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New Pasco County commissioner accused of faking his residency

Commissioner Seth Weightman says he and his family moved into his commission district on Jan. 20, more than two months after the general election.
 
Seth Weightman is a Pasco County commissioner.
Seth Weightman is a Pasco County commissioner. [ Seth Weightman ]
Published Feb. 28|Updated Feb. 28

Seth Weightman was accused of not living in his Pasco County Commission district as he campaigned for the seat as part of a complaint to state elections officials.

Three months into his first term, Weightman remains a target of recurring social media claims that he still doesn’t live there.

Weightman, a Republican, told the Tampa Bay Times recently that it was always his intention to move with his family into his Pasco County district if elected there, as required of county commissioners by state law. But he did not initially live there full time, he acknowledged in the interview.

He bought a mobile home on acreage in San Antonio, within the south-central Pasco District 2 boundaries, Sept. 23, according to public records. He said he slept there for the first time Oct. 30.

But Weightman said he didn’t stay long. After a trip to a family event in Texas a couple of days after he moved in, he said he returned to a broken well water system at the new home. Without water for bathing or drinking, he said he couldn’t have his wife and two young children living there until it was fixed.

At that point, Weightman said he returned to the Dade City house outside of his commission district that he has owned with his wife since 2016.

He said the family finally did move into his commission district, on rural Rice Road, on Jan. 20, more than two months after the general election. He said he plans to keep the Dade City house so he and his wife can work their private-sector jobs remotely from there.

In addition to his commission job, Weightman is the municipal services director for Republic Services, a waste disposal business, and his wife Jessica is president of an environmental contractor, Bio-Mass Tech Inc.

The family also continues to use the Dade City home when they needs to do laundry, he said, so as not to put stress on the well on Rice Road.

“Rice Road is our home,” he said. “We haven’t violated any rules.”

As the campaigns for two available commission seats heated up in the middle of last year, vocal residents made the county’s unchecked growth a central issue in both races. The losing candidates for each seat made reining it in a major differentiating point.

But as the campaigns continued, a new issue arose.

Write-in candidates filed for both seats. And since no Democrats or other party-affiliated candidates had qualified as candidates, under state law only Republicans could vote in the primary. That kept nearly 60% of Pasco’s registered voters from casting ballots.

Lisa Moretti, a community activist, formed the Pasco Communities Network to shed a light on development concerns. The network filed a complaint alleging election fraud with the Florida Department of State on Aug. 29, arguing the write-in candidates filed simply to disenfranchise voters not registered as Republicans.

The complaint also said that neither Weightman nor the write-in candidate in his race was living in the district. At a political forum where Weightman appeared, Moretti asked him about his residency and she said his answer was that he was “working on it.”

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“We have found that in our two commission races, fake candidates have filed to run so as to trigger a closed primary and shut out over 237,000 registered voters from voting for whom they believe is the best candidate to represent them on the Board of County Commissioners,” the complaint said. “Neither candidate raised any monies during the race nor received any vote according to the Supervisor of Elections website.”

In fact, the write-in who signed on to challenge Weightman, Louie Rodriguez, withdrew from the race four days after the complaint was filed, securing his victory.

Moretti told the Times that the write-in candidate’s withdrawal days after the primary was effectively the date Weightman was elected. She said he should have been living in the district two months before even he says he tried to move into the San Antonio home.

“Everything about this is simply unacceptable,” she said.

Weightman said earlier this month he was unaware of the complaint. Moretti said six months later she has received no response from the state. Weightman had no comment on the write-in candidate.

Weightman said that his family has been in Pasco County for generations and he intends to represent the residents of the county and District 2.

“That’s my contract with the folks that elected me,” he said. “I take that job very seriously.”

Mark Ard, the external affairs director for the Department of State, said that complaints about local elections are usually handled by local elections supervisors. When asked whether this complaint went through the Office of Elections Crimes and Security, which was established last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, he said that all complaints alleging elections fraud go through that office.

Ard also said after reviewing the complaint, the Department of State forwarded it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. A spokesperson for the agency told the Times it had “received a complaint and it is under review.”

Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said investigations alleging residency complaints or fraud are not handled by his office. He is the administrator of elections, he said, “and that’s where my authority ends.”

Weightman and his wife bought their 2,862-square-foot home on Fairfield Lane in Dade City for $270,000. The three-bath brick house sits on a 1.2-acre site at the back of a tree-shaded cul-de-sac just south of downtown Dade City. The current market value is $401,091, according to the Pasco property appraiser’s office.

Water bills for the home show water use there has remained constant or has increased since last summer through Jan. 23, the most recent time period Pasco County public records were available. The last billing period closed three days after Weightman says he moved into the San Antonio mobile home.

The Rice Road home is 1,296 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms on 1.3 acres of land purchased for $290,000. The property, south of State Road 52 and west of Old Pasco Road, has a market value of $103,334, according to the appraiser’s office.

Weightman said that shortly after buying the Rice Road property, he changed over utilities, his voter registration, his vehicle registrations and his homestead exemption. He shared copies of the homestead exemption change.

Still, social media posts and emails to the Times have continued to accuse him of violating the law. They show time-stamped photos morning and evening of his family’s vehicles at the Dade City house, a shot of the Christmas display at that house and other photos on Rice Road without vehicles.

On a recent workday, a Times editor visited the Rice Road property. There were no vehicles parked there and metal chains with locks across two openings in a wooden fence barred access to the home.

The day after Weightman was sworn in as the new District 2 commissioner, Moretti wrote on the Pasco Communities Network page, “Does anyone else find it disturbing that Seth raised his right hand to be sworn in yesterday but still doesn’t live in the district he ran in?”

Christie Zimmer, the Republican who came in second to Weightman during the August primary, said she wondered if other candidates will figure they don’t have to run in their district.

“Well if he doesn’t have to follow the rules, then nobody else does either,” she said.