Florida Keys News
Friday, November 9, 2012
Clerk-elect violated rule

Monroe County Clerk of Court-elect Amy Heavilin violated a federal law prohibiting local government employees that oversee federal grants and funds to run in partisan elections.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel issued a letter on election night alerting Stuart Kessler, who filed the complaint against Heavilin, that she was in violation of the federal Hatch Act, which was created to deter corruption and influence in political office.

Heavilin, the finance director for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, oversaw federal grant money the agency received.

Kessler was a candidate in the clerk of court race and filed Hatch Act complaints against fellow candidates Heavilin and Kevin Madok months before the primary election in August, which Kessler and Madok lost.

Heavilin, a Republican, overwhelming defeated Democrat opponent Joe Allen on Tuesday night.

Madok was cleared by the Office of Special Counsel on Aug. 24.

However, the investigation into Heavilin went on for months and the Office of Special Counsel sent Kessler an email at 6:01 p.m. election night saying she had violated the Hatch Act, Kessler confirmed Tuesday.

"There is no evidence to suggest that she knowingly and willfully violated the act," Office of Special Counsel Attorney Treyer Mason-Gale wrote, and the agency "decided not to pursue disciplinary action at this time and we are closing our file on this matter without further action."

Mason-Gale also wrote that once the Office of Special Counsel informed Heavilin and the Sheriff's Office that her candidacy violated the Hatch Act, "she took steps to come into compliance with the Hatch Act."

The Sheriff's Office changed Heavilin's job description and took away some of her duties so she would be in compliance with the Hatch Act, said Sheriff-elect Rick Ramsay.

The Hatch Act exempts employees of the judiciary branch of local governments, which was part of the reason Madok was cleared. Heavilin argued that she was covered by that exemption, too, under the Sheriff's Office, but went along with the findings of the Office of Special Counsel, she said.

There is pending federal legislation that would change the Hatch Act, allowing employees overseeing federal funds to run in local partisan elections, Office of Special Counsel spokeswoman Ann O'Hanlon said.

The clerk's office is the repository for all county documents and oversees the handling of marriage licenses and other court functions. Most importantly, the clerk conducts audits of county contracts, programs and divisions to make sure taxpayer money is being spent properly, which essentially makes Heavilin the county's chief compliance officer.

Current Clerk of Court Danny Kolhage decided to step down to run for the Monroe County Commission. He will be sworn in as county commissioner on Nov. 20 and retire from the clerk position.

Heavilin will not be sworn in as clerk until Jan. 1, which leaves the position temporarily vacant and up for appointment by the governor. Heavilin said she plans to submit her name for appointment.


More Florida Keys Headlines
Available Only in the Electronic Edition