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Platt's campaign is under fire

The man trying to defeat three-term Democratic County Commissioner Jan Platt turned up the heat this week, criticizing what he said were improprieties in Platt's campaign practices. Republican Al Sinicrope, who faces Platt for the District 5 seat, questioned on Tuesday whether a letter sent to members of the Sierra Club announcing the group's endorsement of Platt carried the proper political disclaimer. Platt's campaign paid for the mailing, the club said.

In addition, Sinicrope and Brandon business leader Mark Proctor said Platt improperly used Proctor's name and picture in a campaign ad.

Platt had arranged a campaign photo of her surrounded by her many supporters. The Greater Tampa Association of Realtors, whose president is Proctor, was one of the organizations that endorsed Platt in her primary contest.

Proctor agreed to appear in the photo as a representative of the association. But he said he made it clear to Platt that he wanted to be listed as representing the Realtors, because he is active with other groups that don't support Platt or never endorse candidates.

When the ad ran in newspapers this weekend, however, it listed only Proctor's name and not who he represents, along with 21 other residents, civic activists and environmentalists who support Platt.

Proctor, who is active in the local Republican Party, personally is supporting Sinicrope. Proctor said Sinicrope also was endorsed by the Realtors association, although the group did not withdraw its earlier endorsement of Platt.

"It looked like I was personally pushing one over the other," he said. "Now I've gotten several phone calls from people who are upset because I was supporting her."

Platt said she didn't recall Proctor's request. Sandy Frye, who directs publicity for Platt's campaign, said Proctor signed the same release as other participants and didn't write in any stipulations.

"I think since he's expressed a concern, in any future ads we'd be delighted to include that," Platt said.

As for the Sierra Club issue, Sinicrope said a letter mailed to 1,500 members on the environmental group's endorsement of Platt should have carried a disclaimer that it was paid political advertising.

Sierra Club chairwoman Sharon Berube said Platt's campaign paid for the mailing because the group is not allowed to use its general revenue for political purposes.

After Berube requested, county elections officials asked for an informal opinion on the matter Tuesday from state officials, who said that the law allows exemptions from disclaimers for newsletters.

Berube said the mailing would fall under the heading of a newsletter because it was written by her regarding club business and sent only to club members.

But Chuck Smith, the county's elections operations manager, said the state indicated that a newsletter was something paid for by the organization.

Berube acknowledged that because Platt paid for the mailing, as did commission candidate Ed Turanchik for his endorsement letter earlier this year, "it kind of falls in a gray area."

"This seems to me to be very silly. Everybody knows Jan," Berube said, adding that Platt had a reputation for scrupulously following the rules.

"If you want to stay within the law," Sinicrope said, "let's put the disclaimers on things."

Platt said she needed to check with her campaign treasurer, William Platt, her husband, who was out of town Tuesday, to clarify details on the newsletter.