Retired Supervisor Of Elections Guilty Of Interfering With Election
LABELLE, FL. -- Former Hendry County Supervisor of Elections Lucretia Strickland has been found guilty of extortion after using her constitutional office to interfere the November 2012 election.
Strickland was sentenced January 23 to a $250 fine, $220 court costs, $50 cost of prosecution. Adjudication was withheld after she plead "no contest' to the charge.
The complainant was Kathalina Monacelli, of the Montura Ranches subdivison in central Hendry county, who may recover any damages and costs incurred in making the complaint.
State Attorney Stephen B. Russell assigned Assistant State Attorney Amira D. Fox to prosecute Strickland after a complaint was filed by Monacelli.
The complaint said that Strickland attempted to coerce Ms. Monacelli to change her political party affiliation and to vote for Brenda Hoots who was a candidate for the office. (And subsequently won the election.)
Monacelli said Strickland threatened bodily harm to her. She heard Strickland say she would "break my legs" if Hoots "lost the election by one vote." Strickland later said she was just joking with her.
The Executive Director of the Commission on Ethics noted that based upon the information provided in the complaint, the above-referenced allegations were sufficient to warrant a preliminary investigation to determine whether Strickland violated Section 112.313(6) of the Florida Statutes, misusing her public position.
Strickland was Hendry County Supervisor of Elections since 1991 and announced her intention to retire from her elected office following the November 6, 2012 general election.
Brenda Hoots was a 21-year employee of the Hendry County Supervisor of Elections Office who served as an Assistant Supervisor of Elections and was elected to serve as the new Hendry County
Supervisor of Elections during the November 2012 general election.
Ms. Monacelli said that although she did not request an absentee ballot from the Handry Courty Supervisor of Elections Ofiice, on July 14, 2012 she received an absentee ballot in the mail for the State-wide primary election for August 12, 2012.
Ms. Monacelli said she preferred to vote it her precinct on election day and-that on July 16, 2012 she visited the Supervisor of Elections Office to make that request.
Ms.Monacelli said while at the office she initially spoke with Ms. Hoots about her request. Subsequently, she spoke with Strickland while Ms. Hoots was making the necessary changes to allow her to cast a ballot on election day.
Ms. Monacelli recalled that during the conversation Ms. Strichland suggested that she change her political party from Republican to Democrat. She was advised her husband Carlos Gonzalez had changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and during their conversation Ms. Strickland told her she should do the same.
Ms Monacelli further recalled that Ms. Strickland said she should vote for Ms. Hoots as the Supervisor of Elections. Ms. Monacelli maintains that Ms. Strickland said if Ms. Hoots lost the election by one vote she would break Ms. Monacelli's legs.
Ms. Monacelli said she took Ms. Strickland's comments seriously. She asserted it was inappropriate for Strickland to have requested that she change her political party affiliation and that she support a candidate favorable to Ms. Strickland even if she attempted to conceal the request in the form of a ridiculous statement such as that Strickland would break her legs if she did not comply.
Ms. Monacelli said Ms. Hoots and another employee of the Supervisor of Elections Office, Mr. Emilio Hernandez were witnesses to her communications with Ms. Strickland on July 16, 2012, as was her husband, who accompanied her to the office that day.
Regarding the comment Ms. Strickland stated, "I had no idea that she would take my nonsensical joking comment as seriously as she apparently has." Ms. Strickland acknowledged she made the above-referenced comments, but she denied they were intended to coerce or persuade Ms. Monacelli into changing her political party affiliation or voting for Ms. Hoots.
Monacelli is no stranger to the court system. Records indicate she has filed 38 law suits beginning in 2008, over Americans with disabilities issues and employment rights. In 2008 she filed against the Lee County and Hendry County School Boards, losing the case in 2011 with a judgment against her for $7,584. She appealed to the District Court of Appeals and lost the appeal there in March 2012.
Court Filings By Monacelli