Broward Inspector General: Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner Violated Open Government and Campaign Finance Laws

Council Member Lynn Stoner

Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner violated Florida’s open government and campaign finance laws, Broward’s Inspector General said Thursday, November 5, 2020 in a Office of the Inspector General (OIG) press release.

An investigation found Stoner also acted beyond her mayoral authority as defined by the city code and charter after her election as mayor in November 2018, Broward Inspector General John W. Scott said.

Investigators found that Stoner improperly discussed with city council members her plans to reorganize city staff, including eliminating an ordinance-created position, Scott said. She raised the issue during a meeting that was closed to the public and despite a city council member’s voiced concern that the discussion might be violating Florida’s Sunshine Law, Scott said.

Misconduct and Gross Mismanagement

OIG Final Report Re: City of Plantation Mayor Violated Florida Open Government and Campaign Finance Laws and Exceeded Her Mayoral Authority Under the City Charter and Code, Ref. OIG 19-004-M

The mayor knowingly violated the Sunshine Law, a second degree misdemeanor. Also uncovered that the mayor engaged in a separate violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law when she privately discussed her reorganization plans with a council member. The OIG further determined that the mayor engaged in a violation of Florida’s public records laws when she refused to provide records in response to a council member’s requests for the written plans for reorganization—documents that the OIG proved existed at the time of those requests.

Also established that the mayor’s creation and staffing of two new positions within the administration department amounted to further misconduct, as the city charter vested the authority to do so solely in the council.

Finally, our investigation also substantiated the allegation that the mayor engaged in campaign finance misconduct in her campaign to be elected mayor in November 2018. The OIG found that, after the election, Mayor Stoner wrote a check on the campaign bank account when it had insufficient funds and then made an illegal, post-election loan to cover the overdraft. Compounding the misdeeds, she then filed false Campaign Treasurer’s Reports (CTRs) to conceal those acts by making substantial omissions and false entries in her CTRs. She also made expenditures and dispositions of campaign funds past the deadlines to do so and made numerous other omissions and incorrect or unsupported entries in the CTRs, more fully described in the full report and Final Report. These constituted several first degree misdemeanors under the state’s campaign finance laws.

Florida Open Government Law

Sunshine and Public Records Law Violations

  1. Mayor Stoner Violated Florida’s Sunshine Law at a Shade Meeting
  2. Mayor Stoner Violated the Sunshine Law at a One-on-One Meeting
  3. Mayor Stoner Violated Florida’s Public Records Law By Improperly Responding to a Public Records Request

… on January 9, 2019, the council held a meeting wherein a Councilmember raised the Sunshine issue, attempting to cure the violation that had happened at the shade meeting. … Specifically, a Councilmember asked for “job descriptions, salary ranges, and … minimum qualifications for those positions.” While the mayor originally assured her, “[O]kay, we’ll get them,” she then stated, “I am compiling the documents requested and would prefer to have them all ready before I present them to the public.” With these two comments, the mayor settled the fact that documents responsive to the Councilmember’s request did indeed exist.

At the January 23, 2019, council meeting, the same Councilmember again asked for the documents she had asked for on January 9, 2019. This time she added more documents to the request, stating:

I would like to ask the mayor – I did ask – you said that you’re putting together the job requirements, the items that I asked for. I would like to add to that, if you could, just draft a proposal so we’re all clear, because I still need a lot of clarification on these deputy administrative roles; if the organizational chart is being reworked; who’s reporting to whom; who do we communicate with; what happens in an instance that I just brought up? … So, I would ask that in addition to the documents I asked for, which is, minimum requirements, job description, salary range and, resumes for those two individuals, that we be also provided with the proposals how this is to work… . I’d like to read section 10 of the charter, which is appointing powers. The city council shall have the power to designate or create such offices, departments, or divisions as may be necessary for the administration of the affairs of the city; to provide the duties and powers of the officers and employees of such office, department or division; provide for the appointment and fix the salary or compensation of such officers or employees… . So, if the mayor could please provide us with those documents and the proposal how this is to work, before the council meeting – the next council meeting, I’d appreciate it, and I’d like the council to take a look at that.

