BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson, 71, was arrested Thursday by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office on multiple prostitution-related charges.
Nicholson was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center on one count of operating a location for the purpose of lewdness, assignation or prostitution and two counts of purchasing services from a person engaged in prostitution, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The charges stem from a February incident when deputies were called to Nicholson's Spring Hill home after a couple living with him got into a dispute. Kendel Surette, 33, and Valerie Surette, 30, were arguing, and he threw a screwdriver that struck her, according to reports. Kendel Surette was charged with domestic battery, but the prosecutor declined to follow through with the charge, according to court records.
Kendel Surette told deputies that Nicholson housed and fed the couple, who had been there about six months, in exchange for letting Nicholson have sex with his wife on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the report said. On Tuesdays, Nicholson paid the Surettes $100 and on Saturdays, $200, for sex with Valerie Surette, the husband told deputies.
In addition, Kendel Surette said Nicholson allowed his wife's other clients to come to the house for sex, the report said. She normally had sex with them on a mattress in the garage or in a car in the driveway, he said.
Thursday's arrest report indicated that Nicholson also paid for sex with another woman, Melinda Baker. No further information could be released because the case is still open, said sheriff's spokeswoman Denise Moloney. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also took part in the investigation.
Nicholson was arrested midday at his office, Nicholson Engineering Associates in Brooksville, the report said. Bail for him was set at $3,000, and he bailed out shortly afterward.
Nicholson did not respond to a phone call Thursday seeking comments on his arrest.
On the night of the incident, a marijuana "grinder" and butt of a marijuana cigarette were on Nicholson's dining room table, in a common area, according to a deputy.
Nicholson's eyes were red and glassy, deputies said, and his speech was slurred, "giving the appearance that he was under the influence of an unknown substance."
Nicholson was wearing gray sweat pants with a hole in the front, exposing himself to deputies, they said. At their request, he changed into a different pair of pants.
Nicholson said in February that he met Valerie Surette at Icon Gentlemen's Club in Pasco County. She was a stripper there. Nicholson said the couple moved into his home on Tiburon Avenue in April or May of 2017.
In February, Nicholson denied having a sexual relationship with Valerie Surette.
"She keeps me company,'' he said then. "I'm just a nice guy, so they just took advantage of me.''
All the charges against Nicholson are second-degree misdemeanors for a first offense. Each carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail.
Florida law allows the governor to suspend an elected official through an executive order for a variety of reasons, including malfeasance, misfeasance, drunkenness and incompetence.
"Governor Scott expects all elected officials to behave ethically and responsibility. Our office is aware of this and reviewing the details,'' said McKinley Lewis from the governor's media office.
"As a county commissioner and a voter, I am deeply concerned about the behavior and recent arrest of Nick Nicholson,'' said John Allocco. Calls to other Hernando County commissioners were not immediately returned.
This is the second troublesome stripper-related incident for Nicholson.
In 2015, an FDLE report surfaced about a relationship Nicholson had with Kimberly Losurdo before his first election in 2012. Losurdo was a stripper with Calendar Girls in Pasco County.
In a case that brought national attention, she was found guilty of child neglect with great bodily harm after a child in her charge ingested her crack cocaine and became ill. The report indicated Nicholson had sex with Losurdo, gave her money and food, and drove her around to "pay bills."
She was buying drugs on those trips, investigators found.
Nicholson apologized then for his bad judgment. He was not charged and did not bow to pressure to resign, winning re-election in 2016.
"As the chairman of the Hernando County Republican Party, we have had concerns about his behavior for years going as far as passing a 2015 resolution asking him to resign and not run for re-election," Allocco said. "I wish that he would have taken our advice and used his time as an opportunity to straighten his life out.''