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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Kevin Beckner's spouse targets Pat Frank on Clerk's Facebook page

TAMPA — A new Facebook page for the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court has attracted a frequent and critical commenter.

Normally, that wouldn’t be news. But in this case, the commenter is the husband of Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Clerk Pat Frank.

Nine times in the past five days Beckner’s husband, Gil Sainz, has taken shots at Frank and her tenure as clerk on her office’s official Facebook page.

The most recent comment came in response to a post Monday by the clerk’s office regarding office closures due to Tropical Storm Colin.

“Is the Clerk Pat Frank in her office today along with the nearly 700 employees hard at work during a tropical storm?” Sainz wrote. “Or is she quietly nestled at home like most days?”

The clerk’s office responded: “Thank you for the question and your concern. Pat was here before 8 a.m. and met with staff to discuss the storm and the well-being of her award-winning employees. Stay safe!”

Sainz’s comment echoed an issue Beckner raised during a recent campaign forum, when he claimed Frank's attendance record has led to a leadership void in the office. Beckner said records on when she accesses the building with a key card and her calendar back him up.

Frank has dismissed that criticism as false and said those records don't accurately show the hours she puts in because she’s often meeting with people in the community, or working from home or at satellite offices.

“This is a 24-hour job and I’m available 24 hours,” Frank told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday.

The Facebook brouhaha is the latest twist in an already heated race between the two popular Hillsborough Democrats.

Frank and Beckner have vastly different accounts of how the latter came to challenge the former for her clerk seat. The two aren’t on speaking terms. The spat has divided local Democrats and has made the Aug. 30 primary between the two candidates one of the most contentious races of this election cycle.

Beckner, 45, can’t run for re-election as a commissioner because he reached his term limits. Frank, 86, is running for a fourth term as clerk.

In a 470-word post, Sainz said Frank ignored victims of domestic abuse for years, and in another criticized her office for demoting an Army reservist while she on active duty. In that case, the Department of Justice sued Frank in 2007 and the office eventually settled and awarded the reservist back pay.

“I wonder how many tax dollars were wasted by Pat Frank fighting an active duty soldier returning to work?” Sainz wrote.

Beckner said Sainz’s comments were of his own volition but added that they were not a concern to his campaign.

“Gil is his own person. He does not make comments on my behalf,” Beckner said. “He does it on his own accord.

“It’s freedom of speech,” Beckner added. “I know he was deeply offended as a 30-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office to have a service member treated that way.”

Frank said didn’t mind the comments from Sainz “but let’s keep them accurate.” She also joked: “I don’t have a spouse around to do that for me anymore.” Her husband Dick Frank died in 2012.

“I’m not in the business to responding to every negative comment made," Frank said. "That’s not me.

"You can get bogged down if you listen to every little criticism but I’ve been in this business long enough that the shell is hardened.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 3:49pm]

    

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