County Commissioner Busted for Stealing Election Funds

Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall, in office since 2004, has pleaded guilty to stealing almost $34,000 from her campaign account in 2010.
Hall, the all-time fundraising queen of Lee County commission candidates, has resigned effective Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Like all Lee County elected officials, Hall is a Republican. She served on the Fort Myers city council before she ran for and won an empty seat on the county board. She received the endorsement of the Fort Myers News-Press in 2010.
Hall was the first-ever female chair of the Lee County board. She was the first woman elected to the board since Vicki Lopez-Wolfe resigned under a cloud in 1991. Now Vicki Lukis, she was convicted of honest services fraud and served 18 months. The under which she was convicted has since been ruled unconstitutional and nullified.
In a plea agreement signed Sept. 16 Hall admitted to moving money from her campaign account to her personal one nine times between January 4 and October 20, 2010. She is charged with wire fraud because she moved the money electronically. She also filed false financial reports with the county elections office.
That money had come from sources like Forrest Banks and Randy Henderson, both Fort Myers councilmen, Tax Collector Larry Hart, former school board member Elinor Scricca, former State Rep. Carole Green and Paige Rausch, who has said she would run for the seat Hall had already announced she would not seek again.
That announcement came without explanation in early September, more than six months after FBI agents first visited her in her home on Feb. 20.
According to federal documents Hall initially denied wrongdoing, claiming the money went to pay bills for the campaign.
According to the plea agreement Hall instead used the money to pay for things like her own mortgage and credit card bills from Nordstrom’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Mark Loren Design and Club Monaco.
The feds also said that Hall deposited checks from some donors directly into her personal account. Whether one of them reported it they did not say.
Halls legal campaign expenditures included 13 meetings at the Veranda restaurant adjacent to the county courthouse, 8 meetings at Spirit of Bacchus, 6 visits to Total Wine, a conference at the Omni in Orlando and a meeting at the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C.
The $144,000 or-so Hall raised in 2010 dwarfed the $18,000 her opponent spent, but looks small compared to the $176,000 she raised in 2006.
Next up for Hall is an appearance in federal court on October 3. Commission Chairman Cecil Pendergrass said that he will be asking the governor to appoint a replacement to finish Hall’s term, which runs through 2014. In a letter sent Monday he tells the Governor that even though the annual budget work is done the board has plenty to do.
“It is imperative that we have a full board as soon as possible,” he said.
There are already four official candidates for Hall’s old seat. They are Andy Coy, who held the seat before Hall and lost to her when he tried to take it back in 2006, long-time county administrator Don Stilwell, who ran for a board seat and lost in 2012, Cape Coral resident Brian Hamman and Democrat Debbie Jordan.
Coy, Hamman and Stilwell are all Republicans, as is Rausch, who has not yet filed to run.
The wire fraud charge calls for a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Hall provided cooperation, according to the agreement, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has agreed to recommend a reduced sentence.
Spokeswoman Amy Filjones said she was unsure whether Hall continues to cooperate in any ongoing investigation.

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6 comments

  1. Steve Graves

    I’ve been hammering on Ms. Hall’s campaign “contributions” for years. Glad to see other folks were interested, as well.

  2. Debbie Jordan

    Charlie thank you for stating facts, it is great to read one article and attain all that is needed. Appreciate your thoroughness for the truth.

  3. Nick White

    I have long suspected that corruption runs rampant in local government/s. One can’t help but feel this way when decisions are made that go completely against common sense and logic. And when decisions are made that obviously go against the quality of life in Lee County. More ball parks, anyone?

    Let’s hope the federal government will search thoroughly for corruption of all kinds. Of course, that would be kind of like “…the pot calling the kettle black” now, wouldn’t it?

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