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Elections Supervisors Dispel Election Conspiracies

November 12th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

As the recount for three statewide races enters day three we spoke with representatives from both parties and elections supervisors to try and dispel some of the rumors flying from both sides of the isle.

We’ll start with the claim that tens of thousands of ballots mysteriously appeared after election day.

The rumor was perpetrated by Governor Rick Scott, but elections experts says it’s unfounded.

“These ballots were all delivered properly to the Supervisor of Elections office prior to the 7 pm deadline,” said Fomer Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho.

Some on the left have argued mail ballots undelivered by a post office in Miami-Dade should be counted.

Once again elections supervisors say that’s not the way it works.

“There are any number of ballots that are subject to being voted by mail that don’t get received by the supervisor in time under state law and are not counted,” said President of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, Ron Labasky.

Then there’s the 20 or so invalid ballots in Broward county that were counted after being mixed in with more than 100 legitimate ones.

Republicans including the Attorney General say it suggests fraud, but supervisors say it was a mistake, not malice.

“Human error is a much better reason for a lot of the problems that we’re seeing,” said Sancho.

Two voting rights groups have called on Governor Rick Scott to recuse himself from the elections canvassing commission, which will certify the results, because of his personal involvement in the election, which includes at least 5 lawsuits to date.

Common Cause filed a lawsuit in Federal Court demanding Rick Scott be removed from the Elections Canvasing Commission Monday afternoon after their calls for him to recuse himself went unanswered.

One thing both Republicans and Democrats agree on, is that throughout this election, there are plenty of lessons to be learned.

“Elections aren’t normally this close so there’s a lot of things to look at to tighten up the election law and perhaps make it better,” said Evan Power, Chair of the Republican Party of Leon County.

According to Democratic strategist Steve Schale the fixes revolve around vote by mail.

“Absentee ballot standardization, mail dates for absentee ballots,” said Schale.

Many of those issues will have to be addressed by the courts, the first of which will be heard Wednesday.

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FHCA Honors Aging Veterans

November 12th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

While World War II, Vietnam and Korea are largely confined to the history books for many Americans, aging veterans of each of those wars are still with us.

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents assisted living facilities and nursing homes in the state held a special ceremony for about 20 veterans living under their members care Monday morning.

The event was organized with help from the Florida Veterans Foundation.

“We have many men and women working and residing in our member centers who served in the United States armed forces. Today and everyday FHCA is proud to honor these brave veterans for their service to our country and the scarifies they made for our freedom,” said FHCA Executive Director Emmett Reed.

Veterans honored at the ceremony were served a hot breakfast and presented with a medal from FHCA to thank them for their service.

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Recount Begins, Gillum Rescinds Concession

November 10th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

The State of the Florida has officially ordered machine recounts in the US Senate, Governor’s, Commissioner of agriculture and three Legislative races.

By 2:30 PM the recount was underway in Leon County.

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Gillum rescinded his Tuesday night concession Saturday afternoon.

“I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote,” said Gillum.

Gillum trails his opponent Ron DeSantis by the largest margin in all of the races being recounted.

Ryan Tyson with the Associated Industries of Florida says he doesn’t expect any outcomes to be changed.

“I’ve watched these machine recounts for years in Florida,” said Tyson. “Since we got the optical scan machines there really is very little change that happens.”

DeSantis announced in a YouTube video that he is already organizing a transition team.

“Those results are clear and unambiguous just as they were on Election Night and I am honored by the trust that Floridians have placed in me to serve as your next Governor,” said DeSantis.

The recount is just the beginning of what will be a long and fluid process.

Democratic Strategist Steve Schale says some aspects of the election will have to be decided by courts, but he condemned conspiracy theory rhetoric from both sides.

“If we start throwing around crazy ideas all we do is risk the validity of this election,” said Schale.

The machine recount must be completed by Thursday at 3 pm.

If any races fall below a quarter percent margin a hand recount will be triggered.

