Oct 022015
 


Commentary by Dennis Reeves Cooper.......

Several years ago, I moved from one apartment to another here in Key West. At that time, I still owned Key West The Newspaper-- The Blue Paper-- and I was, therefore, a little more concerned about "appearances" than I am now, as an old retired guy. I knew that when one moves, there are laws that have to be considered concerning updating home addresses on drivers licenses, voting registrations, etc.-- and although I didn't really know the details about what legal penalties might befall me if I failed to obey any of these laws, I dutifully changed my home address on all of those records simply because I was supposed to. And, incidentally, because there were critics of the newspaper out there looking for any opportunity to criticize me as, perhaps, just maybe, I had criticized them in the past.

It just so happened that a City of Key West election was coming up at the time and there was a candidate running in my "old" district that I was interested in supporting. So why not go ahead and vote for him? I had not yet contacted the Supervisor of Elections Office to change my address-- so why not just go ahead and vote one more time in my old district, and change my address after the election? Who would ever know? Well, I would know. And my critics would know, if they wanted to bother to check. You may or may not know that all voting records -- except how you actually vote-- are public records, like home addresses, when you vote or don't vote, and the flavor of your registration-- Republican, Democrat or Independent. And then, as I said earlier, there was the law. But that was not much of a factor in my decision to go ahead and change my address and vote in my "new" district. Perhaps it may have been a bigger factor had I known then that knowingly voting in a district where you don't live is voter fraud and a third degree felony, subject to time in prison. "Voter fraud," "felony" and "prison" are not nice words.

But if you've been keeping up with the local news over the past few weeks, you know that those words have been bandied about in numerous news stories about one of the most prominent citizens in our community-- 85-year-old businessman J Robert "Bob" Dean. Dean is the longtime chairman of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA). He has also served for years on the board of the Key West Housing Authority. Service on both of these boards have simple residence requirements. A board member of the Housing Authority has to live in Key West. FKAA board members represent five districts up and down the Keys and members have to live in the district they represent. Dean represents the Key West district. He says he lives in Key West-- in a small apartment on Bahama Street behind his funeral parlor. And to document his residency, he points out that he is registered to vote at that address and that he has been voting in Key West for many years.

But State Attorney Catherine Vogel is questioning the legality of Dean voting in Key West and has, in fact, conducted an investigation to determine where Dean really lives. Among the findings of Chief Investigator Chris Weber: Dean does not live at the Bahama Street address. He shares a luxury home with his wife in Key Haven, just outside the Key West city limits. The residence is homesteaded-- that is, they receive a $50,000 annual property tax exemption. The Key Haven address is listed on Dean's driver's license and auto registration. The Key Haven address is listed on Dean's state funeral director license. And, reportedly, when the water-use records were pulled for the Bahama Street apartment, it was determined that only 20 gallons of water had been used over 20 months-- about the normal use for one person in one day. Weber reported that Dean even admitted to him that, over a recent six-month period, he had slept at the Bahama Street apartment only about six nights. Weber wrote in his report to Vogel: There is probable cause to believe that Dean has been in violation-- voting in a district where he doesn't live.

So, will Dean be prosecuted? Not right now. Weber also found that, several years ago, when questions about Dean's Key West residency were first being asked, the Supervisor of Elections Office asked Dean to confirm his home address. He reportedly responded with the Bahama Street address-- and the Elections Office took him at his word. Dean apparently took that as an "okay" to vote in Key West. To be convicted under the voter fraud law, prosecutors must be able to prove intent-- that a voter "knowingly" violated the law. In this case, the State Attorney's Office has concluded that Dean may have been misled by the response of the Supervisor of Elections Office and didn't know that he was voting illegally.

Now, before you get all out of shape thinking that State Attorney Vogel has wussed out on this, note that she has formally notified Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin that Bob Dean does not live in Key West and is, therefore, not eligible to vote in Key West elections. And election day for the next Key West city election is next Tuesday, October 6. So what will Dean do now? If he votes, he risks prosecution. But if he fails to vote, he may lose by default his already-anemic claim to Key West residency. The State Attorney says he doesn't live in Key West-- a strong argument for any citizen who may want to challenge Dean's eligibility to serve on either the FKAA or Key West Housing Authority boards.

At the recent FKAA Board meeting, Attorney Michael Halpern, who is representing Dean, promised that Dean will, indeed, vote next Tuesday-- seemingly an in-your-face-challenge to Vogel. If Dean does vote, the matter will be referred to the Canvassing Board for a ruling on Dean's residency. The Canvassing Board is made up of City Commissioners Jimmy Weekley and Clayton Lopez, as well as Key West City Clerk Cheryl Smith. If Dean votes and the issue goes to the Canvassing Board, the members of the board will have in hand Chris Weber's investigative report. Presumably, Halpern will want to present Dean's side of the story. He can do that in writing before the scheduled Canvassing Board meeting next Friday, October 9. Halpern may also lobby Weekley, Lopez and Smith personally and privately.

According to Supervisor of Elections Griffin, the Canvassing Board is the final voice in this matter. A ruling in favor of Dean would provide at least some legitimacy for his claim that he "lives in Key West." A ruling against him could not only jeopardize his appointments to the FKAA and Housing Authority boards, it could expose him to possible prosecution on charges of knowingly and willingly voting in a district where he doesn't live.

Let's all watch together to see what happens.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: A possible argument in favor of Dean might be that, yes, maybe he does really live in Key Haven-- but that shouldn't count because Key Haven is so close to Key West. But, unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes, boccie and hand grenades.

