Ready for some delicious irony? The campaign to recall Mayor Buddy Dyer based on the premise that Dyer violated Florida election law is violating Florida election law. Hot dog.
Mayoral wannabe Sam Ings announced his Recall Dyer Committee Oct. 31 on the steps of City Hall. Soon after, he sent out a mass mailing encouraging people to sign his recall petition. And that's where Ings' problems start. His mailers included the addressee's voter registration numbers, which indicates that Ings somehow got access to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections voter database. But that database is, until Jan. 1, restricted to office holders, declared candidates and registered political action committees.
The key word in that last sentence is "registered." According to state law, by starting a recall petition, Ings automatically formed a political committee. But according to Orlando city clerk Alana Brenner, he hasn't registered it. Therefore, he isn't entitled to get voter registration info. The Orange County Supervisor of Elections' office says they didn't give it to him. But he has it. Where did it come from?
Ings didn't call us back to talk about it. But there are only two sources: Either Ings used an old list from when he was a mayoral candidate, or he got it from Doug Guetzloe's Ax the Tax group, the undeclared backer of the recall campaign. Ax the Tax is classified as a "perpetual political action committee" and has ongoing access to registration info.
Either way, Ings broke the law, according to Brenner and officials at the supervisor's office and the Florida Department of State. State law says ex-candidates can only use voter info "to further their candidacies." Ings is no longer a candidate. And according to state department spokeswoman Jenny Nash, Guetzloe can only share his voter info with people entitled to use it, i.e. candidates, office holders, municipalities or registered political committees.
Guetzloe wouldn't say whether or not he turned over the voter info to Ings. "You're wandering into nuance," he says. "I believe the recall committee is operating under the letter of the law."
It's more than nuance. Under Chapter 106 of state law, all political committees are required to file a statement of organization 10 days after forming. This is a local matter, so the statement should be filed with the city clerk's office. That's how you legally access voter info. Assuming the Recall Dyer Committee formed Oct. 31, Ings has until Nov. 9 to file his statement.
But one could argue that Ings formed the committee July 20, the date the website www.recalldyer.com was registered. Chapter 106.03 of Florida statutes states committees have 10 days to file from the date on which they expect to raise or spend "an aggregate amount exceeding $500 … ." Unless Ings had no plans to collect more than $500 for his campaign this year, his group dates to July 20, and he should have registered by July 30.
There's no way to know how much he's spent, because he hasn't filed any information. However one local campaign operative says the website and the mailing alone would have already put him over $500.
At his Oct. 31 press conference, Ings said he wouldn't have to disclose his contributions or expenditures until a recall date was set. Guetzloe told us that Ings never has to issue financial reports for the campaign. Wrong on both counts, according to city clerk Brenner. Like any committee, the Recall Dyer Committee has to file quarterly reports, the first of which would have been due Oct. 10. Whoops.
Funny how a campaign based on civic accountability is dancing circles around public disclosure law.
Glenda's in town, Bill Frederick's making a stink, the mayor faces a recall and now the Backstreet Boys are back … in court! Everything old is new again.
The Boys filed a Nov. 3 lawsuit against the hand that feeds them, aka Lou "Puffy Daddy" Pearlman, demanding to be reimbursed for the costs and legal fees they dished out to former Backstreeter Sam "Phoenix Stone" Licata and two former managers. Their suit doesn't name an amount.
We didn't realize there was a sixth Boy, but according to the lawsuit, Pearlman may have done Licata wrong. In 1993, the Boys (including Licata) signed an agreement with Trans Continental Records stating they'd be BSB for the next five years. But Pearlman had a hidden agenda, according to the lawsuit: First, dissolve the Backstreet Boys as a legal entity to extinguish Licata and the two managers' interests, then form a slew of new companies to run BSB. The remaining Boys were under the impression that Pearlman had bought back stock owned by Licata and the two managers as compensation. Maybe not.
Instead, Pearlman allegedly advised the trio to hang onto their stock because "they'd be valuable some day," according to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Big Lou rendered that stock worthless by secretly monopolizing BSB into new entities such as Backstreet Productions Inc.; companies that had been concealed from Licata and the managers.
In 1999, one of the two managers, Jeanne Williams, sued Pearlman and BSB for hijacking her gravy train. Before settling that lawsuit in 2004, the Boys paid Pearlman $29.5 million in another legal settlement. According to the recent lawsuit, the Boys entered that agreement with the contingency that Pearlman would pay off Licata and the managers, as well as anyone else he might have stepped on in making BSB the premier boy-band of the late '90s. According to the complaint, Pearlman never made good on his end of that deal; hence, this lawsuit. Oh what a tangled web we weave.
In other Pearlman legal news, on Sept. 29, Gregory T. McDonald president of both Trans Continental and Heritage Entertainment Inc. is suing Lou for failure to satisfy a multimillion-dollar loan and turn over certain Heritage property being used as collateral. Since Pearlman punked out, the lawsuit says, Heritage, which owns all stock interest in Pearlman's entities, has to liquidate its assets.
Another season, another huge circulation drop for the Orlando Sentinel. In what's becoming a routine, we once again note that the Sentinel is at the top of the pack nationally in how quickly its circulation is falling through the floor.
For the 26 weeks ended Sept. 25, the Sentinel's average daily circulation dropped a whopping 11 percent from the same period a year ago and 9 percent on Sundays, according to the Sentinel itself. Individual paid circulation dropped 2 percent for both daily and Sundays. According to Editor & Publisher, only one paper in the entire country posted a higher percentage circulation drop than the Sentinel; that paper is The San Francisco Chronicle, which lost 16.5 percent of its daily readers.
Back in May we reported that the Sentinel had registered a 6 percent drop in daily circulation, and a 4.2 percent drop in Sunday circulation for the prior reporting period.
Sentinel suits blame the dismal figures this time around on the paper pulling out of hotels and other places that attract tourists. "We changed our circulation strategy in January 2005 significantly reducing our hotel program," says Deborah Irwin, the Sentinel's director of circulation, in a press release. (Translation: USA Today was kicking their ass in the tourist trade anyway, so why bother?)
Come on Orlando, the Sentinel is "The Story of You." The least you can do is read it.
Do you have a bad marriage? Put down that frying pan, pick up the phone and call the British Broadcasting Co. They are coming to Orlando, and they want to help or at least roll tape while you and your spouse eviscerate each other on cable TV.
According to BBC US Productions, there are more divorces in America than any other country. And, also according to the BBC, there are more divorces in Florida than any other state. And, according to the atlas, Orlando is in the middle of Florida, so what better place to find a bunch of unhappy couples willing to get a dose of public therapy?
The BBC is producing a 13-week series they say will "challenge the notion that divorce brings freedom and happiness." They want couples willing to endure seven days of intense, in-home therapy. If your marriage sucks hard enough, call them at (917) 957-7849, e-mail them at SaveMyMarriage@bbcnyproduction.com, or check them out online at www.bbcnyc.com/week.asp. And if they do save your marriage, don't blame us.
This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Paula Ferguson and Bob Whitby.firstname.lastname@example.org