Tim Responds to Sun Sentinel Editorial on Brenda Snipes’ Credibility

Here’s a rather weak and dismal editorial by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, essentially white-washing the illegal destruction of ballots by Brenda Snipes, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections.

Please share with anyone you know living in South Florida! Nothing will change if people are not made aware of what’s actually happening. And it’s painfully clear that the Sun Sentinel and others in the corporate media will keep hiding the truth if permitted to do so.

The Sun Sentinel lamely points out that Snipes has not been charged with any crime — at least not yet — to try to justify her remaining in office, making $177,628 a year, until 2020. Instead, they should be asking whether federal or state prosecutors are investigating Snipes’ crimes. They may also ask what it says about our criminal justice system if prosecutors are also sweeping this under the rug. The answer is obvious: that if you’re wealthy, powerful or politically connected, you are above the law.

The Sun Sentinel fails to mention the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars still being wasted by the Supervisor still litigating so many months after admitting to destroying all the original ballots cast in our 2016 primary against master-rigger Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The Sun Sentinel has once again forgotten basic journalistic ethics by asking Snipes’ lawyer to comment on the case without bothering to ask our very capable lawyers for comment. Instead, the Sun Sentinel repeated, without rebuttal, the Supervisor’s claim that I somehow delayed my public records request – the exact opposite of what actually happened. It was the Supervisor and her attorney who delayed and delayed for seven months until I finally sued. And we have ample proof, a record of correspondence between our lawyers to prove it!

The Sun Sentinel also repeats Snipes’ lame defense that I kept changing my public records request and the request was unreasonable because I offered to bring our own rented scanning and photocopy machines. They didn’t mention that this was in response to Snipes informing us that she had not made any digital scanned images of the ballots. Nor did the Sun Sentinel report that the Supervisor later changed her story — in other words lied — about whether or not she took digital images, which mysteriously and suspiciously turned up only after Snipes destroyed the ballots. This is all well documented in our videotaped depositions of Snipes and her senior staff, and in the documentary evidence obtained in the pre-trial discovery process. It’s telling that none of Snipes’ spurious defenses carried the day with the Florida Circuit Court.

There’s absolutely no reason to indulge in “even the best reading of Snipes,” as the Sun Sentinel does. Given her pattern of deception and illegal conduct, Snipes deserves no such presumptions. Unfortunately, we must consider the worst of readings, that Snipes destroyed the ballots to cover up an electronic hacking or software manipulation that altered the outcome of our primary against Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Why else commit felonies in destroying the ballots and then lying about the destruction for months?!

Instead, the Sun Sentinel editors play the part of Captain Renault in the classic film Casablanca, “Shocked, shocked!” that gambling was going on in the casino.

The Sun Sentinel also repeated Snipes’ lawyer’s characterization of my lawsuit as a “political stunt.” How utterly sad and pathetic. I’ve paid thousands of dollars out of my own pocket, have sacrificed so much in time, energy and resources, and only to discover that our elections are not transparent or verifiable.

Yes, some stunt. Exercising my rights under the Florida constitution and statutes, only to be screwed when the ballots were destroyed. For my next stunt, I will go broke only to get the Supervisor to wrongly exclude my name from the November ballot.

I grew up in a time when public officials would be prosecuted and go to jail for what Snipes did in destroying all the paper ballots in our elections. Prosecutors would prosecute and the news media would report. There would have been a public outcry by public officials of both parties. So far, it has been largely swept under the rug and by both parties and the press.

The Sun Sentinel further tries to justify its support of Snipes staying in office through 2020 by . . . politics. They don’t trust Republican Governor Rick Scott to replace her with a non-partisan Democrat, as they say former Governor Jeb Bush did when he replaced Miriam Oliphant, a previous Broward Elections Supervisor, with Snipes. The Sun Sentinel is incorrect, Snipes was a Republican who quickly changed her party to Democrat to adapt to blue Broward County. And then the Sun Sentinel concludes that Oliphant’s failures were worse than Snipes’, yet without ever bothering to make the case by discussing Oliphant’s failures. And it’s a ridiculous argument anyway, a bit like comparing a jewel thief with a bank robber, when neither should be acceptable.

I am also not thrilled with the prospect of a Republican Governor naming a replacement for Snipes. But that’s not a good enough reason to keep someone with Snipes’ record in office for even one more election. And that’s why the Sun Sentinel has to give Snipes the benefit of the doubt and assume she just made a mistake. She deserves no such presumptions. Not only did Snipes illegally destroy the ballots and sign a destruction order certifying the ballots were not the subject of pending litigation when they were, she also destroyed evidence and concealed all of that for two full months, lying to me and my lawyer as we prepared for a ballot inspection that could never happen, and lying to the court.

