By ALICIA LEONARD
The Florida Elections Commission has responded to Walton County Deputy Rick Brown’s election complaint that Sheriff Ralph Johnson was using deputies to get voter petitions signed for the him while on duty. The use of patrol cars for the same purposes was alleged. The complaint was also sent to the Herald-Breeze in the form of an anonymous letter. The newspaper verified that the letter had been received by the state and was under consideration before printing the contents of the unsigned note.
In a telephone interview at the time, Sheriff Johnson adamantly denied the validity of the complaint.
In a letter sent to Brown this week from Barbara M. Linthicum, executive director of the Florida Elections Commission (FEC), Linthicum states, “I have reviewed your complaint alleging violations of Florida’s election laws and it appears to be legally insufficient. The Legislature has recently amended section 106.25, Florida Statutes, and now requires very specific information before the Commission can investigate a complaint.”
Linthicum goes on to say, “Although you name deputies who are soliciting signatures, you do not provide any evidence that Sheriff Johnson asked them to solicit signatures.” Linthicum writes that some evidence is required that the candidate requested or directed his employees to assist him in the furtherance of his candidacy.
Brown, who is running for the position of sheriff in the upcoming elections, now has 14 days from the receipt of the letter to provide additional information.