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Records dispute campaign funds claim in Pasco County Commission race

Pasco County Commission candidate Henry Wilson has filed a complaint against incumbent Michael Cox, accusing the Democrat of violating campaign finance law by taking more than the $500 limit from a number of contributors.

But a St. Petersburg Times review of Wilson's complaint found his documentation does not match up with the official fundraising reports from the Pasco Supervisor of Elections Office.

The official reports show Cox's campaign complied with state law, which allows contributors to give $500 before the Aug. 24 primary and then another $500 before the Nov. 2 general election.

Cox said his Republican opponent has "manufactured" numbers as a last-minute political ploy.

"It would seem to me that if you're going to file a complaint against someone you ought to get your facts straight," said Cox. "He owes me an apology. If he doesn't give me one soon, I'm going to file a suit for defamation of character."

Wilson said Tuesday night he would check his facts again but insisted he'd gotten the information from the Supervisor of Elections website. "If I'm wrong, then an apology will be given to him," Wilson said.

Wilson's complaint, lodged with the Florida Elections Commission last week and provided to the Times, includes a spreadsheet of Cox's contributors, with about 15 of them flagged.

One of them is Cox's mother, Naomi. Wilson's spreadsheet says Mrs. Cox gave her son $500 in September 2009 and another $500 in March 2010.

That would be a violation of the maximum limits for the Aug. 24 primary — if the dates were correct.

According to the official record, Mrs. Cox gave $500 in March 2010 — for the primary — and $500 in September 2010 for the general election.

"Now Henry is picking on my mother," Cox said.

Wilson's report has a number of similar errors.

His complaint says Tampa-based Metro Development, for instance, gave $500 in September 2009 and March 2010, which would have been a violation of limits for the Aug. 24 primary. But official reports show the developer actually gave $500 in February 2010 for the primary and $500 in September 2010 for the general.

Wilson said he got all his figures from the Supervisor of Elections website about a month ago. "I have no explanation," he said. "I have not fabricated this. This is information I pulled from the website."

Wilson said he was aware that a single contributor could give Cox $500 before the primary and another $500 before the general. But the spreadsheet he sent to the state commission flagged even those contributors that he agreed had given once for the primary and once for the general. Wilson said he talked with some other Republicans but had not consulted any of them before putting together his complaint.

Wilson's complaint did raise questions about one contributor, Wilson Abreu, who is listed as having given $300 twice on the same day in December 2009. Cox said the double listing was a clerical error.

Cox said Wilson's mistakes showed he's not up for the job. "He didn't take the time to verify anything," Cox said.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Records dispute campaign funds claim in Pasco County Commission race 10/19/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 4:41pm]
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