In the main courtroom of the historic 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse, whose first tenant a century ago was Palm Beach County’s “tax assessor,” that post’s ninth incarnation was sworn in Tuesday.
With a big smile, and with her family looking on from the old jury box, new Palm Beach County Property Appraiser — that’s the title now — Dorothy Jacks took the oath of office from a woman whose children she’d baby-sat as a 13-year-old in Palm Beach Gardens: retired Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Mary Lupo.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say that was very emotional,” said Jacks, whose voice then faltered with emotion as she said, “there is really nothing better in life than a dream come true.”
After the 2014 election, he submitted a public records request to inspect the official ballots associated with his congressional race “at the earliest reasonable time possible, including ballots deemed to be cast in [Trout’s] name, and those deemed by [the Supervisor’s] office to be invalidated,” the appeals court’s ruling says.
Bucher responded six days later, saying counting the 145,881 ballots in 211 precincts would take require her and three other staffers to do work beyond that for a usual records request. She said she’d have to charge Trout up to $189.21, which he had to submit in advance as a deposit.
Florida’s Sunshine Law says records custodians can charge only the hourly pay of the lowest-paid person qualified to fulfill a request. Bucher argued that it was reasonable for her, as head of the elections office, to supervise Trout’s inspection of the ballots — and to charge her hourly wage.
Bucher told Raymond Lutz, national coordinator for Southern California-based Citizens’ Oversight Projects, she could have had him arrested for battery and for interrupting an official government process, but that she settled for having deputies remove him.
A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s report says the deputy watched as Bucher ordered Lutz out and issued him a trespass warning and said Lutz then left without incident.
Bucher said she’d told Lutz in a Nov. 14 email that audits are open and that the elections office videotapes them. The supervisor said that as a legislator in 2007, she helped draft the rules for such audits, and that his insinuations that the canvassing board manipulated the audit are “not only untrue and insulting, but baseless.”
“We are saddened that it has come to this. Religious discrimination, and Islamophobia in particular, have been increasing dramatically, even more so since the election,” the group’s secretary, Charlie Cormier, said in an email to reporters. “We had hoped that our county government would not succumb to pressure from
that segment of our community. We continue to hope that other government offices resist similar pressures in the future.”
After the move, Bucher told The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board she felt she had to move the site “when we had a heightened threat that they (phone callers) were going to impede voters. I was very disappointed in our community and saw we have a lot of work to do.”
Bucher’s office didn’t immediately comment Wednesday on the Unitarians’ action.
Wednesday was the last day to request a mail-in ballot be mailed to you, although voters can pick up ballots in person up to Election Day. For your vote to count, your signed ballot must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday at the main office, or by 5 p.m. Tuesday at branch offices.
To see a sample ballot, or for more information, contact the elections office at 561-656-6200 or visit ww.pbcelections.org.
“Some felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic Center,” the email continued. “When we received a call that indicated individuals planned to impede voting and maybe even call in a bomb threat to have the location evacuated on Election Day (no name was given during the call), we located the Spanish River Library which is two miles away from the center as an alternative voting location and I called the Center’s President.”
Bucher replied to the inquiry from the Editorial Board but for three days has not responded to a Post reporter’s phone calls and emails requesting details and comment.
On Tuesday, Boca Raton-area U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch issued statements suggesting the move was discriminatory. The county’s other two members of Congress, Reps. Alcee Hastings and Patrick Murphy, and U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, so far have not responded to requests for comment submitted Tuesday and Wednesday.
Also on Tuesday, Florida Family Association, a Tampa-based group that campaigns against Islamic-American relations urged people to support Bucher’s decision. The group said it was responding to “pressure” being put on Bucher by the Florida chapter of theCouncil on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR on Monday had raised the possibility of legal action if Bucher didn’t change her mind.
Bucher is up for reelection to the non-partisan elections supervisor post in the Aug. 30 vote.