Monday, September 25, 2006

Buddy Johnson Blues

Tampa Bay's 10 News recently reported that severall polling places were found in violation of Florida state statute. Voters were greeted with signs and flyers at the door. The law states political signs and activists must stay 100 feet from the door. Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson maintains issues a nondenial of screwups.

"I won't deny we don't make a mistake here and there, but our people do a pretty good job."

A tape measure isn't needed when activists are blocking the door.

Hillsborough County had a low turnout for the primary. Candidate Chloe Coney had to wait hours to find out the result.

"It was really strange to me; the votes were coming in so slow," Coney said. "It was a light turnout. It was only a primary. We really couldn't understand."

Buddy Johnson was best known for being one of the owners of the restaurant chain BuddyFreddys. Johnson has become more known for the controversy in his office. The hiring of the Republican-leaning law firm Broad & Cassel to look over the County Mayor petition was questionable. Hillsborough republicans were against the petition. Johnson has lawyers on staff. Instead, he used a private companies with ties to George and Jeb Bush. The bill came out to $69,322.

Assistant County Attorney Ken Tinkler wrote a memo detailing Johnson's distrust of county lawyers. Johnson burned through two assistants: Dan Nolan and Helene Marks. Tinkler wrote that Johnson and Nolan's relationship was so bad "ultimately led to a long, awkward period of time where I was forced to serve as intermediary between the two individuals." Marks spent her last months working at home.

Johnson feels differently about people he trusts. Jim Reed started out at $50,000 in 2003. He quit and came back in 2005. Reed now makes $118,000. Reed is a high school friend of Johnson.

There is also the question of why Steve Holub was paid $24,142 to discuss or sue the Hillsborough election office. What is not up for discussion is Johnson running a dysfunctional office that can't perform basic duties. The precincts were poorly run during a slow primary. One can only wonder what the 2008 presidential election will be like.

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