Monday, September 21, 2009

Hendry Property Appraiser Trial Begins

Former Hendry County Appraiser Kristina Kulpa Presents Case

LABELLE, FL. -- Former Hendry County Tax Appraiser Kristina A. Kulpa presented her case at LaBelle's courthouse today, attempting to redo the November 4th, 2008 election. Kulpa's attorney Peter Feaman made an opening argument to Circuit Judge Christine Greider at  day one of of the 2-day non-jury trial.

Kulpa is suing the Hendry Canvassing Board, current Tax Appraiser Phillip Pelletier, and Supervisor of Elections Lucretia Strickland, all defendants in the 10-month old case.

Kulpa is protesting the 2008 election which was lost by only 5 votes of some 10,500 counted, alleging 14 convicted felon votes were illegally received by Strickland, as well as absentee votes made by non-residents, and ballots made by voters with unauthorized assistance by Clewiston election worker Brenda Brooks.

Of the voters presented as convicted felons by Kulpa's attorney, Strickland's attorney Owen Luckey, Jr. told the court that at least three had been pardoned, allowing them to legally vote. Kulpa's attorney told the court he had no evidence of any pardons.

Robert Corbett Jr., a U.S. Sugar employee testified today that he had called Strickland, and then Hendry Sheriff Ronnie Lee after his friend, a mentally handicapped man, was picked up and taken to the polls by community election worker Brenda Brooks, who he said told his friend how to vote. The call to the Sheriff put in motion an investigation.

Cindy Graham, a Hendry property appraiser employee stationed in Clewiston, testified seeing election worker Brenda Brooks assist many elderly male voters, and heard Brooks instruct one of them to "mark here'' while pointing at the ballot. She said she told Election Office Manager Linda Franklin about her concerns, and later a Hendry Sheriff's investigator interviewed Graham about the allegations.

Bonnie Knowles, property appraiser office manager in Clewiston said she also saw Brooks assist many voters but told the court she didn't think the voters were being influenced by Brooks. Knowles also gave a statement to the Hendry Sheriff's office after a complaint was made earlier by Corbett.

Property Appraiser employee Deena Pittman told the court she also noticed Brooks. Pittman says she assumed Brooks was influencing voters by pointing at the ballot while assisting.

Ryan Hoots, son of a LaBelle elections office employee, testified he was hired as a Deputy Election worker for the Clewiston office, and told the court his brother had not lived in Hendry county for some time, but allegedly voted in the Hendry election.

Phillip Pelletier was called to the stand and admitted his campaign brochure listed his son as living in Kentucky, but Kulpa claims he improperly voted in Hendry county in the 2008 election. Pelletier said his son's wife owned a mobile home in Hendry county, and although traveling for work out of state, the couple visited Hendry county between jobs.

After presenting his witnesses, and in response to defendants' motion to dismiss,  Kulpa's attorney Feaman argued that he has shown the court evidence of illegal felons voting, improper assistance provided to voters by Brenda Brooks without having signed assistance cards as required, and non-resident voters casting ballots. Judge Greider reserved judgment on the motions and will continue to hear the Defendants' arguments on Tuesday

Day 2 of the trial will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, as defendant attorneys Owen Luckey, assisted by son and attorney Jimmie Luckey for Lucretia Strickland, Tom Hart for Phil Pelletier. and Mark Lapp for the Hendry Canvassing Board present their opening arguments and bring on their witnesses.


  1. Anonymous3:14 PM

    Perhaps, the voter had asked to be shown where to mark the ballot for his choice. It is not always easy to figure that out if your eyesight is not really good. If this is the case, I believe "mark here" instructions would be ok.

  2. Anonymous7:30 PM

    This case is costing Hendry County a lot of money and no matter what the outcome is will cost the taxpayers even more money that we don't have.

  3. Anonymous5:26 AM

    "IF" by some miracle this happened to find in her favor, and it "wasnt" appealed do you really thing you could tolerate her in office? Honestly, at some point, she should be putting whats best for the county over her greed to keep this high paying job, well that is if she was truly doing what was rite.

    This is nothing more than greed pure an simple, she wants to keep eating at the trough beside the rest of the over paid administration of Hendry County.

  4. Anonymous7:52 AM

    Yes, this case has cost our tax payers far too much already and more bills to come. If we added up all cost that lawsuits have cost this county, we might be able to have a tax reduction.

  5. Anonymous8:55 PM

    How is it everyone can pass judgement when they know none of the facts? As it did happen, corruption took place, but not the greed of not wanting to let go of a so called high paying job. Ms. Kulpa had been Hendry County's Property Appraiser for 15 years with pride and honor in doing the best job (yes I know her). After that many years everything becomes "like family" about the position. The corruption took place in the voting process. Many people were voting that shouldn't have. She lost by only 5 votes and proved more than 5 should not have even been allow to vote. It was all about honor, establishing case law, and exposing the truth. What would you have done put in her position? We shall see how well Pelletier does.

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