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Governor to appoint Hall’s replacement

By Staff | Sep 24, 2013

The Florida governor’s office is taking applications to fill a vacancy created when a Lee County commissioner resigned Tuesday after it was announced that she was facing federal charges.

District 4 Commissioner Tammy Hall submitted her resignation Monday from the Lee County Board of County Commissioners – the same day that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida reported that Hall, 53, of Cape Coral, had entered into a plea agreement for wire fraud.

“Chairman Cecil Pendergrass will notify Gov. Scott’s office immediately and ask him to appoint someone to fill the seat until the general election,” a prepared statement from the commission said.

A spokesman for Scott’s office confirmed the forthcoming appointment.

“All elected officials must be held to the highest ethical standards,” John Tupps reported Tuesday. “Gov. Scott will appoint a person to fill this vacancy who will serve the families of Lee County with honesty and integrity.”

There is no timeline for an appointment to be made.

“Gov. Scott will make an appointment in a timely manner,” he said.

As of Tuesday, the office had not received any applications.

Former elected officials have expressed interest in submitting an application.

“I will be applying,” Andy Coy, who is also running for the District 4 seat in the 2014 election, said Tuesday. “I am very hopeful that I will get the governor’s appointment to serve out that term.”

Brian Hamman, Debbie Jordan and Don Stilwell are also candidates in next year’s race.

Hall had previously announced that she would not be seeking re-election.

“I believe, with my 32 years of public service – 22 as an educator and 10 as the elected representative of District 4 – I think that allows me to be the most qualified to serve out the term,” Coy said.

He was elected to the District 4 seat on the commission in 1994, 1998 and 2002.

“I think it allows me to hit the ground running and serve the people of District 4 immediately on day one,” Coy said, adding that he has resided within the district for the last 24 years.

District 4 encompasses Cape Coral and North Fort Myers.

Robert “Bob” Chilmonik, who served on the Lee County School Board for over two terms, also announced that he plans to apply for the appointment. He cited his experience as one reason.

“I’m hopeful that the governor will look at my qualifications. I think I can be an asset to the community,” Chilmonik said, adding that he wants to work with the commission in the interim only to keep the county’s business moving forward. “I have no intention to run for the office itself.”

He explained that appointing an applicant who is not an election candidate is good.

“That allows the public to vet all four or five people running for the office,” Chilmonik said.

“If you have an appointment (of a candidate), it does give an advantage to the person running for office,” he added. “The position is so important in Lee County and there’s so many things happening.”

Chilmonik voiced concern over any backlash from Hall’s resignation and the situation.

“Any time that the public trust has been broken, any time that happens, unfortunately it sends a negative message across the county about the leaders that are running the operation of the county,” he said.

“It breeds mistrust,” Chilmonik said, adding that there are good people working for the county.

Coy echoed the sentiment.

“It’s a very sad situation,” he said. “It reflects on all public service.”

On Monday, federal prosecutors announced that Hall had been charged with one count of wire fraud. She has entered into a plea deal and faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison.

She also faces a fine of not more than $250,000 and no more than three years of supervised release.

Hall did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Attorney Eric Padron, whose office is in Coral Gables, is representing Hall.

He also did not return a message seeking comment on the case.

According to court documents, Hall was running for re-election as a Lee County commissioner in the 2010 election. From November 2009 to November 2010, she diverted and embezzled about $33,756 of donor contributions to the Tammy Hall campaign fund and used the money for personal expenditures.

Hall reportedly spent the money on mortgage payments to Bank of America and to cover American Express purchases at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Mark Loren Designs and Club Monaco.

Hall completed state campaign fund reports and failed to disclose that she had diverted campaign contributions to pay for personal expenses, the documents state. She falsely represented the nature of the expenditures or omitted certain campaign contribution checks from the state campaign reports.

Hall reportedly transferred funds electronically from the campaign bank account to her personal account, wrote checks from the campaign bank account, then deposited the checks to her personal account, and deposited certain donor campaign contributions directly into her personal account.

According to the documents, FBI agents interviewed Hall in February 2012. She made deceptive statements, where she claimed that she never took money from her campaign account to support her personal lifestyle. She said all of the money she took was reimbursement for campaign expenses.

Hall has a plea hearing at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 3, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Frazier.