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What's wrong with these signs?

'Gotcha' guy strikes in Pinellas Park

Maurice Wappler has a novel hobby — playing "gotcha" with politicians.

Wappler's good at the game, which involves close — very close — scrutiny of campaign literature, signs and financial declaration forms for things he believes violate the Florida Election Code.

When he finds something, he documents it, fills out a form and ships the package to the state Elections Commission. Among his successes, he says, are a complaint that cost Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, $500 and another that prompted the Vinoy to pony up $200.

Now Wappler's turned his attention to the Pinellas Park city elections.

And he says he's found plenty of violations. "Oh, it was all of Pinellas Park," Wappler said Monday.

He's reported five Pinellas Park candidates to the state Elections Commission, which told him it is investigating. The commission will not confirm or deny investigations until they are complete.

Those five are Mayor Bill Mischler and council candidates Mary Brennan, Patricia Johnson, Eddie Kosinski, and Jerry Mullins.

Mischler is running for re-election against Janice Macumber. Brennan, a former state representative, Johnson, Kosinski and Mullins are running for Seat 4 on the council. Also in that race are Patricia Macfarlane and Randy Heine.

The types of violations run the gamut from not having signatures on financial declaration forms, to accepting a contribution that exceeds the legal cap, to planting campaign signs missing a word.

Some of the alleged violations are misdemeanors. Others look a lot like nitpicking.

To Wappler, who says he began his hobby because he doesn't like politicians, all of the alleged violations are important, no matter how minor they might appear.

"When the candidates are running for office and they don't even follow the election laws, why would you vote for them?" he asked. "What's funny is, most of these people are lawyers."

He does not discriminate because of party affiliation or level of office. He's waiting for an Elections Commission decision about charges he's brought against Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg. And he unsuccessfully pursued charges against Gov. Charlie Crist and County Commissioner John Morroni, both Republicans.

"I'll bust anybody, I don't care," said Wappler, a St. Petersburg resident.

It's doubtful that Wappler, who declined to be photographed, has influenced the outcome of many campaigns. But that doesn't matter. He gets his satisfaction in other ways.

"It's neat to get them fined," Wappler said.

Here's a summary of the violations Wappler said he's found among Pinellas Park candidates:

Mischler: Two allegations that the mayor failed to list the occupation or business of donors on his financial reports. One allegation that he failed to list both the occupation and type of contribution on a financial report.

"I don't believe this,'' Mischler said. ''One thing I try to do is stay aboveboard. I just don't believe it. This is the first I've heard about it. I will definitely be in touch with my campaign treasurer. This was shocking to me."

Mischler said if he has done something wrong, he will correct it. He apologized for any mistake that might have been made.

Johnson: One allegation that she failed to list a contributor's occupation or type of business on a financial report. Two accusations that she failed to list her political party on her signs.

"Because it is a nonpartisan race, I didn't list my political affiliation. I'm very proud of my political affiliation, but that has nothing to do with this race," Johnson said. Johnson said she's always been willing to disclose the occupation or type of business of any contributors.

"I'm just shocked way beyond belief," she said. "There is nothing I have done that was intentionally bad."

Brennan: Three accusations that she failed to state her political affiliation on her campaign paraphernalia. One allegation that she accepted a cash donation that exceeded the $50 cap for such donations. One charge that she failed to list the occupation of a donor on a financial report.

Brennan did not return a phone message asking for comment.

Mullins: Four allegations that his treasurer's reports did not bear the signature of his campaign treasurer or deputy treasurer. Two charges that Mullins' campaign signs do not have the word "for" between his name and the words "City Council," as Wappler says is required by state law. One accusation that Mullins did not list his profession when reporting a $9,000 contribution to himself.

Mullins said he's acting as his own treasurer and that he believes he has properly signed all documents. Mullins said he never contributed to himself, but gave himself loans. He said everyone knows his profession. He conceded he does not have the word "for" at the top of his campaign signs but said it is elsewhere on them.

Mullins said he has tried to do everything correctly, but if he has made mistakes, he was sorry.

Kosinski: Three allegations that he received cash donations that were larger than $50 each. State law limits cash or cashier check donations to $50 each. One charge that Kosinski's signs do not have the word "for" between his name and the office. One charge that Kosinski's signs have "pol. adv. PD for" rather than writing out "political advertising paid," as required by law.

Kosinski said he has already corrected the issue about cash donations. As for the signs, Kosinski said he believes his are okay according to a book candidates were given when they signed up to run.

"Tell Maurice Wappler to mind his own business," Kosinski said. "He should make sure he's so God almighty perfect."

Wappler does not live in Pinellas Park and has no standing to make comments, Kosinski said. "If you live in Pinellas Park, you have all the right to talk," he said.

'Gotcha' guy strikes in Pinellas Park 03/04/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 4, 2008 5:57pm]
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