The results of which must be submitted within three days and officially certified by November 20th.

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Lawsuits Complicating Looming Florida Recount

November 9th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

Ballots are still being tabulated and the margins for 6 Florida races are still within recount range.

The situation is being complicated by lawsuits from both parties.

Across the state canvasing boards like this one are scrambling to finish counting and report overseas and provisional ballots.

In two counties, Broward and Palm Beach, there are still outstanding early votes and mail ballots.

Democratic Strategist Steve Schale chalks it up to incompetence.

“The way the Broward office has run has been a little sloppy. That doesn’t mean it’s being run nefariously,” said Schale.

But Thursday night Governor Rick Scott fired the first shots in what has become a partisan finger pointing battle.

“No rag-tag group of liberal activists or lawyers from DC will be allowed to steal this election,” said Scott.

Scott is suing Broward and Palm Beach counties in order to gain access to how many ballots remain to be counted.

Scott also called on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate possible voter fraud.

FDLE says it is not currently investigating voter fraud but have offered assistance to the Department of State in the case any credible allegations are raised.

Former Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho says Scott’s call for an investigation is purely political.

“The partisans are out of control. When people are ahead they want to stop the process and then when they’re behind they want to open the process,” said Sancho.

Democrats are hoping to extend the reporting deadline for election results set for noon Saturday.

They’ve filed a Federal Lawsuit against the state.

Regardless of the decision a statewide recount is almost a guarantee.

Federal Judge Robert Hinkle asked the state to respond to Democrats’ lawsuit by Saturday morning.

The judge could order a temporary ruling before the noon deadline.

A hearing has been set for 1PM Wednesday afternoon.

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Six Florida Races Slated for Recounts

November 8th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

The Florida Secretary of State is telling election officials to prepare for a statewide recount.

Six races are within the half percentage margin to trigger an automatic machine recount.

The Governor’s race, US Senate, Commissioner of Agriculture, a state senate seat and two state house races all fall within the half percent margin.

An unknown number of outstanding early voting and vote by mail ballots have yet to be counted in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

If the margins hold through 12 PM Saturday, Elections Supervisors will begin the statewide machine recount process.

“I just recommend that people are patient and trust your supervisors and their staffs are doing their job as best they can,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley.

The machine recount would end at 3 PM November 15th.

If any races are within a quarter percentage point, a hand recount will then be ordered.

If a hand recount is triggered, it would have to be completed by November 18th and results finalized by November 20th.

Political experts are hopeful that any recount, won’t be a repeat of the 2000 Presidential election.

“I’m hoping we learned from that lesson and that we wont have that,” said FSU Political Science Professor, Dr. Carol Weissert. ” I know we have a better voting system. We have better ways of counting now than we had then.”

However, the state is entering uncharted waters.

“This will be the first real statewide recount if we get that far that’s ever occurred,” said Florida State Association of Elections Supervisors President Ron Labasky.

Like Senator Bill Nelson, Andrew Gillum has lawyered up, hiring Barry Richard, who represented President George W. Bush in the 2000 recount.

“Everyone has the right to have their vote counted fairly and accurately and that’s what we’re involved in here,” said Richard.

After the dust clears and results are certified, candidates have ten days to contest the election in court.

It’s a very possible scenario in such tight races with such high stakes.

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League of Women Voters Argues Judicial Nomination Process ‘Tainted’

November 8th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

A lawyer for the League of Women voters told Supreme Court Justices that the process for picking three replacement for the judges was “tainted” by political considerations.

The League wants the process stopped until a new Governor is allowed input.

Controversial decisions from the state Supreme are usually decided by at 4-3 margin, but three justices usually on the majority are being forced to retire January 8th.

59 possible replacements are being interviewed, but since all nine people doing the interviewing were appointed by Governor Rick Scott, the League of Women voters calls the it, “The result of a tainted process”.

The League wants more applications, accepted, arguing the current applicants were ideologically vetted.

