Frank Hibbard lodges ethics complaint against mayoral candidate Kathleen Beckman over use of city resources for political gain

kathleen_beckman
Beckman sought information from city staff to send letters to voters that Frank Hibbard claims were politically targeted.

Former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard is taking issue with a candidate for the office he once held. In a complaint filed this week with the Florida Commission on Ethics, Hibbard accuses City Council member and mayoral candidate Kathleen Beckman of using city resources to aid her campaign for Mayor.

Hibbard’s ethics complaint includes copies of emails sent to city staff, letters sent to select recipients within the city of Clearwater, and various items to support his claim of an ethics violation.

“Councilmember Beckman corruptly used her official position and the City of Clearwater resources for a political benefit. Councilmember Beckman deceived City staff to assist her in drafting the letters on City of Clearwater letterhead, and to allow said letter to be placed in City of Clearwater envelopes while she caused the letters to be addressed to specific voters derived from political software, which was obtained through her mayoral campaign,” Hibbard wrote in the complaint.

In a statement to Florida Politics, Beckman denied any wrongdoing.

“It is sad to see Mr. Hibbard propagating false information on a Council member informing residents about an issue critical to them,” Beckman said. “This shows extremely poor judgement by both Mr. Hibbard and Mr. Rector. I would never say such a thing about anyone, ever. And the fact that my competitor did not have the decency to reach out to me on the topic, before using it as a campaign ploy, is inexcusable.”

“It appears that my competitor will stop at nothing to get elected,” she added.

Hibbard has endorsed Beckman’s opponent, Bruce Rector.

At issue is an email sent Jan. 3 to City Manager Jennifer Poirrier in which she informs that she had “canvassed North Beach yesterday for about four hours,” during which time she said constituents told her that Rector “shared information with North Beach residents about $60 million in funds from ‘planning’ … being allocated to address infrastructure needs on North Beach.”

The email also asks for information pertaining to flooding precautions and a city pump. The email makes clear that she is seeking information for purposes of canvassing, preparing for candidate forums, and obtaining the “most up to date and accurate information to communicate to our residents.”

In a subsequent email to Poirrier later that day, Beckman informs her that she has “composed a letter to send to North Beach residents to address the overwhelming concerns I listened to yesterday.” She said the information she was referring to “was part of the response Dan helped compose to share as a result of my walking with residents in early Dec.”

“Dan” refers to Assistant City Manager Daniel Slaughter. The email says she wanted to “run it by” Poirrier and asks the City Manager to let her know if she has any concerns.

The letter attached to the second email explains to constituents that Beckman is “aware of the infrastructure inefficiencies on North Beach related to stormwater and flooding” and assures residents that the “Public Works Department and our Public Utilities Department are coordinating their efforts to develop and finalize capital improvement projects that plans to add more lift stations, for a total of five, as well as replacing the existing stormwater system with larger piping.”

Beckman signs the letter with her City Council title, not as a mayoral candidate.

Poirrier, after reviewing the letter, responded to Beckman’s email on Jan. 4, cautioning her of the need to separate official city business from campaign-related activity.

“I know you can appreciate that staff (myself especially per the ethics tenants … ) has to walk a fine line in ensuring we are not engaging in campaign activities. I work very hard at ensuring all of Council is aware of major issues going on in the city so that none of you are caught off guard at any time,” Poirrier wrote.

“As such, my responses are to provide you, as a current Council member information, and is not intended to validate or debunk any campaign related circumstances.”

Poirrier then provided an in-depth response to Beckman’s draft letter, with clarification and additional information in red type.

The revised letter was then printed on city letterhead.

And that’s where Hibbard’s complaint enters. Beckman provided a list of constituents who were sent her letter, which did not contain a campaign disclosure. The list includes 139 names, all but one of whom are women.

“Statistically that’s an impossibility,” Hibbard lamented at a City Council meeting Thursday during public comment when he announced that he would be filing the complaint.

In the complaint, Hibbard notes the lack of male constituents on the list of recipients “demonstrates a clear intent by Councilmember Beckman to target the letter to specific voters.” Furthermore, Hibbard’s complaint notes that each of the names listed was hyperlinked to “DNC Vote Builder,” technology used for political campaign communication.

Adding to Hibbard’s complaint is a copy of an email dated Jan. 9 in which City Council Executive Assistant Tammy Cummings confirmed that she “only printed the form letters” and that Beckman “hand addressed the letters with the name of the recipients & hand addressed the envelopes … She paid for the postage herself.”

“If the letter truly was intended to be part of her official duties as an elected official, she would not have felt the need to pay for the postage herself,” Hibbard wrote.

