Pine Ridge, FL—When over 140 sealed, uncounted election ballots were dropped off at the Pine Ridge Property Manager’s office on May 17, weeks after the 2017 Pine Ridge Property Owners Association election was over, it was unusual enough to compel Gail Denny, Pine Ridge Property Manager, to take immediate action.
Denny quickly notified the Pine Ridge Board of Directors of the ballot situation and was advised by then-President Don Gray to contact the Election Chairperson, Cheryll Sedlock. Denny writes Sedlock the following May 17th e-mail:
“I am reaching out to you per Don Gray’s direction. Today we received 140 ballots that were processed through mostly Jacksonville on 3/30, 3/31 and 4/1. All should have been delivered timely. I know you have no control over the postal service. However, it is important to find out what happened with this. I can tell you never in the past has this happened. Yes, one to 12 are received but they were mailed late in the process. Please contact me at your earliest convenience to discuss what steps you would like to take to find out what occurred. I tried your telephone first but it rings a constant busy.”
The next day, Sedlock called the Pine Ridge Property Manager’s Office to inform them that she spoke with the Elections Committee and they all decided that the ballots would be considered, “invalid.”
The Suncoast Standard attempted to contact both Ms. Denny and Ms. Sedlock. Ms. Denny cited a confidentiality clause in her contract with the PRPOA as a basis for not commenting. Ms. Sedlock did not return messages and was unavailable for comment. Debra Perricone, President of Franklin & Company Property Management, LLC, also did not return our calls. Franklin & Company Property Management, LLC provided election assistance throughout the whole elections process and certified final election results for the PRPOA election on April 11th.
Jamey Clovis, Past President of the PRPOA, however, came forward and contacted the Standard once he discovered that the ballots were deemed invalid and would not be counted. One of the ballots not counted was his.
“How can something like this have taken place,” asked Clovis, rhetorically. “This election is regulated under Florida Statute 720. Over 140 votes weren’t counted. They haven’t even informed the property owners who were affected.” In a letter, Clovis sent to President Don Gray, just days before he stepped down as President of the PRPOA, Clovis highlights several issues of contention: “meeting without quorum, not following resume format, not following election committee manual, not insuring ballots were collected and unopen, not insuring ballots were stored in proper place, and giving residents authority to collect ballots.”
When asked about stepping down as PRPOA President only a few weeks into his term, Mr. Gray shared with the Standard that he had a large contract come in for his business that needed attention. When a Standard reporter attempted to contact the new President of the PRPOA, Al Giannone, he was also unavailable for comment.
In contrast, Mr. Giannone had plenty to say in a pro-Bresnahan campaign letter dated March 26th:
“It is election time in Pine Ridge, you have received your ballots for two board vacancies. Before you cast your vote, I would like to educate you so you will be able to cast an informed vote.
Pine Ridge is a sinking ship with Captain Clovis at the helm. We need to right this ship immediately, before all is lost. This is an equestrian community first! Jamey Clovis has forsaken all of our equestrians and has spent tens of thousands of dollars on pet projects. The flying field received electric, new pavers and runway and it is used by literally a dozen residents! The barn meeting room was totally remodeled for a select few residents who use it once or twice a week. The tennis courts have received the same spit and polish at the cost of the residents. The 486 entrance looks like a four year old designed it! All of these expenditures and not any money for the equestrians.
For years, I have been the leader of this community as President and Board Member and even behind the scenes when I haven’t been in office. For the last year I have made it very difficult for Jamey Clovis to start anymore of his Pet Projects. With my friends Don Gray, Cheryll Sedlock, and Fred Bresnahan we have been able to lay as many road blocks as possible. We have halted the budget, halted employee pay raises and have voted down the contract extension for Gail Denny. I do not think it is fair to the residents to renew it. For me to be able to return this community to an equestrian community once again, I need your votes.”
President Giannone’s reference to his friend, Election Chairperson Sedlock, may be concerning, especially now that an elections fraud complaint has been filed by Joan and Norman Paley, two other Pine Ridge residents who did not have their ballot counted.
When asked why they filed the official compliant with the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections, Mrs. Paley said, “My husband and I have always been involved in the community so we try to make things right when we see something wrong. And, this election was so bizarre. So outrageous.” One aspect of their complaint is that Maryann Smith, a new PRPOA Board Member, collected ballots at her home and had them delivered to the Pine Ridge Community Center on Election Day, citing a clear conflict of interest. They also focus on ballot signatures not matching those on record, a violation of Florida Statute, and the PRPOA Election Committee’s choice to invalidate over 140 ballots.
The Paleys, like Clovis, are hoping for a new election, one in which their votes will count.
The election results were close enough for those invalidated ballots to have potentially made a difference in the outcome of the election.
The newly-elected Board, now led by Mr. Giannone, has decided as one of its first actions to limit what PRPOA members can freely discuss or ask during PRPOA Board meetings. PRPOA members are now restricted to only addressing agenda items, recently losing the ability to pose any new questions concerning Board actions during meetings, including those connected to the last election. In fact, if any PRPOA member chooses to exercise their federal Freedom of Speech, and speak about a topic that is not on the agenda, the PRPOA Board of Directors now maintains it has the right to call law enforcement. Newly-elected PRPOA Board Member Smith explained she could not vote for the measure, “I do want to note I just got this. Board Members should be given time to read. What I don’t care for is the sentence that says members can’t ask questions.” With a 3-1 vote, Giannone, Gray, and Bresnahan all voted for restricting the speech of PRPOA members. Smith was the lone dissenting vote, with Kohler absent from the meeting. PRPOA Board Member Kohler shared with the Standard, “I’m very worried about the community. It’s like a takeover. They are going to do what they damn well please.”
According to Clovis, the PRPOA administrates over $1.3 million in cash and the new Board has already potentially violated its own By-Laws by purchasing items prior to voting on such expenditures as agenda items at public meetings.
Clovis has contacted both the office of Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He is seeking a new election and for the old Board to be temporarily re-seated while a new election process takes place. He is seeking administrative remedies, in case a new election is not sanctioned by State officials such as arbitration petitions, or even recalls, and may even seek civil remedies in the future.
To see if your 2017 PRPOA election ballot was counted, contact Jamey Clovis at (304) 376-1056. He has conducted an inspection of the invalidated ballots.
Suncoast Standard (c) June 11, 2017 at 7:19 PM
Submitted by: Lou Newman, Publisher