“They have members who want to apply, but wouldn’t apply when it looked like Governor Scott was making it,” said Attorney John Mills representing the League.

The lawyer for the nominating commission says there is nothing for the court to decide.

“I think this is much to do about nothing. I’m still struggling to find out what we did wrong,” said the Commission’s attorney, Raoul Cantero.

One retiring justice was skeptical.

“You’re suggesting that we should allow, just a couple of politicians, to get together and they on their own can decide what they want to do, no matter what the Constitution says,” asked Justice Fred Lewis.

“I’m not suggesting that at all,” Cantero replied.

While the arguments were deep in the woods of public policy and the constitution this case could decide the ideological bent of the court for decades to come.

“And what they want to have is a six one court,” said Mills. “Ideologically tilted when we have an electorate that is about as close to fifty-fifty as you can imagine. That’s wrong.”

We asked nominating chair Jason Under about the allegations.

“I have no comment, but it was an interesting argument,” said Unger.

Under current law, the next Governor must select nominees for the court from a list provided by the commission appointed by Rick Scott.

Ironically, because voters changed the rules for retiring justices when they approved Amendment 6, a case like this one will never go before the court again.

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Grassroots Effort Kills Amendment 1

November 7th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
  • Amendment 1, which would have increased the homestead exemption, got just over 58% of the vote.
  • It was just shy of the 60% needed for approval.
  • It was the only amendment to fail, largely because of a grass roots effort by cities and counties.
Greg Haire was one of more than 4.5 million people who voted for Amendment 1, even though it wouldn’t have helped him in the house he lives in today.
“Property owners need all the breaks they can get,” said Haire.
The amendment would have given an additional $25,000 homestead exemption to homes worth at least $125,000.
It fell 149,000 votes shy of approval (about the size of a small city) and it was the cities and counties that killed it.
“We had more than 400 cities, which results in thousands of city officials singling the same song,” said Jenna Tala with the Florida League of Cities. “Amendment 1 was clearly a tax shift, and voters saw that.”
Florida Relators backed the amendment.
Statewide, the amendment would have reduced local revenues by $750 million.
“Some of the bigger counties down south, 30, 40, 50 million dollars,” said Former Florida Association of Counties President, Bryan Desloge. “It’s not an insignificant amount of money.”
Local governments successfully argued three out of four homeowners would pay more if Amendment 1 passed.
“The money has got to come from somewhere, so if you are going to reduce somebody’s taxes, you’ve got to make it up somewhere else,” said Desloge. “And that somewhere else was going to be the low income people. It was gonna be the renters, it was going to be the commercial property owners.”

 

While millions were spent unsuccessfully fighting other amendments, Amendment 1’s  grass roots defeat is proof money doesn’t always matter.                                                                                   

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Newly Enfranchised Felons Could Flip Florida in 2020

November 7th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
As many as 1.5 million Floridians are now eligible to vote with the passage of Amendment 4.
Felons, excluding murderers and sex offenders, who have completed their sentence and paid their fines will now automatically have their voting rights restored.
Florida State University offers one of the only classes taught on Florida’s Executive Clemency Process.
It’s offered to students in the College of Law, the College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs and the College of Social Work.
With Amendment 4’s passage Tuesday night, Wednesday’s lesson plan changed to a discussion around the newly enfranchised population in the state.
“How many of those that may be eligible actually choose to exercise the right to vote remains to be seen,” said Professor and Human Rights Attorney Mark Schlakman.

