An election issue that plagued Haines City earlier this year has struck Polk County Board of County Commissioners, as well.
At its board session last week, the county commission agreed to file a lawsuit against a Lakeland man who qualified to take on incumbent commissioner George Lindsay in the November election.
According to County Attorney Michael Craig, Martin Grenfell — who had declared against Lindsay for the District 1 slot Lindsay has held for two terms — was convicted in federal court of trafficking in counterfeit goods or services. Reports say Grenfell was sentenced to three years probation back in 2013 and completed that sentence.
The sticking point, said Craig, was that Grenfell isn't qualified to run for office under the state constitution, which says that a felon has to wait five years after completing their sentence before he or she can have those rights restored.
Because the ballots must be prepared by Aug. 20, the issue is urgent, said Craig.
The commission agreed by a 4-0 vote for Craig to pursue the lawsuit. Lindsay did not cast a vote on the issue.
The case is similar to one that arose in Haines City earlier this year, when Claude E. Holmes Jr. defeated incumbent Roy Tyler for a city commission slot. Again, the issue was that Holmes had not had his eligibility to hold office restored before the election was held. A judge wound up ruling for Tyler to reclaim his commission seat.
Also last week, the county board halted its pandemic-related financial assistance program to regroup and see how much money was left before deciding what to do with whatever is leftover from the $126 million federal funding it received earlier this year.
Sean Malott, director of the Central Florida Development Council, whose department handled the aide program for businesses, told commissioners at a Friday session the “whole program has been successful.”
He explained that some 22,474 small businesses had availed themselves of the grant money, receiving about $36 million of the $40 that was allotted. Grants ranged from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of the business.
County Budget Director Todd Bond told commissioners he would tally the numbers and report back to see if the program could be reinstated to dispense any leftover money. The federal funds were provided with the caveat that they must be distributed or spent before the end of the year.
Malott also said that should additional money become available, the county already had the methodology for distribution, so a second round would be relatively simple to implement.