The Sun Sentinel did not discuss any of this, and it’s because they don’t like or trust Rick Scott. Well, that’s no reason to trust Brenda Snipes or the integrity of any election she has ever supervised.

The Sun Sentinel editorial is entitled “Brenda Snipes’ Credibility Past Tipping Point.” If that’s the case — and it is — then no candidate who’s on the ballot in the August primary or November general election should have any confidence in her supervising their elections. If her credibility is past the tipping point, state and federal prosecutors should be investigating. Only a newspaper chain that doesn’t face voters or rely on fair elections could be so sanguine about keeping an elections supervisor in office for two more years of elections even though her criminal actions suggeat outright corruption.

The Sun Sentinel concludes its apology for Snipes with high minded words, my words: “When we lose faith and confidence in the integrity of our elections, our entire democracy suffers.”

The Sun Sentinel should know that our democracy also suffers when we lose faith and confidence in the integrity of the press to be neutral, non-partisan, impartial, unbiased. and free.

Brenda Snipes must go, and now. Please read, sign and share our petition widely:  https://medium.com/…/the-election-justice-integrity-petitio…

Thank you for spreading the word..

#IntegrityIsEverything

EDITORIAL: Brenda Snipes’ Credibility Past Tipping Point

Sun Sentinel Editorial Board | POSTED ON: 6/13/2018

 

Broward County needs a new supervisor of elections, but not the way Tim Canova wants it to happen.

Last month, Canova prevailed in his lawsuit alleging that Supervisor Brenda Snipes wrongly destroyed paper ballots from his unsuccessful challenge of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the 2016 Democratic primary. In a recent op-ed for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Canova called for Gov. Rick Scott to suspend Snipes and appoint a replacement.

Governors can remove constitutionally elected officers like Snipes only for misfeasance or malfeasance. Snipes faces no criminal charges, but her actions in the Canova case again question her competence.

Snipes’ recent problems include results being too early and too late, and several mistakes with ballots in 2016. Snipes ordered the Canova-Wasserman Schultz ballots destroyed 12 months after the election, even though federal and state laws require preservation for 22 months. Snipes did so even though a lawsuit over the ballots was pending. She called it a mistake.

We must note that Snipes got the job through a gubernatorial appointment. In 2003, then-Gov. Jeb Bush removed Miriam Oliphant because there was doubt that she could hold an election on her own.

There was some controversy because Bush is a Republican and Oliphant is a Democrat, but Bush’s decision was correct. And in heavily Democratic Broward County, Bush picked Snipes, a Democrat and former high school principal. Despite Snipes’ problems, she has not dropped to Oliphant’s level of incompetence.

Scott’s record also gives no assurance that he would avoid partisanship in picking a replacement. Scott, a Republican, signed an elections bill that a judge determined was designed to suppress votes by those who tended to vote Democratic. Scott approved a partisan-designed purge of voter rolls that supervisors of both parties resisted.

In addition, Republican groups twice have made bogus claims against Snipes in what we believe were efforts to drive down Democratic turnout. One came from the National Republican Lawyers Association. Another, in the form of a federal lawsuit, came from the American Civil Rights Union, a conservative counterpoint to the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union.

Snipes prevailed in that litigation. We defended her in both instances.

Still, Florida’s second-largest county deserves better.

Even the best reading of Snipes in the Canova case is bad for her. It would seem simple enough to follow basic rules on how long to preserve ballots. Yet Snipes didn’t. She blamed her staff for mislabeling boxes and giving her bad information. But Snipes is the supervisor. And this is not the first time we’ve had reason to question her supervisory skills.

We sought comment from Snipes’ attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks. She cited the supervisor’s motion for summary judgment.

In that filing, Snipes claims that Canova placed “unreasonable conditions” on his request for the ballots. He wanted to bring his own equipment. He made demands that were outside the request. The office did not hear from Canova or his representatives for months before he filed the lawsuit.

In essence, Snipes claims the request by the Nova Southeastern University law professor was a publicity stunt. Canova lost to Wasserman Schultz by 14 points, well outside the margin for a recount. The ballot inspection would have been his version of a recount. Canova has suggested, directly and indirectly, that the primary was rigged against him.

Snipes might have prevailed, but she couldn’t get around the unlawful destruction of the ballots. As Broward County Circuit Court Judge Raag Singhal noted, Snipes presented no evidence “refuting that the public records sought were destroyed while this case was pending. . .”

So Snipes deserved to lose. Public trust, however, becomes collateral damage. Snipes even claimed that scans of the original ballots were an “alternative form of preservation.” That sounds too much like “alternative facts” and is not what a supervisor of elections should say.

Snipes hurt her case further by demanding that Singhal recuse himself. The supervisor claimed that Singhal ruled against her — a prominent Democrat — to improve his chances of an appointment to the federal bench.

