Pasco County Commission candidate Henry Wilson Jr. has apologized for filing an inaccurate complaint against Commissioner Michael Cox over campaign contributions.
"As I mentioned to you on the phone, this was not a malicious attack on you or your campaign," Wilson wrote in the letter to Cox, copies of which he also sent to reporters Wednesday. "It is not my nature to say false things about anyone for any reason. All of your contributions have been submitted legally and all contributions are legitimate."
Wilson, who is challenging Cox for a seat on the commission, filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission last week, alleging that a number of Cox's contributors had exceeded the $500 maximum limits for either the Aug. 24 primary or the Nov. 2 election.
State law considers primaries and general elections to be separate cycles for fundraising purposes. So a contributor who gives $500 in the primary can also give $500 in the general.
But Wilson's report used contribution dates that did not match the official record available on the Pasco Supervisor of Elections Office website. Those incorrect dates suggested that more than a dozen contributors — from well-heeled developers to Cox's own mother — had exceeded the $500 maximums for the primary and for the general election.
After reporters questioned his figures Tuesday, Wilson agreed to review his documentation.
In his written apology, he said he had copied and pasted donors' names from the elections website into a spreadsheet. "Apparently when I sorted the information the dates on your legitimate contributions became an error," he wrote. He said he sorted the numbers twice, then asked other people to look at his information.
"Due to the fact that they were looking at the same spreadsheet, they came to the same conclusion," Wilson said.
Cox said Wednesday that Wilson had called him Tuesday night to apologize. He said he accepted the apology.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's closed," Cox said, although he added, "It's a very good indication to the public that he doesn't do good research."
Wilson, an administrator for a health care company in Tampa, is making his first bid for public office. The Republican hasn't had an easy time of it, raising only $8,460. By contrast, Cox, the Democratic incumbent, has raked in $138,790.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.