Fighting Christina Kulpa Law Suit, Strickland Says Fees Weren't Paid
LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Supervisor of Elections Lucretia Strickland is awaiting court orders on pleadings filed claiming former Hendry County Property Appraiser Kristina A. Kulpa neglected to timely pay court fees in Kulpa's suit against Strickland and the Hendry County Canvassing Board.
Kulpa had filed suit November 24, 2008 with the Circuit Court in LaBelle, demanding a new election. Kulpa lost the election to Phillip Pelletier in the November 4 general election by 5 votes, and again lost on a recount by the same amount. The election results were certified by Supervisor of Elections Lucretia Strickland on November 14, after the recount.
Kulpa, through her Boca Raton attorney Peter Feaman of the Florida law firm Hodgson Russ L.L.P. filed a lawsuit at 9:11 a.m. Monday morning November 24, the last day under state law to file. Kulpa, a Republican, claimed "improper assistance to dozens of voters at the Clewiston Supervisor of Elections early voting station which illegally influenced the voters' choice for candidates."
She also claimed that convicted felons may have voted in the election, and that poll workers failed to require "dozens of voters" to sign an affidavit or cast provisional votes when their information did not match info on the election office master file. Kulpa claims that "potentially hundreds of illegal votes were cast."
Strickland has a filing ready to send to the District Court of Appeals claiming that the Circuit Court erred in not dismissing Kulpa's suit for failing to pay court summons fees. Court records show that Kulpa filed her suit on the last day possible under the law, but seemingly failed to have the papers served on the defendants at the same time. The Sheriff's summons fees were not paid when she filed the papers, thus delaying the legal process. Ironically, Kulpa filed several papers asking the Judge to expedite the case , which were later denied as moot, since the case had already been delayed.
Kulpa filed the lawsuit against The Hendry County Canvassing Board, Lucretia Strickland, and Phillip Pelletier. and Hendry county Judge Jim Sloan. Sloan is the chairman of the three member elections Canvassing Board. She has demanded a trial by jury and a court order that the "election be set aside" and a new election be held, and demands court costs be awarded to her.
The case is on hold now awaiting instruction to procede or not from the Appellate Court. Meanwhile the attorneys are having a field day with the complicated case.
And Bring On The Attorneys...
Strickland's attorney, Owen L. Luckey, Jr. is being paid by the Hendry Board of County Commissioners to represent her. He has filed a witness list of possible people to be deposed or testify of 172 persons. Kulpa, has filed a witness list of 17 witnesses she wants to question. Attorney's will presumably also rack up large amounts of billable time looking over thousands of documents from the election in preparation for a trial.
Phil Pelletier, current Hendry Property Appraiser is left hanging in the wind, as he will presumably be paying his own attorney's fees in the case to defend himself, as he was a private individual when the suit was filed by Kulpa.
Kulpa's attorney, from the law firm Hodgson Russ L.L.P. , is a large firm with over 200 attorneys in eight offices from Toronto, Canada to Palm Beach County. The firm ran into some difficulty last year and agreed to pay $50,000 to the New York Attorney General's Office in response to a statewide investigation over it's improper employment arrangements with school districts and various Boards of Cooperative Educational Services.
An investigation found Hodgson Russ classified it's lawyers for the schools as employees, instead of independent contractors, so that they could be eligible for state pension funds. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said "This is chronic widespread corruption and fraud," and "It's death by a thousand cuts and in the end taxpayers bleed millions of dollars." The firm without admitting any wrongdoing ceased the practice and paid the settlement amount.