By BRUCE COLLIER AND JEFFREY POWELL
A one-page complaint has been filed with the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections by an “anonymous citizen/Sheriff’s office employee.” The complaint alleges that Walton County Sheriff Ralph Johnson has used on-duty dispatchers and deputies to pick and “get signed” voter petitions. The complaint reads as follows:
“As an employee working for Walton County Sheriff’s Department, I have to remain anonymous due to the situation because I would be fired by the present administration for revealing this.
“On several occasions, deputies are being called to the dispatching center while on duty by dispatchers to pick up voter petitions to go get signed for the current Sheriff, Ralph L. Johnson. If they don’t take them then the deputy is asked to at least sign one there in dispatch.
“Also when deputies take their cars to vehicle maintenance they are asked once again to sign a voter’s petition for Sheriff Johnson, if they haven’t already signed one in dispatch yet.
“The sheriff himself has meetings every Friday with different deputies to discuss ‘sheriff office business,’ before they leave the meeting deputies are handed more petitions to get signed while on duty.
“Several deputies and investigators in South Walton have been pressured into signing voter petitions while on duty. Several other deputies in South and North Walton County have witnessed this.
“The person over vehicle maintenance is Tom Anderson, the dispatchers handing out petitions are Lisa Melvin & Donna Smith, the community policing/Crime Stoppers worker handing out petitions in a patrol car while on duty is Mrs. Anna LaCour.
“Please investigate and ask all WCSO deputies, investigators, school resource officers, and beach patrol ‘one on one’ and they will tell you what’s going on.” (End of complaint)
The Herald was faxed a copy of this complaint, and contacted the Divisions of Elections. A representative of the division, Jennifer Davis, confirmed receipt of the complaint, but said a review of it has just begun, and that no action has been taken. The division had no further comment.
The Herald contacted WCSO’s Capt. Eddie Ferris for comment. Ferris said, “There is nothing to these allegations. The sheriff has never gone into a meeting and asked deputies to sign voter petitions.”