Embattled Florida elections official sues to get job back
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Calling her suspension “malicious” and politically-motivated, a former Florida elections official is asking a federal judge to reinstate her after she was removed from office by Gov. Rick Scott.
Embattled Broward elections supervisor Brenda Snipes filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Scott and Senate President Bill Galvano, who are both Republicans. Snipes is a Democrat who worked in one of the state’s Democratic strongholds.
The lawsuit contends that Snipes’ due process rights were violated and that the law allowing the governor to suspend elected officials is unconstitutional.
“Snipes seeks to fight for her reputation and stand up against the embarrassment that has been caused by Governor Scott’s unnecessary and malicious suspension,” states the lawsuit. “There are false allegations contained within the executive order and Snipes has never had a proper forum to state her position ... At this point Governor Scott’s allegations have gone unchallenged as he sits ‘high’ on a throne utilizing state resources to continually humiliate Snipes.”
Snipes, first appointed to her post by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 and then elected to the job, came under withering criticism for her handling of this year’s elections and a legally required recount in close races for governor and U.S. Senate.
At the close of the recount, Snipes agreed to resign as of Jan. 4 instead of serving out the two years left in her term. But in late November Scott suspended her immediately from office. Snipes responded by saying she was rescinding her resignation.
The governor said he was suspending her for misfeasance, incompetence and neglect of duty and appointed his former general counsel to take her place. In his executive order, Scott cited problems during the recount, including reports of more than 2,000 ballots being misplaced.
Shortly after the recount started, Scott himself suggested possible fraud, but never offered any concrete examples. Snipes also came under fire in 2017 after she destroyed year-old ballots in violation of law.
In her lawsuit, Snipes contends that allegations against her were either untrue or were caused by the governor’s own interference after his U.S. Senate campaign sued her during the recount.
John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott, criticized the lawsuit.
“This lawsuit is a desperate move from someone who has already officially submitted her resignation,” Tupps said. “This is simply an attempt by Ms. Snipes to rewrite the history of her failed leadership.”
The lawsuit targets Galvano because he announced last week that the state Senate would not review her case. Florida law requires the Senate to either remove or reinstate county officials who are suspended by the governor.
But Galvano sent a memo to senators saying there is not enough time to investigate the allegations against Snipes before her resignation takes effect Jan. 4. He said a legal review by Senate attorneys had concluded that Snipes had rescinded her “unconditional” resignation too late.
Scott replaced Snipes with Peter Antonacci, who has held several posts at the request of the governor but has no elections experience. Antonacci played a pivotal role in the controversial decision to force the ouster of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey in 2015. Antonacci had been president of Florida’s economic development agency before he was sworn last week to replace Snipes.