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Polk Commission candidate accused of falsifying voter documents

Candidate Martin Grenfell will drop out of the race after his arrest, according to his attorney.

LAKELAND — Polk County Commission candidate Martin Grenfell, who was arrested Wednesday on allegations he falsified sworn information on his voting documents by stating he was eligible to hold office, is withdrawing from the election, his lawyer said Thursday.

Lakeland lawyer Tony Dodds said Grenfell, a convicted felon, had decided to withdraw before Polk County sheriff’s deputies took him into custody at the post office in Highland City.

“He was there to buy stamps so he could mail in his resignation, saying he was withdrawing from the race, " Dodds said Thursday.

He said Grenfell didn’t mail the letter before he was taken into custody, but was mailing it Thursday.

Polk County Commission candidate Martin Grenfell was arrested Wednesday on allegations he falsified sworn information on his voting documents by stating he was eligible to hold office, according to Polk deputies. [ Polk County Sheriff's Office ]

At a press conference Wednesday night, Sheriff Grady Judd said he had initiated an investigation after reading about the problems with Grenfell’s candidacy in The Ledger. That led detectives to the candidate oath that he signed last month when he qualified to run for the Polk County Commission. In it, Grenfell swore to uphold the state Constitution, which includes the prohibition against felons holding office.

“If anyone in the future decides he wants to run for public office,” Judd said, “it would be a good idea if he’s not a convicted felon.”

Last week, the county filed a lawsuit against Grenfell, 56, challenging his eligibility to hold public office on grounds he had been convicted of a felony in federal court in 2013 and had not had his civil rights restored.

An investigation by The Ledger revealed that he had signed a voter registration in June changing his political affiliation from Republican to no party affiliation, and he had checked the box affirming that he had not been convicted or adjudicated guilty of a felony. In signing that document, he took an oath that the information he had provided was true.

In his documents to qualify to challenge incumbent George Lindsey for the District 1 seat on the Polk County Commission, he attested with his signature that he would uphold the laws of the state and federal constitutions.

The lawsuit also named Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards, seeking an injunction to remove Grenfell’s name from the November election ballot. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 19.

Judd said deputies spent two days looking for Grenfell, who wasn’t at the address listed on his election documents. They traced him to Highland City, where they arrested him Wednesday.

Grenfell is charged with false swearing with regard to voting, a third-degree felony. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

He and several others were arrested on federal charges of trafficking in counterfeit labels stemming from the bulk purchases of counterfeit DVD movies from a China-based company, U.S. District Court records show. Prosecutors alleged they had relabeled the DVDs before selling them. Grenfell pleaded guilty to the federal charge and was sentenced to three years’ probation.

Under Florida law, convicted felons are barred from holding public office unless the state’s Executive Clemency Board has restored their civil rights. According to that office, there is no record that Grenfell’s rights have been restored.

Grenfell was booked into the Polk County Jail and released early Thursday after posting $1,000 bail.

Ledger reporter Kevin Bouffard contributed to this report.