 

Students shared their thoughts  in class, raising the same questions on the minds of many Florida politicians.
“I don’t know if a lot of people would even want to vote when they get their rights regained,” said Political Science Senior Allison Hanley.
“You might have been living for 30 years knowing like hey I can’t vote why pay attention to politics, why be engaged in that,” said another Poli Sci senior, Kimberlee McMillin.
Whether the newly enfranchised will choose to exercise their right to vote is still an open ended question.
Political insiders like GOP Strategist Mac Stipanovich say the burden falls on the political parties to register them.
“You’ve got to reach them to get registered then you’ve got to reach them to get them to vote,” said Stipanovich.
Even if only a small fraction cast ballots it could turn the tables in 2020.
“We’re talking about a state wherein hotly contested statewide races are often decided by 100,000 votes or less,” said Stipanovich. “So a pool of a potential 1.5 million votes is pretty significant.”
It’s highly consented as to what the political leanings of the newly enfranchised population.

 

While African Americans were disproportionately prohibited from voting, whites make up a higher percentage of the total population.
The State Board of Executive Clemency will still have the final say on restoring other rights like the ability to own a firearm.
The process is in the hands of the newly elected Governor and Cabinet, who are all Republicans.
A pending Federal Lawsuit is challenging the constitutionality of the Clemency process put in place under Governor Rick Scott for being too subjective.
Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis, who opposed Amendment 4, has said he believes in a more objective process.

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Trying to Reach Election Day Voters

November 6th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
At 5.2 million, more votes were cast early or by mail than will be cast at polls Tuesday, and Democrat Andrew Gillum closed his campaign reaching out to those who didn’t vote before election day.
When the clock struck midnight election morning, Democrat Gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum was closing his campaign at a rap concert on the FAMU campus.
“Tomorrow, we’ve got to vote like our lives depend on it,” said Gillum.
Six hours later he was on a satellite media tour of Florida news outlets.
In each interview, he urged people to vote.
“I’m not giving up on getting my share of Republican votes in this election. And I think we’re going to fare well with independents in this state,” said Gillum.
Two dozen  people were waiting in line when precinct 5105 in Tallahassee opened. Traffic remained steady.
On any given election, about 1,000 people will cast ballots at one polling place located in midtown Tallahassee.
At mid-day, the number was just shy of six hundred.
Don Quarello owns a bar not far from precinct where politics is always a topic.
“But especially this mid-term election, there’s been plenty, and people pushing other people to vote that I haven’t seen in the past,” said Quarello.
With his Family in tow, Gillum spent about seven and a half minutes inside his polling place.
Afterwards he was asked what message his victory would send.
“Us wining tonight will send a message to Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis as well, that the politics of hate and of division, of separation, have come to an end,” said Gillum.
Sending that message means Gillum must win first, which is something a Democrat running for Governor hasn’t done since 1994.
The margins of victory in the last three gubernatorial elections have all been about one percentage point.

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Parkland Survivors Push Youth Vote After Tallahassee Mass Shooting

November 5th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The Parkland March For Out Lives students are at the state Capitol today in the shadow of Friday’s deadly mass shooting that took two lives and injured five others.
The Parkland shooting is credited with energizing young voters and Democrats.
Student activists who gained a national platform are urging the voters to cast ballots as if it were their last election.
“When you walk up to vote tomorrow, remember all of our faces. Remember thousands of students who live in fear everyday because of gun violence,” said FAMU Student Zion Kelly, who lost a brother to gun violence.
The survivors’ presence comes just three days after Scott Beierle opened fire on a Tallahassee yoga studio, killing an FSU student and faculty member.
A vigil held on campus Sunday night, words from FSU President John Thrasher mirrored those of the March For Our Lives students.
“People have a right to feel safe in their schools, in their places of worship,” said Thrasher.
Just eight months ago, the capitol was the epicenter for the gun reform movement.
“Sixty-plus state laws have been passed to combat gun violence around the country… and if they’d been passed before… these heroes would still be here,” said Parkland Suvivor Emma Gonzalez.
Like the Parkland shooter, the gunman who opened fire on the Yoga studio Friday had a history of posting violent material online.
The Tallahassee shooting wasn’t directly mentioned by the Parkland students, until we asked.
“There are too many happening in this country for us to talk about each and every one. Here in Tallahassee is very close to our hearts. Some of our co workers and some of our friends had experienced trauma, they were in that studio, they experienced pain,” said Parkland Survivor Matt Deitsch.
Gonzalez just voted for the first time.
“It was pretty cool. I listened to Kendrick Lamar while I was doing my absentee ballot,” said Gonzalez.
She says it doesn’t matter who wins so long as people turnout to vote.
In another effort to get the youth out to vote, Democratic Candidate Andrew Gillum will be joined by Rapper P-Diddy and DJ Khalid down the street from the Capitol, Monday night for a rally on FAMU’s campus.

