
Call him to complain – 386-313-4001
Jane Gentile-Youd says
How do you all like my suggestion for a ‘quick fix’: Trade the contractors who are fired … oops I mean ‘hired’ by FDOT to resurface ALL the lanes on the Flagler-Volusia stretch of I-95 ( including on and of ramps) which was to have been completed by 2018 – with the county contractors !
Diana L says
Mr. Cameron’s blatant disregard for the Supervisor of Elections and Flagler County registered voters is appalling.
When will “We the People” demand that the people we pay to represent us, actually represent us?
Thank you to Kaiti Lenhart, Supervisor of Elections, for representing all of us.
Percy's mother says
Beam me up Scotty. PLEASE.
Never lived in a place where there is always so much “outrage”, complaining, upset, antagonism, drama.
I still don’t see what the issue is. As stated in my previous post, I would be parking in the courthouse parking lot and walking across that little bridge and without complaining about it. Should there be bulldozers in the way of my progress, I’d be waiting for a clear path. No fuss. No outrage. Just another errand done.
But then again, I vote in person on election day.
Ever read the book, “The Ugly American”?
I would invite any of you people to visit a 3rd world country where large families live in 1 room about the size of a small bedroom in Palm Coast, no indoor plumbing, no electricity, no furniture (just mats to lie on), have to walk a long way with buckets to get water, and bathe at the “town” center where there is ONE pipe with dirty water flowing out of it . . . that’s the water from the filthy river that people defecate in, cremated human remains are dumped in, animal carcasses are disposed of in.
I just can’t believe the petty things people around here get bent out of shape about. How on earth would all you people deal with REAL hardship?
So incredibly disgusted with people here in Palm Coast. A bunch of whiners and complainers, the nidus of this being incredibly poor brain health.
Concerned Citizen says
Everyone has the right to voice disagreement.Even when not agreeing with you.
I’m more concerned with this BOCC and Admins attitude of Flagler County go F yourself. Cameron feels he can talk to us anyway he wants. And remain secure in his job. Mainly because our BOCC is corrupt and has his back. I mean where else does someone fudge the hiring requirements so that we end with a “long term interim temporary wink wink nudge nudge” administrator? The man had a shady track record in St. Johns and got dumped on us. Tired of having to put up with the “lesser of evils” We should demand better and get folks in there who are actually qualified. And will do the job ethically and morally.
Good job FlaglerLive. Your publicizing this appears to have motivated somebody to action.
Dropped off our ballots on Sunday morning and was happy to see multiple, effective diversion signs directing vehicles around the tortuous backdoor diversion to the County Elections Office.
I’m wondering if pedestrians will be provided with a mote direct way in, It’d be a long, and without sidewalks, dangerous trek around the signed route.,
I agree that this should/could have been postponed for a couple weeks. However I just went to drop off my ballot (Sunday Oct 18th, 6:30 pm), and there are now many many many (did I mention many?) signs showing the route to the Supervisors office, sooooo , the problem that should never have occurred has been somewhat alleviated.
Still does not excuse the comments from the County Administrator, or address the original problem of the reversal of a promise made by him to not pull this during the election period.
Jerry Cameron continues to do whatever he pleases in Flagler County government. Just as he’s doing with his behind the door shenanigan’s regarding his replacement. What amazes me is that no one seems to care to investigate.
Been There says
More sneaky contemptuous behavior by our County Administrator who is nothing more than the Dirty Commission’s “Yes” man. He and Al Hadeed should see the inside of a jail cell for so many things done inside the GSB walls. Be SURE that some Director or Staff Member will be set up to take the fall for this if it goes south for Cameron.
Go get him Katie!
