Largo City commissioner Samantha Fenger used her city e-mail account to ask city staff to sign petition cards so she could get on the ballot for the November election. On the face of it, Fenger’s actions appear to violate Florida Statutes 104.31 , which governs the political activities of state, county, and municipal officers.
“I’m reaching out to you because you all have been great supporters thus far,” Fenger wrote from her official City of Largo e-mail address on July 26th. “I’m hoping I can count on you during this critical time,” she continued in her e-mail addressed to “those who have volunteered to serve on an advisory board!”
“We’re in need of a handful more of Largo signatures by next Monday!!” Fenger wrote, without specifying whether “we” meant the city or her campaign. She not only asked the recipients to sign, she also asked them “to take a couple of addt’l cards to have Largo family, friends, neighbors or colleagues sign.”
Fenger signed her e-mail “Commissioner Samantha Fenger” and attached a sample petition card. The Guardian obtained the e-mail through a public records request to the city. Since Fenger ultimately faced no opposition in the election, the petitions issue may have become moot. Howver, Fenger’s actions in obtaining them are not moot.
Christel Hunsicker, a Largo voter, confirmed that she has filed a Florida Elections Commission (FEC) complaint over the matter. Hunsicker’s husband Robert was himself the subject of a 2010 FEC complaint. The FEC found that he had filed incorrect campaign finance reports, but dismissed the complaint without a fine because it found that “the public interest would not be served by pursuing any further action in this matter.”
The Florida House of Representatives has a general prohibition against using official resources for campaign or political purposes. If such activities are unethical for members of the House, maybe they’re unethical in Largo City Hall, too.
Fenger did not respond to a phone call and text message from the Guardian seeking answers and comments.
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