Rick Nolte, newly elected to the Polk County College Board, faces a criticism that he violated a state campaign-finance legislation with money contributions made by himself and supporters.
Billy Townsend of Lakeland, a former College Board member, submitted a criticism this week to the Florida Elections Fee. Townsend cited Nolte’s campaign-finance disclosures, wherein he reported a $5,200 money mortgage to his marketing campaign and a sequence of 10 money donations of $100 every from others.
A Florida statute protecting marketing campaign finance limits contributions made to a candidate in money or by cashier’s checks to $50 per election. The legislation states that anybody who makes or accepts a contribution in extra of that quantity commits a first-degree misdemeanor.
Willfully making or accepting a money contribution of greater than $5,000 is a third-degree felony, the legislation says. In his criticism, Townsend accuses Nolte of each misdemeanor and felony offenses.
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Donna Ann Malphurs, an company clerk with the Florida Elections Fee, mentioned the company had no document of Townsend’s criticism as of Thursday afternoon. It wasn’t clear how lengthy it might take the company to course of a criticism. Townsend shared a receipt exhibiting the letter was delivered by means of UPS on Tuesday.
Malphurs mentioned by e mail that the fee “isn’t licensed to supply or render authorized recommendation, give steering and or make an interpretation of the elections code.”
Malphurs referred a reporter to the Florida Division of Elections for interpretations of state legislation. Mark Ard, a spokesperson for the Division of State, which oversees the Division of Elections, acknowledged receipt of an e mail despatched Friday morning and mentioned he can be in contact.
A name to Nolte’s cellular phone Friday morning was not answered and didn’t go to voicemail. Nolte didn’t reply to a textual content message or an e mail. He has not responded to any earlier interview requests from The Ledger.
In a marketing campaign treasurer’s report posted by the Polk County Supervisor of Elections, Nolte disclosed a mortgage of $5,200 to his marketing campaign on March 10. It’s described as money underneath the heading “contribution kind.”
Nolte reported repaying the $5,200 mortgage to himself on Could 26.
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In one other report protecting Aug. 6 by means of Aug. 18, Nolte reported 10 contributions of $100 every from separate people. Every is described as “money.”
Along with the mortgage, Nolte reported three contributions to his personal marketing campaign totaling $15,200. The supply for every is labeled as a verify.
Nolte acknowledged an error in a letter despatched to the Supervisor of Elections workplace and dated Aug. 26. The letter reads (in unedited type):
“I didn’t understand that the money most contribution to my marketing campaign was $50 money per particular person. I believed it was $100. After reporting the 10 $100 donations it was delivered to my consideration. I’ve now, since realizing this error returned $50 money to every of the 10 donors. Please settle for my apologies for this error and let me know if there’s something additional, I ought to do to appropriate my error.”
The letter does not point out Nolte’s self-reported money mortgage of $5,200. The Supervisor of Elections workplace isn’t chargeable for imposing state election legal guidelines.
Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards mentioned that Nolte can report any remaining monetary exercise by his marketing campaign in a “termination report,” which is because of her workplace by Nov. 21.
Instructed of Nolte’s letter, Townsend mentioned in a textual content message: “I assume the related authorities will likely be asking for the suitable verifications and receipts. It appears very unusual that he acknowledges 10 ‘unintended’ misdemeanors, however has nothing to say about loaning himself $5,200 in money, which actually appears to be like like a felony within the statute.”
The Ledger left voicemail messages for 2 of the supporters listed as making $100 money contributions to Nolte in August. Neither had responded by Friday afternoon.
Nolte, a retired bodily schooling trainer and Mulberry resident, ousted incumbent College Board member Sarah Fortney within the Aug. 23 election for District 3, capturing just below 51% of the vote. He’ll take workplace in November.
Nolte reported whole marketing campaign receipts of $44,409, in contrast with $38,181 for Fortney.
Nolte was one in every of 4 candidates endorsed and promoted by the Polk County Republican Get together within the nonpartisan elections. He signed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Schooling Agenda” pledge, which included guarantees to keep away from college closures, “preserve woke gender ideology out of colleges” and reject Important Race Concept, which isn’t taught in any public faculties in Polk County.
Nolte was the one candidate to obtain an endorsement from DeSantis, who gave his assist to 30 candidates statewide. Fortney obtained an endorsement from the Polk County Democratic Get together.
Townsend served on the Polk County College Board from 2016 to 2020 and now writes a digital e-newsletter centered on schooling and politics. He commonly criticized Nolte and two different conservative College Board candidates throughout the marketing campaign.
Gary White might be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7518. Observe on Twitter @garywhite13.