SEMINOLE — Even before she became an official candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, Dawn Thompson was accused of violating both state election laws and local building rules.
Thompson, 41, faces a complaint that she spent money on her campaign before appointing a campaign treasurer and opening a bank account for the race. State law requires candidates to have both before spending any money on their races. The charges were filed with the Florida Elections Commission on Sept. 18, five days before she filed to run for the House District 51 seat now occupied by Janet Long, D-Seminole.
Thompson's also in trouble with the city of Seminole, which issued a stop work order against her and her husband, Steven, for failing to get a permit to remove a fiberglass swimming pool and replace it with a concrete pool. A second stop work order was issued because a front door had been replaced without a permit. City officials say the Thompsons have also failed to have required inspections on the pool. The Thompsons own a pool maintenance company that is run out of their Seminole home.
"I'm not ready to grant anyone an interview at this time," Thompson said Tuesday. But she went on to blame the pool issue on contractors who had said no permit was needed. The issue is settled, she said.
Thompson said she was unaware of any issues regarding inspections. No one, she said, had told her that the work had not been inspected.
"I have absolutely no knowledge of this," she said.
As for the state ethics complaint, Thompson conceded she might have broken the law but had done so inadvertently.
"I don't think it's going to be considered a major infraction," she said. "I certainly didn't intend to break any laws."
The ethics complaint was filed by Maurice Wappler, a St. Petersburg resident who makes a hobby of playing "gotcha" with politicians. Wappler closely scrutinizes campaigns of candidates at all levels and all parties to make sure they're sticking to the letter of the law.
His complaint with Thompson is that she distributed fliers and campaign buttons during a Sept. 14 meeting of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee. Wappler charged that spending the money for these before Thompson filed her candidacy on Sept. 28 violated the law.
Thompson said she had both a treasurer and a bank account before Sept. 14 but was waiting to file until the end of the quarter. She denied spending money on either the fliers or the buttons, saying the fliers were printed on paper she already had and the buttons will not be paid for until this month.
"It's kind of a logistical issue," she said. "It's not to the letter of the law."
Thompson also addressed another issue: One of her trucks has a Massachusetts tag even though she has lived in Florida for more than a year. Florida law requires vehicle registrations and tags to be transferred within 10 days of becoming a state resident.
Thompson said the truck has not been here for a year, but she was unsure how long it has been in the state. Her husband, she said, went back to Massachusetts and moved it here.
Thompson is not a newcomer to politics. She unsuccessfully ran for state senate in Massachusetts in 2004. She and her husband moved to Florida more than a year ago and opened a pool maintenance company. They bought a house in Seminole this year.
House District 51 stretches down the western side of Pinellas County from Largo to South Pasadena and includes Seminole and parts of Pinellas Park and the unincorporated Lealman area. Republican Larry Ahern, a pool remodeling business owner from St. Petersburg has also filed to run for the seat. The election is November 2010.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.