~ Vero Beach Canvassing Board Meeting on September 20, 2018. ~
On September 11, City Council candidates Linda Hillman and Brian Heady were both disqualified.
On September 17, Linda Hillman filed a lawsuit against the City of Vero Beach claiming her disqualification was unjustified and had been handled improperly.
The suit was filed against the City of Vero Beach Canvassing Board, which includes City Attorney Wayne R. Coment (chair), James R. O’Connor, Tammy Bursick, the City of Vero Beach and Leslie Rossway Swan, Supervisor of Elections of Indian River County.
(A Canvassing Board is responsible for canvassing ballots and certifying elections.)
Three days later after filing suit, and after a hasty public notice, the Canvassing Board met to discuss the “qualifications of candidates.”
45 minutes into the meeting the Canvassing Board voted unanimously to put Ms. Hillman and Mr. Heady back on the ballot because of inadvertent mistakes. But since the ballots have already been printed there will be a need for a special election, unless the Canvassing Board’s decision meets with a legal challenge.
The two candidates had missing signatures on the same forms. Tammy Bursick found it “strange” both of them had not signed the form.
She had accepted payment and administered the Oath of Candidate which procedurally is only done when the filing is complete and accepted.
“They had to put us back on. They had no proof we didn’t sign those things,” said Mr. Heady.
According to Ms. Bursick, (as reported in veronews.com) “I received all the documents, but I had no idea the papers weren’t signed until someone pointed it out to me. I made sure every document was in the file.”
Clearly, someone went into their files to find the documents without the signatures and then brought them to Ms. Bursick’s attention.
Candidate’s election documents are kept unlocked in the City Clerk’s office and are Public Records under Florida Sunshine laws.
That the documents are kept unlocked, raised the question if it created a condition in which a mischievous person could tamper with the public record unobserved. Was the Clerk’s stamp also in that cabinet or an unlocked desk drawer?
As long as there remains a question about securing them, one cannot dismiss out of hand the statements made by both Mr. Heady and Ms. Hillman that they believed someone tampered with their respective files.
If one really wanted to drill into this further, which we may, there was an offhand suggestion that backup copies of the Clerk’s file server might have captured contemporaneous versions of the documents that went into the physical file. Here it would be important to know whether the City employs a rotating or a perpetual backup system; whether the backups are stored on premises or off-premises perhaps in the “cloud.”
If there is any proof of Mr. Heady’s and Ms. Hillman’s allegations that documents were removed, the backups would be the only place where documentary evidence could still be found.
In the end, Mr. O’Conner denied the conspiracy theory that someone may have tampered Ms. Hillman’s and Mr. Heady’s files.
Brian Heady Linda Hillman