Hibbard then cites Florida state statutes prohibiting public officials from using or attempting to use their official positions for political gain.

The process for reviewing ethics complaints is typically long, and often does not reach its conclusion until after the election in question has already occurred. The recourse at that point tends to be limited to fines, though more severe consequences are possible in extreme situations.

It’s unlikely the complaint will be resolved before the Clearwater municipal election on March 19.

Beckman previously addressed the issue after interim Mayor Brian Aungst Sr. drew attention to it in mid-January, explaining to the Tampa Bay Times at the time that she “quickly pulled together a list of people on streets in the affected areas” from contact information she had on file and was not targeting anyone specifically other than those who lived in affected areas.

Beckman was first elected to City Council in 2020. She’s running to succeed Aungst Sr. who was appointed last year after Hibbard abruptly resigned from the post.

Beckman now serves as a Guardian ad Litem with the Pinellas County Courts where she serves as a voice and advocate for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.

While the election is technically nonpartisan, Beckman has rounded up support from area Democrats while her opponent, Rector, is garnering support from Republicans. Hibbard is a Republican.

Beckman, as of the end of December, has outraised Rector, though not by much. Campaign finance records show she has raised more than $70,000 while Rector had brought in just over $64,000.

Beckman Complaint Final by Janelle Irwin Taylor on Scribd

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


4 comments

  • ScienceBLVR

    February 2, 2024 at 6:26 pm

    Ok.. all of this is kinda in the, who gives a s-/t category. But, I live in Clearwater, and just this week I received a letter from Frankie H, grousing about something, and I thought.. isn’t this the ninny who walked away from his elected post in a snit about something?
    In the middle of a city council meeting? If he’s against Kathleen, she’s got my vote.

  • Concerned Citizen

    February 3, 2024 at 8:37 am

    Subject: Much Ado About Nothing

    I am flummoxed over the time over which the Clearwater City Commission has wasted taxpayer dollars on a topic that should have been resolved in 2 minutes, i.e. the stationary “debacle”.

    Why is it that the radical right-wing majority on the dais is dog-piling on Ms. Beckman for a small mailing she directed to women in a certain neighborhood re: flooding. Last I checked, she is a FEMALE. Why are there such pearl-clutching reactions to a gender-specific mailing she simply directed to women representing both political parties which DID NOT pertain to any upcoming campaign, but rather to a specific problem affecting their area?

    Clearly, the Orange Jesus disciples on the dias (everyone sitting to the left of and including Mayor Angst (sic)….including one Linda “Mrs. Magoo” Texeria, who started the attack while squinting through her coke-bottle glasses….are ganging up on Ms. Beckman. I seriously doubt they would have brought this up if Ms. Beckman was a fellow Fox News addicted Trump cultist.

    The coup de gras of this whole asinine, politically driven crusade was seeing FIckle Frankie Hibbard (another radicalized MAGAt) return to the scene of the crime following his spineless, infantile walk-out last year. He had the temerity to declare, in his distinctive yet horribly irritating “Kermit the Frog” vocal stylings, that he has filed an ethics complaint against Ms. Beckman. That’s rich coming from an arrogant coward who proudly declard “I’m not a quitter”…..before literally quitting 5 minutes later and walking out with a soiled diaper. Talk about a breach of ethics!

    I am filing an Ethics Complaint with the state over what is a purely politics-based oppo research attack staged by the Mayor and his MAGA minions with the intention of benefitting Ms. Beckman’s radical right-wing opponent (Mr. Rectum) in the upcoming mayoral election.

    Oh, and by the way, a quick note to Clearwater City Commissioners:
    Dunedin, St. Pete and Tampa continue to grow and prosper while Cultwater continues its downward trajectory as a once proud, populated and vibrant downtown into a scary, weird-vibe ghost town inhabited by zombies.

    Nice work.

    • Joseph C

      February 3, 2024 at 2:27 pm

      As a resident of Clearwater I am sad to think that a “garbage mouth” person such as you could possibly be a neighbor. I guess I will not know because cowards like you do not put your name to the trash you write. If you did, you would then have to defend your comments. I seriously wonder if you could defend all the venom you expressed. I can only say, it is sad to think that you eat with that same mouth that you speak.

      • Concerned Citizen

        February 4, 2024 at 9:54 am

        Sir, you have insulted my honor and I demand satisfaction (glove slap). I challenge you to a duel! We shall meet tomorrow in the grassy area behind your trailer at the Serendipity Mobile Home Park on U.S. 19, 1 hour before sundown. The tenants of the 1777 Code Duello of Ireland shall be observed.
        Good Day, Sir!

Comments are closed.


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