Trumpanzees at work and supported by the few yesr’s of their dictatorial voter suppression here, with their ignorant racist comments against elderly, disable and the poor walking or in bicycles trying to get to the mailed ballot box at the SOE office and having to make a large run around other than going straight from the main access as is supposed to be available for the friggin over taxes we pay to these county crooks. Palm Coast should just go ahead and annex this county and will save big and will give us all better service for the funds we overpay to the FCBOCC as they waste it in useless double services and administrators like to the quarter million plus pay to Cameron and predecessors to buy derelict contaminated real estate with our hard earned funds. Be careful Kati Lenhart they may send you to jail and brake you financially like they did with Kim Weeks, for your courage defending our voters rights!
Born to be safe says
Palmcoaster: Right! Point being of course elderly people know how to get around areas that they have navigated living here. Please allow me to add, I guess according to the thousands of bikers ( I happen to be one myself but didn’t go) that frequented Flagler Beach bars and Palm Coast restaurants this past weekend for bike fest all think that this pandemic is over, there were thousands of them in Flagler Beach all hurdled together drinking, smoking and having a grand old time and don’t even mention mask cause it wouldn’t make a difference at that point, total disrespect for healthcare workers,(I am one) science, elderly, and the immuno-compromised, especially since there is a spike in several states, As I drove by in my truck I saw that many of the bikers were very overweight and up in age as were there obese wives hanging on the back of their cycles therefore those already know that they have pre-existing conditions and still take that chance? Not all of us have the luxury of going to Walter Reed hospital to get lavish care! End of point is that these people are all selfish, uncaring hypocrites!
As a new resident to Palm Coast and Flagler, I have seen nothing but corrupt politicians in office. The only true bright spot has been the Elections Supervisor. I voted early and dropped off my ballot at that office, and yes, the detours and directional signs are confusing as well as parking .
I have to agree that any projsct that close to election should have been postponed, but we are in GOP country and you are livibg up to your values, lie, cheat and steal.
Trailer Bob says
Thank you David, but I do not lie, cheat or steal. What? you hate everyone who is not of the same political persuasion as you? How would that work out if everyone felt as you do? We are all humans first…come on man…
This is a bunch of hullaballoo over nothing. I don’t believe there’s a single voter (Rep, Dem or Ind) that would decide not to vote because of some minor construction and rerouting in a parking lot. Good Lord.
What’s wrong with you people.
To all those who are so incredibly “self centered” that they are OK with each and every attempt to throw a log jam in front of the ballot box. . .
Please “pry open” your minds and hearts just a little! Try and consider the FACT that not everyone is physically/financially able to simply get the time off from work (without jeopardizing their job), jump in their personal car and “walk” across a parking lot to stand in a line with people who are likely spreading a potentially deadly disease. You know, those “caring” people who STILL refuse to wear a mask and “social distance”. How about some thought to grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters who are less fortunate:
* War veterans without legs
* Grandma who is quarantined and ALONE in a nursing home
* Single parents holding down 2 jobs
* Those who don’t own a car in a state that has almost ZERO public transportation
* Those caring for kids/parents at home because they can’t afford that nursing home or child care
* Those quarantined WITH Covid or some other disabling illness. . . and on, and on and on. . .
Are these people not entitled to exercise their constitutional “rights”?????
Remember, there is no way to get a “mail in ballot” at the last minute. Remember, the new Post Master General has been quite effective at slowing down our mail delivery, AND . . . trump puppet De Santis refuses to extend the deadline for “RECEIVING” mailed in ballots. NO, the Florida government refuses to go by the “post mark”!
Ahhhh. . . just another way of continuing to beat down those who are already just struggling to put food on the table. They are lazy, and useless. . . probably NOT white enough. . . Just as well they DON”T VOTE! Am I Right? . . . Or, am I Right Winged?
Final Straw says
The final responsibility for Mr. Cameron’s actions of obstructing the presidential election rests squarely on the Flagler County Commissioners. Mr. Sullivan is wrong that Mr. Cameron has taken responsibility and therefore the Commissioners can not do anything about this. Should the commissioners not correct this problem immediately then the Flagler county resident voters will take action against all five current sitting commissioners.
The County Commission should first halt this project until completion of the election and simultaneously fire the disrespectful Mr. Cameron immediately.
Sent from my iPhone