Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Seminole council member returns campaign contribution after dispute

SEMINOLE — Time was, this city and its council were known for a lack of controversy.

Not anymore. A disagreement over the method of selecting a new council member has sparked a tiff that started with hurt feelings and seems to have progressed to a former state legislator's penning a snarky message and spurning a campaign contribution.

"Thanks anyway. Remit of '09 campaign contribution. Regret accepting it … pleased to be returning it," wrote Leslie Waters on the bottom of a check to fellow Seminole City Council member Dan Hester.

Republican Waters was the District 51 representative in the state Legislature from 1998 until she termed out in 2006. Her last two years there, she was speaker pro tem.

Hester had contributed $100 to Waters' successful campaign for council. Waters returned the entire amount.

Waters insisted Friday that her decision to return Hester's contribution had nothing to do with their disagreement over the selection of a new council member. Her decision was instead the result of a long-standing discomfort with accepting money from a colleague. Her regret, she said, began when Hester first contributed the money, because she felt it might cause an awkward situation but thought it would have been "tacky and disrespectful" to return it. Since the election, Waters said she has felt increasingly uncomfortable and finally decided to give it back. But because she had closed her campaign account, she wrote the check from her personal account."

"It was not a new regret at all," Waters said. "I'm out personal money."

Hester said Friday that Waters actually solicited the money from him by personally handing him an envelope and asking for funds. He said that he found it suspicious that Waters would wait this long after the election to return it if she felt so uncomfortable.

"But I'll take her word for it that she was concerned about a conflict," Hester said.

Hester said he has given the money to Catholic Charities.

The dispute began earlier this month after Patricia Hartstein resigned from the council. Seminole's rules say that council members must choose a replacement but fail to set out a method for doing so. And the methods have varied throughout the years, ranging from advertising for applicants to drawing straws, Hester said.

This time, the majority of the council wanted the person who was the first runner-up in the March 10 election, former council member Tom Barnhorn. They cited his experience and the fact that he was the next choice of voters.

But Hester and Patricia Plantamura saw it differently. They saw Barnhorn as someone who had been voted out of office. They advocated advertising the position to give others a chance to participate in Seminole's government. And, in any case, Hester said, the method should be set in stone and not changed willy-nilly to allow the council to pick a favored person.

"It just to me smells of very bad backroom politics," Hester said then. "It just reeks of bad backroom, smoky room politics."

No one commented during the meeting, but afterward, Waters and Mayor Jimmy Johnson said they were offended by Hester's comments.

"I never heard of such a thing," Johnson said.

Waters agreed: "I found the backroom politics comment insulting."

The next morning, Waters wrote the check returning Hester's campaign contribution.

Seminole council member returns campaign contribution after dispute 05/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 16, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. State rolls out food assistance program for residents affected by Hurricane Irma

    Hurricanes

    Help is on the way for Florida residents struggling to put food on the table after Hurricane Irma.

    The Salvation Army Mobile Food Pantry hlped out with free food in Largo after Hurricane Irma. Now, the federal government is expanding access to food for people affected by the storm. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  2. Kriseman proclaims Buy Local week in St. Pete to quicken storm recovery

    Blogs

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has proclaimed next week to be "'Burg Buy Local Week" in an appeal to residents to help small businesses struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman wants St. Pete residents to help small businesses recover from Hurricane Irma
  3. Only one Hernando County school needs schedule adjustment after Irma

    Blogs

    Hernando County public school students missed seven days of classes because of Hurricane Irma.

    Challenger K-8 School served as a Hernando County shelter during Hurricane Irma. Students returned to classes Monday, and won't need to make up any missed time.
  4. Editorial: Ready to put Irma behind? Maybe it's time to get ready, instead

    Editorials

    One can only marvel now, looking back at the radar image of Hurricane Irma whirling and jerking north between Tampa and Orlando and leaving two of Florida's major population centers with only scattered damage from its high winds.

    A hand-painted sign signals a West Tampa homeowner's resolve as Hurricane Irma approached the Tampa Bay Area on Sept. 10. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA   |   Times]
  5. Investigation launched into HHS Secretary Tom Price's travel on charter jets

    Nation

    Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will face an inspector general's investigation into his reported use of chartered jets for at least two dozen flights in recent months at taxpayer expense.

    Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will face an inspector general's investigation into his reported use of chartered jets for at least two dozen flights in recent months at taxpayer expense. A spokeswoman for HHS Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson told The Washington Post on Friday that the agency will request records of Price's travel and review the justification made by Price and his staff for the trips, which reportedly cost taxpayers a combined $300,000. [Associated Press]