Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Complaint filed over mailer about candidate in Pinellas School Board race

A political mailer put out by Florida First has triggered an elections complaint against the electioneering group and Elliott Stern, a candidate for Pinellas County School Board.

In her complaint, Jasmina Forcan of Clearwater claims that a mailer put out by the Bradenton-based group violates state law because it "expressly advocates" for Stern's election to the countywide District 1 seat. She also accuses Stern's campaign treasurer, Jean Giles Wittner, of paying for the mailer with a $20,000 donation to Florida First in June.

Stern said Thursday that he wasn't involved in the Florida First material.

"Candidates are not supposed to have anything to do with PACs and I don't," he said.

In an email, Wittner said her contribution to Florida First was given "without any promise or commitment or strings attached from them that any of those dollars would be spent in behalf of Elliott Stern."

She also wrote that she had been assured that her donation was "valid and legal."

Forcan declined to comment on her complaint.

Stern is trying to unseat School Board member Janet Clark. Other challengers include Shelly Ladd-Gilbert, a business owner; and Jim Jackson, a retired college professor.

Political candidates in Florida can't receive more than $500 from each donor in a primary and a general election. Electioneering groups, however, can raise and spend unlimited amounts — but can't advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate.

Forcan's complaint says the political mailer advocates for Stern by listing his campaign website, www.estern2012.com, and showing a photo with a campaign sign.

The main text of the flier says "Call Elliott Stern and thank him for his bold school-to-work plan."

Complaints to the Florida Elections Commission in Tallahassee are confidential until an investigation has been completed. The person making the complaint, however, can make it public.

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