Florida Senate won’t block election chief’s suspension

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Senate will not take any action to block the suspension of an embattled county elections supervisor who drew fierce criticism during this year’s contentious election recount, a leading state lawmaker said Thursday.

Brenda Snipes, who had been in charge of elections in the Democratic stronghold of Broward County, had agreed to resign in early January, following the recount problems. But GOP Gov. Rick Scott, accusing her of misfeasance and incompetence, suspended her from office at the end of November and replaced her with his former general counsel.

The day after Scott suspended Snipes her attorney said she was rescinding her resignation, a move that would have allowed the state Senate to review her suspension. Florida law requires the Senate to either remove or reinstate county officials who are suspended by the governor.

But Senate President Bill Galvano said that’s not going to happen.

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Galvano sent a memo to senators saying there is not enough time to investigate the allegations against Snipes before her resignation takes effect Jan. 4. He said a legal review by Senate attorneys had concluded that Snipes had rescinded her “unconditional” resignation too late.

“From a Senate standpoint, the issue is moot come Jan. 5,” Galvano said.

Galvano acknowledged that Snipes could continue her battle to remain elections supervisor in court. Burnadette Norris-Weeks, an attorney for Snipes who had called Scott’s decision “malicious,” did not comment on Galvano’s announcement.

Snipes has been the top elections official in the south Florida county since 2003 when then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her. She came under withering criticism for her handling of this year’s elections and a legally required recount in close races for governor and U.S. Senate. She had been elected three times and her current term was not scheduled to end until 2020.

In his executive order, Scott cited problems during the recount, including reports of more than 2,000 ballots being misplaced. Shortly after the recount started, Scott himself suggested possible fraud, but never offered any concrete examples.

Snipes also came under fire in 2017 after she destroyed year-old ballots in violation of law.

Scott replaced Snipes with Peter Antonacci, who has held a number of posts at the request of the governor but has no elections experience. Antonacci played a pivotal role in the controversial decision to force the ouster of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey in 2015. Antonacci had been president of Florida’s economic development agency before he was sworn last week to replace Snipes.

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