Lawsuit calls for removal of Democratic Orange County Sheriff candidate

Emergency motion argues Darryl Sheppard missed qualifying deadline

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

Darryl Sheppard is running for Orange County sheriff as a Democrat.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - An emergency motion filed Monday in Orange County Circuit Court calls for the removal of Democratic Orange County Sheriff candidate Darryl B. Sheppard from the Nov. 6 ballot after he allegedly missed the deadline to pay the $10,000 qualifying fee.

The lawsuit, filed by Said Lutfi, names both Sheppard and Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles as defendants. The motion seeks asks the court to direct Cowles "to de-certify defendant Sheppard as a qualified candidate.”

The first check Sheppard submitted to pay the qualifying fee on Friday, June 22, 2018, had insufficient funds. According to Orange County’s attorney, Sheppard alerted Cowles office the following Monday that the check would not clear.

The candidate submitted two cashier’s checks from Fairwinds Credit Union, according to the motion, the first had insufficient funds, the second cleared.

Cowles could not comment on the legal action but Supervisor of Elections attorney Nick Shannin, told News 6 Sheppard barely made the qualifying deadline, however,  in his view, he met the legal standard to qualify.

”There are factual allegations raised In this complaint that the supervisor can and must dispute," Shannin said. "Not with-standing those inaccuracies, it will be up to a court to make the determination.”

Shannin said the Supervisor of Elections Office would work with the court to make sure the process goes “as smoothly and as quickly as possible.”

On Monday, more than 100,000 ballots went out to county voters, according to Shannin, 200 early ballots were also returned from voters overseas.

“We cannot change the ballot at this point, that is clear, “ Shannin said, adding "There’s a protocol already well established if a candidate is dropped from a race."

If Sheppard is determined to be ineligible to run here's what Shannin said would happen:

  • For any voter that has not already sent their early ballot the county will send a postcard advising them the candidate is no longer valid. 
  • For voters who vote early or on election day materials will be set -up in the voting booths informing them that the candidate is no longer a “valid candidate”
  • The canvassing board will not count any votes cast for the disqualified candidate.

Sheppard has remained quiet on the legal action. In the past, he has indicated he believes there is an effort to remove him from the ballot to help another candidate.

Retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez and Orlando police Chief John Mina are also running to become the county’s sheriff.

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