By Martin Vassolo
A day after Florida's governor suspended Brenda Snipes from her position as Broward County's supervisor of elections, Snipes announced that she would be scrapping any plans to resign in January as she fights back against claims of incompetence and misconduct.
"We will be fighting this," said Burnadette Norris-Weeks, Snipes' contracted attorney, during a press conference Saturday. "In additional to that, Dr. Snipes hereby rescinds her resignation which would have been effective on the fourth of January. She rescinds that resignation as we go forward and fight these...allegations that are frivolous."
Gov. Rick Scott, who won his race for U.S. Senate against Democrat Bill Nelson following a highly publicized election and recount, signed an executive order on Friday ordering Snipes' removal from office, citing "misfeasance, incompetence and neglect of duty."
Following the Nov. 6 elections, Snipes' office garnered national media attention as her staff struggled to count tens of thousands of ballots that would end up narrowing three statewide races -- U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner -- into mandatory recounts. Broward County heavily skews Democratic, and so Republicans like Scott saw their leads shrink in the days after the election.
In a Nov. 8 press conference held on the steps of the Governor's Mansion, Scott accused Snipes of voter fraud without evidence.
While the executive order does not mention any instances of voter fraud, Scott does note that his campaign successfully sued Snipes for failing to provide a record of counted and uncounted votes following the election. It also mentions that her staff misplaced about 2,000 ballots, failed to meet a deadline to turn in recounted vote tallies and submitted about two dozen invalid ballots to the state due to a sorting error.
Following the recount, during which protesters swarmed the outside of her offices almost daily, Snipes submitted her resignation on Nov. 18.
The Florida Constitution mandates that the Florida Senate is required to hold a hearing to remove Snipes from office. The Senate has three months to begin its proceedings. The hearing was not likely to take place if Snipes' resignation date was honored.
The executive order states that Snipes will not receive any pay or benefits while suspended, but it remains unclear if her suspension would affect the pension she is set to receive after her retirement as Broward's supervisor of elections. Scott has appointed his former general counsel, Peter Antonacci, to lead the department.
Norris-Weeks said she believed Scott's executive order was, at least in part, meant to interfere with her benefits. Mainly, she said, it was done "for the purpose of embarrasing Dr. Snipes" and "tarnishing her record."
"The supervisor is being held to a standard that no other supervisor has been held to in the state of Florida," she said. "We are disheartened by the governor's actions. We believe it is a malicious action that should not have happened."
Addressing reporters after the press conference, Snipes said she was proud of the work she did during her 15-year tenure as supervisor.
"We follow all statutes that are set forward in the state, we take the appropriate kind of training, we have invested in a lot of equipment," she said. "But there are issues that need to be dealt with in terms of structure -- that can be legal structure, it can be the physical structure that we work in."
"Going forward we hope you'll stay out there and have an open mind about this whole process," she said. "That's really critical in any success we have in dealing with this issue."
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