Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Speak Winter Parker: "Dillaha" Means "Hypocrite."

Former Winter Park Commissioner Beth Dillaha (pictured, left), loves to tell other people how they should live their lives. Never content to simply disagree, she frequently accuses her opponents of being motivated by unethical causes.

Anyone who has followed Winter Park politics for any period of time can cite multiple examples of what the Winter Park/Maitland Observer has described as her practice of making "political enemies out of those who disagreed with her" (Staff Opinion, March 9, 2011). In her support for the failed Hometown Democracy constitutional amendment, she repeatedly accused those opposed to this growth-destroying measure as being in the pockets of developers and special interests (See, e.g., Winter Park/Maitland Observer, Letter to the Editor, January 28, 2010). You may remember my blog post from last year about Craig Miller's use of Dillaha's false attacks on Karen Diebel in a mail piece, and Pete Weldon has done an excellent job over the past few years documenting Dillaha's nasty little habit of claiming moral superiority while falsely attacking her opponents (see here, here and here).

Dillaha has been especially self-righteous on the issue of campaign finance, making a pledge in 2007 not to accept corporate contributions to her campaign, and to limit individual contributions to $250.00 (instead of the $500.00 which was the legal limit). Dillaha then turned around and violated her own campaign promise just a few months later, accepting $8,000.00 (almost 20% of her total contributions for the race) from companies controlled by former Winter Park Mayor David Strong. As she is wont to do, she then spun around again a few years later and pretended none of this had ever happened, arguing that corporate contributions and bundled contributions were unethical in 2009 when Winter Park was in the process of revising its Ethics Codes and election procedures.

...which brings us to this year. During the 2011 Winter Park City Commission elections, a mailer that attacked candidate Sarah Sprinkel was sent to approximately 8,000 Winter Park residents. The mailer had a disclaimer that said that "William Graves, 30458D George Mason Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32792" had paid for it, but Mr. Graves admitted that he was not actually behind the mailer, that someone else had created and paid for it ("Developer says he was defamed," Winter Park/Maitland Observer, March 16, 2011).

Florida's election laws require all political advertisements to clearly disclose who paid for them, and for regular campaign finance reports. In this case, the mailer attacking Sprinkel (1) did not have an honest disclaimer, and (2) no campaign finance reports were made disclosing who paid for the mailer.

[Side note: this is very similar to the issue that sent Doug Guetzloe to jail, sending out an anonymous attack mailer in a Winter Park city election. Hmmm...]

Pete Weldon filed a complaint with the Winter Park Police Department regarding the Sprinkel mailer, and the matter was referred to the Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office for investigation. You can read Weldon's original complaint here and see the response from Roger Floyd's investigation here.

What the investigation by the State Attorney's Office revealed was that Beth Dillaha was behind the mailer attacking Sprinkel, that she had intentionally taken steps to keep the financial backers of the mailer anonymous, and that she had failed to file the proper reports to form a political organization and also failed to file any campaign finance reports whatsoever. (Note: the letter from Floyd to Winter Park Chief of Police asks whether Dillaha might have filed paperwork to form a political committee with the city; I confirmed this morning that she had not.)

Weldon forwarded a copy of his complaint and the response from the State Attorney's Office to the Winter Park City Commission on Friday, commenting:
It is a great disappointment to me and I trust to all Winter Park citizens to discover that [Beth Dillaha,] a Winter Park city commissioner, and one who has consistently brow beaten others for their perceived ethical lapses, is at the very least the coordinator of malicious, anonymous election mailers.

This matter is now being sent to the Florida Elections Commission for further investigation. Hopefully the City of Winter Park Ethics Board will also undertake its own investigation. These type of ugly, anonymous attacks have been going on in Winter Park for far too long. [Note that while I am not aware of any criminal charges being brought, there are procedures to pursue criminal investigations in connection with an FEC Complaint.]

By her own conduct, Dillaha has proven, once again, that she is an extremely unethical and hypocritical person. I have always been a strong advocate for transparency in election and campaign finance laws, and I am disgusted by her deliberate circumvention of laws designed to provide voters with fair and timely information about who is trying to influence our elections. Even if Dillaha discloses the names of her co-conspirators who paid for the mailer, it is now over three months since the election.

Beth Dillaha, and those who supported her in this unethical activity, should be ashamed.


  1. Good job.

  2. Beth Dillaha is a criminal and the penalty for election and mail fraud should be severe. What an idiot. Thank you for bringing the facts to bear again.

  3. Beth Dillaha should be ashamed of herself! Why did she think she could get away with this? Also the similarity with Guetzloe is very funny.


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