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Issue of misspent $10,500 continues to trouble Maddox

On his watch, state Democratic Party money was used to pay a fine against Leon Democrats. His successor wants matters righted.

By ADAM C. SMITH
Published October 6, 2005


As much as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scott Maddox wants to put behind him the controversy over his financial management of the Florida Democratic Party, ripples keep coming.

Karen Thurman, Maddox's successor at the helm of the state party, wants $10,500 returned to it. The state party money was improperly spent paying off a campaign finance fine against the Leon Democratic Party while Maddox headed both organizations.

"We will be asking for the money back," Thurman said of the money funneled from the cash-strapped state party in December 2004.

It's unclear precisely who may be on the hook, but Thurman is asking the Leon Democratic executive committee for the money. Maddox chaired the Leon party when the problems occurred. Paige Carter-Smith, his longtime aide, is now Leon Democratic chairwoman, having taken over after Maddox started his gubernatorial campaign.

Neither Maddox nor Carter-Smith returned calls on the matter. Maddox has said he was unaware of the money coming from the state party because his comptroller, Debbie Griffin-Bruton, was responsible for the mistake and covered her tracks. Likewise, an internal state party investigation concluded that Griffin-Bruton was responsible for the Internal Revenue Service's slapping a lien on the state party's bank account because of unpaid withholding taxes.

Griffin-Bruton, a longtime friend of Maddox's who lived rent-free in one of his properties, could not be reached for comment. Asked recently whether she should face charges for taking more than $10,000 from the state party without permission, Maddox said, "That's not for me to judge. Everybody's got their own attorneys in this."

"That's probably a really good question. I don't know how we answer it, to be honest with you," Thurman said when asked if the party would push for charges against Griffin-Bruton. "Our interest was just to get through this and move on."

Maddox also has tried to put the controversy behind him, but it has dogged his campaign from the start.

The Police Benevolent Association filed two complaints against him with the Florida Elections Commission, one for failing to report paying the $10,500 fine against the Leon Democratic Party. The other pending complaint alleges the Leon party illegally spent tens of thousands of dollars on Maddox's gubernatorial campaign operations before Maddox even announced his candidacy.

Maddox dismisses the charges as baseless attacks by a union with a vendetta against him. His father used to be head of the union, but was ousted in a shakeup. The Maddox campaign this week declined to release his formal response to the charges filed with the Elections Commission.

"This is nothing more than a handful of people with a political agenda wasting taxpayer dollars by filing a frivolous complaint, and we are certain it will be dismissed as such," campaign manager Sallie Stohler said in an e-mail. "They are using this complaint to simply re-ask questions which have already been asked and answered ad nauseam in the press. It's time to move on."

The Elections Commission will determine how frivolous the complaints are, said union lobbyist Ken Kopczynski. "If you're going to skirt the law or possibly break the law, that's important for people to know," he said.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at 727 893-8241 or adam@sptimes.com

[Last modified October 6, 2005, 01:13:15]


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