BROOKSVILLE — The head of the Republican Party in Hernando County is asking Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams to issue a retraction and correct recent statements she made in defending an employee over allegations that the employee violated state election laws.
In a news release Friday, party chairman Blaise Ingoglia said Williams was wrong when she said that Democratic supervisor of elections candidate and elections office employee Elizabeth Townsend did not violate state statutes by parking her campaign-adorned vehicle next to the Forest Oaks elections office last month while early voting was taking place.
"It is troubling that the people we are trusting to ensure a clean and smooth election process are having such a challenging time following a common sense law," Ingoglia said in the release.
Ingoglia was referring to allegations made last month by Townsend's Republican opponent, Shirley Anderson, that Townsend's car was seen parked closer to the office's door than the 100-foot setback provided in state law.
Ingoglia said that his belief is based on an email sent Sept. 4 to his father, Andrew Ingoglia, a campaign volunteer for Anderson, by Gary Holland, assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of State.
Answering an inquiry from Andrew Ingoglia, Holland said that parking a vehicle with campaign signs within the setback was improper, even if Townsend's name wasn't on the ballot in the primary election.
Holland wrote: "If it was allowed in a primary just because a candidate was not on the general election ballot it would become unruly as all general election candidates would want to solicit within the zone during the primary."
Holland also noted that his opinion was for reference only.
Williams said on Aug. 30 that she felt Townsend was not in violation of the law because she was not a candidate on the primary ballot and that Townsend uses her vehicle to drive to and from work.
Under statutes, that is not considered "participating in a political campaign for an elected office while on duty," Williams said.
The incident came to light shortly after Anderson was notified by Williams that she had violated a state election statute when she entered a polling place during the Aug. 14 primary to inquire about the day's vote count.
Anderson later notified Williams that her opponent had also violated state election rules and sent photos of Townsend's car that she said were taken Aug. 4, the day early voting began.
Townsend, who works as operations director for the elections office, said last week that now that she is on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, she won't park her vehicle in her reserved spot during early voting or on Election Day.
"It is troublesome how Ms. Williams is quick to point out when others make mistakes, but when a candidate in her own political party makes a mistake she offers bizarre interpretations of existing law to cover for them," Ingoglia said in his release.
Williams did not return phone calls Friday from the Times.
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.