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Democrats Seize Early Ballot Lead

November 3rd, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Democrats took a slight lead in votes cast early and by mail Monday morning, GOP strategists say their path to victory is older voters who traditionally cast their ballots on Election Day.
Pam Buchanan voted for the first time in her 54 years back in 2016.
She voted for Donald Trump.
Voters like Pam are the key to a GOP win in Florida,
She told us she doesn’t plan to vote this year, because Trump isn’t on the ballot.
That’s not good for the GOP.
The party is counting on older voters like Pam to carry them to victory.
Monday began with more than 5 million votes already cast.
Democrats took a 25,000 vote lead in mail and early voting.
Across the state, canvassing boards were meeting to go over disputed mail and early ballots.
Statewide there are 15,000 ballots where the signature doesn’t match or is missing.
“My guess is that tomorrow, this enthusiasm to vote in this election is going to carry on, and I think we’re gonna probably raw numbers, we’re gonna have a record turnout, without a doubt, in the midterm,” said Keon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley.
Democrats are buoyed by higher than usual young voter turnout.
Parkland student Emma Gonzalez came to the Capitol to urge young voters to continue turning out.
“Gun violence is on the ballot. Our lives are in the hands of the people we elect. Vote in every election like it’s your last, because it very well could be,” said Parkland Survivor Emma Gonzalez.
The 25,000 ballot advantage for Democrats is in sharp contrast to a 97,000 deficit this time four years ago.
As of Monday morning, more than one million mail ballots remain outstanding.
It’s too late to mail them, but voters can return them in person to their Supervisor or Elections before polls close at 7 pm Tuesday.

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FSU Student Arrested After Politically Charged Outburst

November 2nd, 2018 by Jake Stofan
An FSU student has been arrested and charged with battery following an outburst at a campus Republican display.
The profanity laden outburst was captured on camera.
The video, viewed nearly 30,000 times, shows 19-year-old FSU student Shelby Shoup throwing chocolate milk, hitting students and kicking campaign signs at a Campus Republican booth.
“You are supporting Nazis,” Shoup tells the student activists.
She went on to invoke the Pittsburgh shooting saying, “Nazis are *$&% shooting my people!”
Another student shouted back, “You’re throwing milk at people!”
“She doesn’t even know what fascism and Nazis are,” said Hunter Pollack.
Hunter, a member of the FSU Campus Republicans and brother of Meadow Pollack who was killed in the Parkland shooting, shared the video on Twitter.
“No one in College Republicans would be able to get the story out the way I would,” said Pollack. “So I figured I would share it and I’m going to stick up for my fellow members of my club.”
Pollack, Jewish himself says the outburst was inexcusable.
“I want to spread love,” said Pollack. “We can’t be throwing chocolate at each other on campus. That’s unacceptable.”
Shoup was arrested and charged with battery by campus police two days after the incident.
We showed Tallahassee Rabbi Jack Romberg the video.
He said while he and other jews are angry about the shootings, it’s no excuse for Shoup’s behavior.
“You should not be condemning that other person as being completely indecent, because if you take the time to listen to their narrative you will start to understand why they believe what they believe,” said Romberg.
Pollack says the fact Shoup was arrested, means justice was served.
FSU responded to the incident Friday, in a tweet saying, “FSU is a diverse community that values and respects each person. FSU expects each member of the community to embrace the values of civility and ethical conduct and obey the law.”

