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Former Orlando police chief Val Demings

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Elections complaint alleges Val Demings played favorites in 2014 refunds

A complaint filed with the Florida Elections Commission alleges that former Orlando Police Chief Val Deming‘s aborted 2014 Orange County mayoral campaign played favorites in refunding campaign money.

The complaint, filed Thursday by Connor Pace of Gainesville, contends that the 2014 Val Demings for Orange County Mayor campaign fully refunded money to a handful of contributors and provided no refunds to others.

Pace also attached a spreadsheet to the report showing that most of the contributors who got refunds were lobbyists or consultants. “She chose to return contributions only to select group of contributors, instead of returning pro rata to each contributor as required by law,” the complaint charges.

A spokeswoman for Demings’ current campaign, for the U.S. Congress in Orlando-based Congressional District 10, said that Demings had not yet been notified of the complaint so there would be no comment about it.

Pace did not return a call seeking comment.

Demings is in a hotly contested Democratic primary race in CD 10, facing businessman Bob Poe, lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy and state Sen. Geraldine Thompson.

The Demings campaign noted the complainant, Pace, appears to be friends with Poe’s daughter and campaign finance director, Virginia Poe.

The Poe campaign declined to comment.

In 2014, Demings, a Democrat, ran to take on Republican Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. However, in May of that year she abruptly pulled out of the race. She later cited a health issue for doing so.

Her mayoral campaign had raised more than $258,000, and had spent about $179,000 in the five months or so she was in the mayoral race, according to campaign finance records filed with the Orange County Supervisor of Elections. In May, 2014, her campaign refunded 25 donors a total of $13,275. The campaign then cleared its balance by donating about $41,000 to various charities and $25,000 to the Florida Democratic Party.

Florida Statutes Section 106.141 (4)(a) gives campaigns several options for disposing of money if a candidate withdraws. The options include giving money to authorized charities and up to $25,000 to the party. Refunding to contributors also is an option.

The language on the refund option reads: “Return pro rata to each contributor the funds that have not been spent or obligated.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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