Castor-Dentel Campaign Facing Potentially Serious Ethics Charges: Some Lessons To Learn

According to Saint Petersblog today, substantial and serious charges will be filed with the Florida Ethics Commission against Karen Castol-Dentel Democratic Candidate for State House in the critical District 30 race against Scott Plakon.

At a time when the FDP is rightly making ethics and cronyism serious campaign issues this is a potentially damaging development. If the charges which are detailed below are true, it could serve to undermine the candidacy of the Maitland school teacher who is the daughter or former State Senator and Commissioner of Education Betty Castor.

It is also possible this is a Republican dirty trick, given the stakes in this particular race are very high. Scott Plakon, a right wing Representative is sitting after redistricting in the second best Obama district currently held by a Republican. (Only Shawn Harrison’s 63rd district had a higher Obama two-party vote in 2008).

Whether or not these serious charges are substantiated, this should be cause for the Florida Democratic Party to properly brief all legislative candidates in the future on campaign law and the potential for Republican dirty tricksters to exaggerate simple mistakes or misunderstandings and turn them into election determining scandals. Mark Herron, the FDP’s attorney is one of the best in the business, and he can help potential candidates not make silly mistakes. Whether or not the Castor-Dentel charges prove to be completely unfounded, a simple error (it is possible to accidentally send emails from the wrong email address) or a malicious effort to circumvent campaign law, the FDP should prepare candidates adequately for the possibility of dirty tricks or being entrapped by Republican operatives.

Florida’s Republicans have had things all their way for over a decade now. The sense of entitlement of GOP leaders, activists and operatives is not to be ignored. They will use any means at their disposal to win elections and this situation should clearly demonstrate to Democratic candidates to never let  your guard down and don’t do anything stupid because the GOP will surely pounce on it.

The report from Saint Petersblog is below:

A complaint has been file with the Florida Election Commission against Karen Castor Dentel, a teacher in the Orange County School District and Democrat candidate for House District 30.

Among the allegations, Castor-Dentel is said to have taken part in campaign related activities while on school time, a violation of Section 104.31(2), Florida Statutes;

(2) An employee of the state or any political subdivision may not participate in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty.

Evidence has surfaced that Castor-Dentel frequently used her Orange County Public Schools official email account to discuss campaign-related subjects with colleagues and others during normal working hours.

Additional allegations involve Castor-Dentel requesting that Principle Junella Handley mention her campaign during the next scheduled faculty meeting, a violation of Section 106.15(3), Florida Statutes;

3) A candidate may not, in the furtherance of his or her candidacy for nomination or election to public office in any election, use the services of any state, county, municipal, or district officer or employee during working hours.

Another alleged incident involves soliciting a political contribution in a government building when Castor-Dentel left an invitation to a fund raising event in Principle Handley’s office mailbox at Dommerich Elementary School, a violation of 106.15(4), Florida Statutes;

(4) No person shall make and no person shall solicit or knowingly accept any political contribution in a building owned by a governmental entity. For purposes of this subsection, “accept” means to receive a contribution by personal hand delivery from a contributor or the contributor’s agent. This subsection shall not apply when a government-owned building or any portion thereof is rented for the specific purpose of holding a campaign fund raiser.
The complainant plans to file a complaint with the Florida Ethics Commission on Monday against Castor-Dentel as well.
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