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Marsy’s Law Supporters Defend Amendment 6

November 1st, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Faith leaders with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference expressed their support a constitutional amendment they claim protects victims rights, but defense attorneys and others are asking tough questions about what Amendment 6 would actually accomplish.
Amendment six, named for a murdered California woman, Marsy’s law, would expand crime victim’s rights in the state constitution.
It’s supported by both Gubernatorial candidates, Florida law enforcement, some prosecutors and now faith leaders.
“Crime victims have civil rights also that must be protected,” said Reverend R.B. Holmes of Tallahassee’s Bethel Baptist Church Thursday.
Defense attorney’s and the ACLU oppose Marsy’s Law.
They say it would limit the rights of the accused.
“It’s going to let the victims run the show,” said  Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers Association President Richard Greenberg. “They’re going to be able to tell the prosecutors, judges and law enforcement how to handle the case.”
Victims like Ann Rowe, who was raped at gun point in 2015, disagree.
“I have every right for the judicial system to call me, to tell me what is happening in my case,” said Rowe.
Marsy’s law is the best funded amendment on the ballot with more than $30 million spent so far.
Pro-Amendment 6 ads have been accused of spreading misinformation by suggesting Florida currently has no protections for victims.
Tim Cerio the sponsor of Marsy’s law says while there are protections in the constitution and statute, enforcement is missing.
“There are often times, even though Florida statutes allow participation by victims at particular times, we found out on the road and a lot of prosecutors have confirmed that doesn’t always happen,” said Cerio.
Six states have adopted some form of Marsy’s Law.
South Dakota amended its version two years after it passed.
Montana’s Supreme Court over turned it because it violated the state’s single subject rule.
Amendment six also makes a change in how state agency rules are treated in court and it raises the retirement age of judges.
Voters must decide if the bundling is warranted.

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How Will the Next Governor Get Around Without a State Plane?

November 1st, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
For the last 8 years, Governor Rick Scott has been traveling the state on his own jet, which is creating a dilemma for whoever is elected November sixth.
Neither Ron DeSantis or Andrew Gillum are millionaires.
Neither owns a plane, but whomever is elected will have to live at least temporarily with a promise Rick Scott made campaigning eight years ago.
“I’ll-put an end to pet spending projects, sell the air state plane,” Scott said in a campaign ad.
Scott lived up to the promise two days after taking office.
“Its a promise I made and I’ll live up to them,” aid Scott in 2011.
He’s been flying in his own jet ever since.
So what’s the new Governor to do?
Key lawmakers say they’re looking for a way for him to travel that’s a good value for taxpayers.
One option is using turbo prop planes still owned by some agencies.
They fly about half as fast as the jet the state sold.
Back in 2011,  we asked Rick Scott how other state officials would travel.
“They can drive or fly,” Scott said.
But former Governor Bob Martinez says that’s not practical.
“My guess would be is that without a plane, I wouldn’t take speaking engagements more than 50-100 miles from Tallahassee,” said Martinez.
Even conservative Florida Taxwatch thinks a jet is imperative.
“You know, ultimately we think it’s an important tool  for the Governor, given the fact we are a very very large peninsular state,” said TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro. “You know. out of sight, out of mind.
The likely scenario is that the state leases a plane short term, while it sorts out how the Governor will travel.
Since taking office Rick Scott bought at least one new plane.
He was recently criticized for the purchase in campaign ads.

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State Official Accused of Using Employees for Personal Debris Removal

November 1st, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is investigating whether one of its division directors, Kelley Scott, no relation to the Governor, used three state employees to remove hurricane debris from her south Georgia home.
The state and the Miami Herald received an anonymous complaint.
Scott currently makes $130,000 a year overseeing the department’s administrative services.
Nearby homes are still littered from Hurricane Michael debris.
The DMV refused to provide any documents, citing the ongoing investigation.
We’ll keep on top of this story and bring you more as it develops.

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