In just over a week as Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis has already suspended two public officials of from their duties, while demanding, and getting, resignations from a handful of others. Today, another public official came to the governor’s attention mired in controversy: St. Lucie County Commissioner Sean Mitchell.
Surveillance cameras and eyewitness testimony exposed the fact that Mitchell isn’t even a legal resident of the district he represents, but filed false paperwork claiming residency there, in direct violation of the Florida Constitution. Mitchell’s case has been referred to the Florida Commission on Ethics and is under active investigation, but the evidence against him appears overwhelming, according to a letter submitted to DeSantis this week by St. Lucie County resident Robert L. Polakow. The letter included affidavits and other evidence and requested that DeSantis immediately suspend Mitchell pending the outcome of the investigation to deter Mitchell from casting crucial votes before the County Commission.
The case against Mitchell includes evidence that he used a “phantom address” and registered to vote using his daughter’s rental home inside the district, while surveillance indicates Mitchell stayed with his wife in their home – the same home on which he claims a homestead exemption. Logically, Mitchell cannot both be a resident of one home inside the district while at the same time claiming tax breaks from the state of Florida on a primary residence outside that district.
The submitted evidence also claimed that Mitchell sought to cover his tracks by attempting to sell his actual residence in December, a month after the election was over.
It is unclear if DeSantis will take the matter up immediately. In the past, Governor Rick Scott issued a number of suspensions based on similar evidentiary findings, pending the outcome of legal proceedings.
Here’s the full letter submitted to DeSantis:
Hon. Governor Ron DeSantis
400 S. Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Dear Governor DeSantis,
Congratulations on your hard-fought victory. Your commitment to our state, the constitution, and the rule of law will serve Florida well.
During your inaugural speech, you pledged, “If a local official is neglectful of their duties, I will remove that official.”
I have been impressed with the bold actions you have displayed to hold local elected officials who mock our laws and neglect their duties accountable.
Your statements regarding Brenda Snipes, your leadership asking for the resignations of the South Florida Water Management District officials, your promise kept removing Sheriff Israel, and your action with the Okaloosa Superintendent are all primary examples – less than a week into your term.
No one should be above the law and your decisive action demonstrates that you will not tolerate any politician who thinks they are.
I am writing to you with a concern about a recently elected county commissioner in my district here in St. Lucie County, Commissioner Sean Mitchell.
Last week, I filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics and I am writing to ask you to remove Commissioner Mitchell from office, or to suspend him pending this investigation. I have enclosed a copy of that report for your review.
As extensive surveillance and other testimony and evidence will show (reports from investigators are available on request), Commissioner Mitchell has failed to live within the district upon election, as required by the Florida Constitution Art. VII, s. 1(e) and further defined in AGO 74-293.
Instead, Commissioner Mitchell used a phantom address, registering to vote at his 27-year old daughter’s rental house inside the district, while actually living with his wife, elderly mother, and two young sons outside the district. The home outside the district is homestead property.
It should be noted that on December 21, 2018, Commissioner Mitchell listed his home for sale outside the district in an apparent attempt to cover up his continued disregard for the law.
The listing of his home does not change the facts that Commissioner Mitchell lied to the people of St. Lucie County for over a year, failed to live within the district upon election as required by the Constitution, failed to live in the District upon being sworn in, currently does not live in the district, and claimed a homestead exemption at the same time he claimed to be a renter.
The constitutionally-mandated residency requirements must be taken seriously.
Mr. Mitchell would have us believe that he is living with his 27-year old daughter and her spouse in their rental; rather than his 92-year old mother, wife, and two young children in their homestead property. This is simply not believable.
I am a resident in District 2 and I deserve a commissioner who lives in District 2 and who can represent me.
For too long, politicians have disregarded the law. I have faith that you will hold Mr. Mitchell accountable for his actions.
Robert L. Polakow