January 23, 2019 – Video

The mayor’s refusal was clear when she replied:

Those items will not be provided to you at the next council meeting. As far as administrative staff, I am “strong mayor,” and I don’t have to provide you with any of that. All directors report directly to me. All directors. You don’t get to comment on their staff and how they run their departments. You don’t get to comment on how I run my department. It’s not unusual for new people to be elected and rearrange their staff, which is what I’m doing. When it’s finalized, you can take a look … but I will not, at any point, provide you with all of that information by next week. I will present it when I’m ready to present it.

Mayor Stoner did not respond further to either request at any time.

The Mayor Unilaterally Created New Positions and Job Descriptions

Finally, the OIG’s investigation determined that Mayor Stoner violated the city charter and code, engaging in further misconduct, when she unilaterally created and staffed the two deputy or assistant city administrators and unilaterally created their job descriptions. She effected these changes for about eight months before the city council provided any input, at which time it voted to approve their salary and other compensation by adopting the fiscal year 2020 budget. The mayor’s conduct exceeded the scope of her authority and infringed on the scope of the council’s authority.

Mayor Stoner Engaged in Campaign Finance Misconduct

Furthermore, our investigation determined that the mayor engaged in various forms of campaign finance misconduct in her campaign to be elected in November 2018.

The OIG’s review of the mayor’s campaign bank account records, the campaign treasurer’s records, the campaign’s original “Campaign Treasurer’s
Reports” (CTRs), and multiple amended CTRs revealed several forms of misconduct. Specifically, contrary to the mandates of campaign finance law, the mayor overdrew her campaign bank account and then added to the misconduct by making an unlawful contribution to the campaign in order to cover the overdraft. To conceal this misconduct, the mayor failed to report both the unlawful contribution and the expenditure that resulted from the overdraft—the overdraft fee. She also misreported the campaign’s post-election reimbursement to her with a figure that did not reflect actual bank activity. Notwithstanding this misreporting, the mayor certified to the accuracy of the relevant CTR.

  1. Mayor Stoner Overdrew Her Campaign Account and Then Unlawfully Contributed to the Campaign to Cover the Expens
  2. Mayor Stoner Failed to Timely Dispose of Surplus Fund
  3. Mayor Stoner Willfully Certified to the Correctness of False Report
  4. Mayor Stoner Either Failed to Deposit Contributions or Misreported Them As Well As Failed to Report Another Contribution
  5. Mayor Stoner Improperly Expended Campaign Funds After Her Election To Office
  6. Mayor Stoner Failed to Properly Report Many Campaign Expenditures

Broward Inspector General John W. Scott said his office is referring the matter to the Florida Elections Commission and the Broward Office of the State Attorney.

Editorial

Although I left the City of Plantation in December 2018, I have friends who continue to reside in the city who have contacted me previously about the continued development. Have also been aware that Christopher Longsworth, owner of INVESCA Development Group that heavily funded Mayor Lynn Stoner‘s campaign for Mayor back in 2018 with PACs he contributed to where she won with 68% of voters voted against her.

Also am aware of the delays that went way back to 2015 with the development of Strata at Plantation. Christopher Longsworth‘s building permits were constantly denied due to non-conformance of the City of Plantation building codes. Back then Larry Leeds was in charge of the development within the city who became a hurdle for Christopher Longsworth and the development and Mr. Leeds was removed from his position and Christopher Longsworth got his permits approved.

Fast forward to 2018 and as documented within this site, Christopher Longsworth expanded his development project to include a multi-story development and the reason I left the city. I did not want to live across the street from a multi-story development, sold my home no longer wanting to deal with the corruption within the city.

Mayor Lynn Stoner lied my face pacifying me while Christopher Longsworth was supporting her through the PAC.

Christopher Longsworth has done nothing for the city other than spend his money to get his way reducing minimum dwelling square footage creating a whole new industry that was not in the City of Plantation before Christopher Longsworth arrive; Storage Warehouses.

Now it looks like Mayor Lynn Stoner is has returned the investment Christopher Longsworth has contributed.