Political opponent says Leslie Waters should resign from Seminole council

Tom Christy says she has broken state election and ethics laws. She says that's ridiculous.
Published January 14 2012
Updated January 14 2012

SEMINOLE — City Council candidate Tom Christy has called for incumbent Leslie Waters to resign because, he says, she has broken state election and ethics laws.

The alleged violation happened last summer when Waters, who is running for re-election, was a candidate for the state Senate. The Seminole city clerk emailed copies of a flier for a fundraiser Waters had on July 14 to the other City Council members and City Manager Frank Edmunds.

That, said Christy, violates laws barring candidates from using government equipment for personal or political reasons. In this case, he said, Waters used the clerk's time and city equipment while on city property (City Hall) to send out the flier, which advertised a fundraiser sponsored by Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson and council members Jim Quinn, Bob Matthews and Thom Barnhorn.

When he heard about the flier distribution, Christy said, he "cringed a little."

"I was taken back. I knew right away that something wasn't right there," he said. "When I heard about it, I said immediately, 'No, that can't be right.'

"We're talking about a career politician that's been around. She should have known better. … I think she should step down."

Waters said Christy's call for her to resign is "uncalled for, disrespectful, … ridiculous. … This is just being petty."

Waters said she had no idea the flier had been sent out until she got her copy. Seminole, she said, traditionally sends out fliers and other notices as a way to keep council members and Edmunds informed about community happenings.

Edmunds said he believes the flier came into City Hall as part of a monthly mailing from the Seminole Chamber of Commerce. It was scanned into the computer system and sent along with other items from the chamber.

He agreed that the city sends out copies of political fliers to the council. During the holidays, notices of open houses held by state representatives Larry Ahern and Jim Frishe were also emailed to the council.

"If it's political in nature, we just send it to the elected officials (so that) we've made them aware of whatever the event is," Edmunds said.

But Christy said that's no excuse.

"I'm not going to blame it on the city. That's too easy," Christy said.

Waters, 64, is a former state representative who left office because of term limits. She was elected to the Seminole council in 2009. Last year, she announced she would run against fellow Republican Frishe for the state Senate seat now held by Dennis Jones, R-Seminole. She raised about $31,000 for that campaign. Last month, she withdrew from that race and announced she would run for re-election to the City Council.

Waters said she has followed state law regarding the money she raised while running for the Senate by offering to return a prorated amount to contributors. Thus far, she said, no Seminole contributors have asked for their money back.

But Christy, 60, said he is unhappy with that solution.

"We can't compete with that," he said of local candidates, who generally don't raise much money. Every dollar should go back to contributors, he said. A career politician could manipulate the system by deliberately running for one office, collecting a lot of money and then switching to a smaller race, he said.

The election for the Seminole City Council is March 13. Five candidates are running for the two open seats. They are Waters, Christy, incumbent Patricia Plantamura, Christopher Burke and Sheryl Goff. Christy and Burke have run before. Goff is a political newcomer.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Also In This Section