Friday, May 09, 2008

Buddy Johnson AWOL

It took the NAACP 18 days to deliver a subpoena to Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson. The NAACP did not file a personal lawsuit against Johnson. Nor was Johnson a witness in a criminal case. The NAACP simply wanted to know how Johnson's office handled voter registrations. Republican election officials aren't known for their professed loved for civil or voting rights. But there was no reason for Johnson to duck the subpoena.

Subpoena server Dan Neatherly concluded that Johnson was avoiding him. Neatherly could not find Johnson at either of his two offices. There is good indication that Johnson ordered his staff to stonewall Neatherly. Johnson's Mercedes Benz was parked in his space. The St. Petersburg Times's Jeff Testerman attempting ask Johnson about how his car can be at work, but not him. Johnson stonewalled Testerman by refusing to comment on stonewalling Neatherly.

If we are to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt, The Supervisor of Election just can be bothered to go to the job. That is a horrible PR spin campaign. Voters can ask themselves why they should continue to pay Johnson's salary. It is troubling when legal council Kathy Harris (love the name for an election official) is brought forth to issue a denial. Why is Johnson acting like he is about to be indicted?

"Mr. Johnson did not evade service and was a willing participant in the proceedings,'' Harris wrote. If the NAACP lawyers thought he was evading service, they could have sought court sanctions against him.

Harris wrote that it's wrong to assume that because Johnson's car was in his parking space, he was in the building. "Often, he is out of the office educating the community about voter registration and voter participation and leaves his personal car at the office.''

Harris wouldn't make that statement under oath. Johnson was asked in court if he attempted to avoid the subpoena. Harris told Johnson three times not to answer the question.

Exactly who was driving Buddy to these education seminars? Someone in the Elections office needs to leak Buddy's schedule? Details from Neatherly's report indicate that Johnson's lackeys were instructed to stonewall for their boss.

Oct. 17: Neatherly found a silver Mercedes Benz in the parking space reserved for the elections supervisor at the Falkenburg office. He spoke with Kevin Connell, a former New York police officer working as a receptionist there. Connell said Johnson wasn't in.

Neatherly went back outside, verified the registration as Johnson's and returned to Connell. "I know that is Mr. Johnson's vehicle and need to see him." Neatherly wrote that Connell said he couldn't help, that he was "just following directions."

(Connell declined to comment to the Times.)

There is something about the NAACP case that scares the hell out of Johnson. Republicans were against the County Mayor petition. Johnson's office miscounted the petitions. Now there are questions about black voters being disinfranchised. Johnson's behavior would make Richard Nixon cringe.

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