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Hernando elections office employee accuses commissioner of racial epithet, harassment

BROOKSVILLE — A Hernando elections office worker has accused county Commissioner Jeff Stabins of using a racial epithet, the latest in what the staffer says has been a pattern of verbal harassment by the commissioner.

Reached Tuesday by the Times, Stabins adamantly denied the accusations, calling them "an outrageous pack of lies."

Tekova Castillo, an elections specialist, wrote in a memo to Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams that Stabins came into the elections office on Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill on Friday morning and said: "Shirley Anderson would win the election and I would be out of job and what I thought about the job of being a Ditch Digging n-----."

Castillo, who is black, alleges that Stabins repeated the comment a second time. Shirley Anderson is a Republican candidate for the supervisor's post, up for grabs this year because Williams is retiring.

Stabins has visited the office multiple times since February and referenced Anderson, Castillo wrote.

"His statement was 'Shirley is going to clean house because she is a mean b---- ... , " Castillo wrote. "Mr. Stabins had made it a weekly habit of verbally antagonizing me on a monthly basis, and during the latter part of April and early May he came into the Elections Office and made a statement referring to me as a monkey."

Castillo said that Stabins made the comments Friday in the presence of elections office staffer Cookie Ruiz and county maintenance technician Dan Oliver.

Castillo wrote that he tried to file a complaint with the Sheriff's Office. A deputy did not take a report, he said, but gave him "a card with a case number."

A Hernando Sheriff's Office spokesman confirmed there is no written report; he said the Times would need to provide a case number to confirm Castillo's meeting with a deputy.

Williams said employees are not allowed to comment to reporters during work hours. A Times reporter asked Castillo on Tuesday afternoon to call after he left the office, but he did not do so.

Stabins, who keeps an office in the Forest Oaks building, said he has had what he thought were friendly conversations with Castillo almost daily for months.

"He clearly has some sort of separate agenda," Stabins said. "This to me is the work of a desperate liar. It's slander to the nth degree."

Stabins said he, Oliver, Castillo and Ruiz were talking when Oliver made a comment about preferring to dig ditches over filling out paperwork. Stabins said he then asked Castillo how he would feel about being a ditch digger.

Oliver corroborated that account in an interview with the Times on Tuesday.

"Jeff's exact words were, 'How would you like to go out and be a ditch digger?' " Oliver said. "God strike me dead, that (epithet) wasn't said, and I don't know why Tekova would do that. I've known Jeff for a long time, and that would not happen."

Stabins said he has, in conversations with Castillo, referenced Anderson and her chances of winning, but he does not recall calling her a "mean b----."

He does concede the possibility of one accuracy in Castillo's memo: that he called elections office operations director Elizabeth Townsend "an idiot who can't count from one to thirty-nine."

Stabins acknowledged he might have made that comment as a criticism of the office's recent effort to consolidate voting precincts.

Williams said Tuesday she has directed staffers to notify her or Townsend if Stabins comes in to do business so they can work with him directly. The matter, she said, is settled as far as her professional involvement is concerned, and any legal action Castillo might take is up to him.

Stabins announced earlier this month that he would not seek a third term on the commission. He had made the same announcement in April of last year, but later changed his mind.

Castillo has been in the news in recent months after his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Brenda Colondres, was arrested on a charge of housing fraud.

Brooksville police allege that Colondres falsified her subsidized housing application, in large part by not notifying housing officials that Castillo lived with her at Hillside Estates in Brooksville.

Castillo, who has a child with Colondres, initially told police he lived there, then recanted his statement.

The case against Colondres is still pending, records show.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com.

Hernando elections office employee accuses commissioner of racial epithet, harassment 05/29/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 2:49pm]
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