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See the State Attorney's investigative report and supporting documents below:

2015-SA-00189-A-K – Inv Report 2009 Inv Report Challenge Voter Residency in Florida – Redacted

2015-SA-00189-A-K – DL Supporting Documents – Redacted

2015-SA-00189-A-K – Property Appraiser Inv Reports 2011 and 2009 – Redacted

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Dennis Reeves Cooper
IN THE PHOTO: DENNIS REEVES COOPER PH.D AND BILL O'REILLY. Dr. Cooper founded Key West The Newspaper in 1994 and published the paper for 18 years, until he retired in 2012. In 2001, Key West Police Chief Buz Dillon had Cooper arrested and jailed, alleging that Cooper had violated an obscure state gag law when writing about a police investigation. The journalist-arrested story hit the national news and Bill O'reilly called and invited Cooper to appear on his show on Fox News. Dillon was also invited to appear, but refused the invitation. O'Reilly suggested that Dillon was "hiding under his desk." The ACLU also called and offered to sue the City of Key West on Cooper's behalf. Subsequently, the gag law was declared unconstitutional and the City settled out of court for $240,000. Also, the arrest was a factor in the creation of an independent police oversight board-- the Citizen Review Board (CRB)-- by Key West voters in November 2002. By that time, Buz Dillon had been unceremoniously fired.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------More Articles By Dennis Reeves Cooper prior to November, 2014.

  9 Responses to “WILL KEY HAVEN RESIDENT BOB DEAN REALLY VOTE IN THE KEY WEST ELECTIONS NEXT WEEK? HIS LAWYER SAYS HE WILL. THE STATE ATTORNEY SAYS HE SHOULDN’T”

  1. So ignorance of the law can possibly be a legitimate defense.

  2. Thank you, Dennis; you wrote:

    “several years ago, when questions about Dean’s Key West residency were first being asked, the Supervisor of Elections Office asked Dean to confirm his home address. He reportedly responded with the Bahama Street address– and the Elections Office took him at his word. Dean apparently took that as an “okay” to vote in Key West.’

    This, as you know, is a bizarre but perhaps typical “bubba” argument: that Dean was led, or misled, by the Supervisor of Elections Office into thinking, or believing, that it was legal, or okay, for him to vote in Key West. It is bizarre, because Dean lied to the Supervisor of Elections office about where he then lived. The lie was fraud. He knew it was fraud. He knew he had misled the Supervisor of Elections Office. And now he is claiming the Supervisor of Elections Office caused him to believe it was legal, or okay, for him to vote in Key West.

    This former practicing attorney says, if the Key West Canvassing Board buys that argument, then it becomes part of the fraud and its decision to let Dean vote in Key West this year should be ignored by the State Attorney Office, which then should prosecute Dean for voter fraud this year and prior years, and prosecute the Canvassing Board members as accomplices to the fraud this year.

  3. “Let’s all watch together to see what happens” Yes, let’s do that.

  4. Let him vote and then promptly place him under arrest. What he got was an OK to vote based on fraud. That is one stupid man just begging to be fined and jailed.

  5. My prediction is that this all passes like a summer squall. Like last time. Dean continues to vote wherever he likes and sits on two Key West boards. Why? Because there is no law enforcement against the influential and there is nothing you can legally do about it. When it was discovered that FKAA was breaking laws, I was told to forget about going to the state attorney because she was in FKAA’s pocket. I don’t know that to be true, and from what I have seen no government agency enforces against any other. But this is not an agency, it is an individual. However, the individual is the agency head. I guess we will know soon enough what Vogel is made of. In the event that Dean is ruled ineligible to serve as Key West’s representative on the FKAA Board, will Gov. Scott remove Cara Higgins and replace her with Dean? I think I know what Scott is made of.

    • The question here is whether the written warning and voter challenge from the SAO was enough to immediately arrest him after voting on the 6th. The voter canvassing board won’t meet until the 9th, and even then there is the chance that they may rule in Dean’s favor. He will probably get a pass on this round of voting either way they decide. He has nothing to lose by voting now and everything to gain. If they do go against Dean, then he would only be subject to arrest the next time he votes in District 3 (assuming no other circumstances have changed). If they vote in his favor, then he will be totally cleared to continue to vote in District 3 and hold on to both of his board seats.

      My guess is that he will show up to the canvassing board meeting next Friday with the 417 Bahama address on his drivers license, his vehicle registrations, his business licenses and so forth.

      • As I recall, his voter registration listed his address as 417 Bahama, but his mailing address was the funeral home.
        It is obvious that he does not reside in Key West. Cara Higgins had 750 pages in her agenda item at the FKAA Board meeting challenging his right to be there. (it’s on line at FKAA.com under the Public Meetings tab if you have plenty of time for a download).
        If it’s up to bubbas to decide, then he is legit. But he’s really not. So the question that follows is; Can the Canvassing Board be charged with aiding & abetting the fraud or something? That begs the question of if anybody would. Dean does not seem at all concerned. I think Bubba Bubble Boy is protected from those pesky laws written to control the actions of the less privileged.

      • He could but not certain that even then that he legally is living there. Bet he starts using some water, adds some clothes and even sleep there a night or two a month. Very clear as to the game he is playing and then he might cause a homestead problem on his real house. This is typical corruption of KW. With enough money he will win. What he really wants is to keep the seat. His 1 vote is not likely to really matter.

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