Two years ago, we endorsed Snipes’ opponent in the Democratic primary. We said Snipes “is too disconnected from the office’s operations, too unaware of its failings and too slow to make improvements.” The supervisor’s office, we said, “needs new energy.”

Yet Snipes got 76 percent of the vote and easily won a fourth term. Absent a strong candidate with widespread backing from the Democratic Party, Snipes likely would win again in 2020.

But the Canova case shows again that Snipes has stayed too long.

Because of her failure to retain the ballots as required, Scott is sending state employees to monitor her work in this year’s elections. “The Secretary of State’s office will continue to ensure that every Supervisor of Elections understands and follows the law,” his statement said.

“When we lose faith and confidence in the integrity of our elections,” Canova wrote, “our entire democracy suffers.”

Brenda Snipes should announce that she will not seek another term.

Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Elana Simms, Andy Reid and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson.

Broward Elections Supervisor Illegally Destroyed Ballots in Wasserman Schultz Race, Judge Rules

via Sun Sentinal .  | POSTED ON: 05/14/2018

The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office violated state and federal laws by destroying ballots from a 2016 Congressional race too soon — and while the ballots were the subject of a lawsuit against the office, a judge has ruled.

Based on that ruling, Florida’s Department of State will send election experts to the Broward elections office in the upcoming election “to ensure that all laws are followed,” the governor’s office said. It could also cost the elections office more than $200,000 to pay attorney’s fees for Tim Canova, the defeated candidate who sued the office.

The decision stems from Canova’s bid to unseat Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic primary, a race he lost convincingly, at about 57 percent to 43 percent, or 28,809 votes to 21,907.

Canova, who was checking for voting irregularities in the race, sought to look at the paper ballots in March 2017 and took Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes to courtthree months later when her office hadn’t fulfilled his request. Snipes approved the destruction of the ballots in September, signing a certification that said no court cases involving the ballots were pending.

Snipes called the action a “mistake” during testimony she gave in the case, saying the boxes were mislabeled and there was “nothing on my part that was intentional” about destroying the contested ballots.

“When I sign, I sign folders filled with information,” Snipes said in her testimony, later adding: “I trust my staff. They have the responsibility of giving me information that’s correct.”

Circuit Judge Raag Singhal ruled Friday that Snipes wrongly destroyed public records because:

— The elections office is required to maintain the ballots in federal elections for 22 months, while Snipes destroyed the ballots after 12 months, which is the retention period for state elections.

— The ballots were the subject of a pending lawsuit, so it would take a court order from the judge in the case to allow their destruction.

Snipes “has not presented any evidence refuting that the public records sought were destroyed while this case was pending before this court,” Singhal said.

Snipes will appeal the decision, said her attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks.

“We think the judge is wrong,” Norris-Weeks said.

The elections office never refused to provide access to the ballots, she said.

Instead, it rejected a request by Canova to use outside equipment to scan the ballots, Norris-Weeks said. Also, it didn’t receive a partial payment to cover the costs of the public records request until days before the suit was filed and the scanned copies of the ballots it can currently provide are “accurate and inherently reliable,” she said.

“It was a mistake [destroying the original ballots], but the ballots were preserved,” Norris-Weeks said. “They were scanned shortly after the election.”

It’s not known if the judge’s ruling would lead to any charges. A spokeswoman for Broward State Attorney Michael Satz said the office had not been aware of the ruling, but would obtain a copy of the judge’s order and look into it.

Canova said he contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation twice in recent months prior to the judge’s ruling because it appeared federal ballot retention requirements were violated, but he said he has received no response from the agency.

The ruling does allow Canova to have the attorney fees he has paid be reimbursed by the elections office. Leonard Collins, his attorney, said those costs exceed $200,000 already.

Canova has also gotten the state to take interest in his case. The governor’s office said the state election monitoring will be so “the citizens of Broward County can have the efficient, properly run election they deserve.”

“The Secretary of State’s office will continue to ensure that every Supervisor of Elections understands and follows the law,” the governor’s statement said.

Norris-Weeks said she isn’t sure what type of monitoring is envisioned and sees it as an effort by Republican state leaders to get some control over the heavily Democratic county.

Canova, who is a professor at Nova Southeastern University, would like to see Snipes lose her job.

“I think dismissal is an appropriate remedy,” Canova said.

The judge’s ruling cited a previous case that held “dismissal was an appropriate sanction for failing to preserve evidence ‘even though the destruction of evidence may have resulted from negligence rather than an attempt to obstruct justice.’”

Collins said Snipes failed in one of her most important duties.

“He was absolutely stonewalled by the supervisor of elections,” Collins said of Canova. “When they were required to provide the records to us, they destroyed them.”

Canova, who had planned a primary rematch against Wasserman Schultz this year, announced in April that he was leaving the Democratic Party. He is running in the race in November as a candidate with no party affiliation.