By CARL MCKINNEY [email protected]
The Florida Elections Commission has found that County Commission Chairman Ron Williams violated state election law last summer.
Williams paid a $250 fine to the FEC for using county resources to distribute campaign material in August, according to a settlement agreement filed March 7. He wrote the check on Nov. 30 after negotiating the agreement, which was approved in Tallahassee Feb. 28.
Williams ordered an administrative worker with the Board of County Commissioners to transcribe and his handwritten responses to a campaign-related questionnaire sent by the Lake City Reporter, County Manager Ben Scott said in August.
The responses were published in an election guide for voters the day before early voting started. The Lake City Reporter sent candidates the questionnaires with the intention of giving each of them an opportunity to inform voters about themselves.
The FEC found Williams violated Florida Statute 106.15, which states candidates can’t use on-the-clock government employees “in the furtherance of his or her candidacy for nomination or election to public office.”
The email was sent during work hours, around 3:50 p.m. Aug 9, from the worker’s county email address. The FEC settlement only states “a county employee sent campaign-related email for respondent during normal working hours,” omitting that Scott said Williams told her to transcribe the material.
FEC Executive Director Amy Toman said the agency works with respondents to negotiate the details included in an agreement. “It’s not a criminal process,” Toman said. “It’s a function of give and take, that’s what settlement negotiations are.”
Williams said he didn’t bargain over the facts of the case or the wording of the agreement. “It is what it is,” he said. Unsuccessful County Commission District 2 candidate Kyle Green filed the complaint against Williams, who represents District 1.