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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Former county attorney behind illegal mailer

No charges are being filed following the investigation of illegal political mailers attacking a candidate for Tuesday's city council election.

The Monroe County State Attorney's Office initiated the review following an Oct. 21 complaint that the purchaser of the fliers, Scott Miller, did not live at the address printed on the mailers.

Under state law, independent political mailers must state the real name and address of the person who paid for it. Violating that law is a first-degree misdemeanor.

The fliers attacking Mark Senmartin for clearing hardwood hammock on his Bluefin Drive property were sent to Marathon voters. Senmartin was found to have committed a code infraction at a June 12 Marathon Code Compliance Board hearing.

The mailers state that that Scott Miller, who lives at 999 98th St., Ocean, paid for and sent the fliers. The address is part of an eight-unit condo complex. But an investigation found Miller does not live there.

In a nine-page report, investigators decided the man who coordinated the campaign distribution was former County Attorney Jim Hendrick.

"Clearly a law has been broken," State Attorney Catherine Vogel said. "But I don't want to tell people how to break the law and get away with it."

According to the investigation, Hendrick spoke to "Scott Miller" on the phone, but could not provide contact information for Miller. After speaking with Miller, Hendrick arranged the design and printing of the mailers through Market Share, a Key West marketing company where his son Joseph Hendrick works.

"Hendrick admitted using his professional and personal connections, ordering, proofing, setting the type and arranging payment for a person he may or may not know," the report states. "When asked why he did not bill for his services, Hendrick said that he didn't consider this work."

Hendrick told the Citizen the mystery man may not exist.

"In hindsight, there probably is a good chance there is no Scott Miller," he said.

Hendrick said during the phone conversation, Miller acted like they were friends and had met each other.

"We have followed all of our leads," Investigator Chris Weber said, noting the investigation was closed unless new information arises.

The investigation comes just days before Marathon's Nov. 5 election, which has been described as the most heated in the town's history. Senmartin is facing Pete Worthington and Richard Keating. The two with the most votes will get the two open seats on the council.

"I'm disappointed the investigation is closed," Senmartin said. "This Hendrick guy, obviously he seems like one of the connected."

Senmartin's campaign slogan is "Committed, not connected."

Vogel told the Citizen she called state Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, to discuss proposing legislation to require publishers to confirm identification before printing political advertisements.

Hendrick was convicted in February 2007 of conspiracy, obstruction and witness tampering. In April 2009, a jury found he helped cover up a bribe former County Mayor Jack London received for helping a developer push through a development project in Marathon. However, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal overturned Hendrick's sentence of five years probation, stating it was procedurally flawed and there was no reasonable basis for the sentence.

Federal prosecutors appealed the sentence, arguing it was too light and he deserved prison time. They asked that Hendrick be sentenced to two to three years in prison for conspiracy, witness tampering and obstruction.

In September 2009, U.S. Judge William Zolch resentenced Hendrick, sparing him jail time but adding 220 days house arrest, 1,500 hours of community service, and 31 months to his probation.

Hendrick encouraged London and political consultant Randy Hilliard to lie to federal investigators about taking $82,500 from Marathon developer Marvin Rappaport in exchange for county commission approval of building permits to redevelop Halls Resort in 1996.

Hilliard taped several conversations with Hendrick, and the two could be heard creating scenarios to explain why Hilliard accepted money from the developer. They also talked about the federal investigation and Hilliard going before a federal grand jury.

Hendrick also advised London to leave for Ireland so he would not be questioned by a grand jury or investigators in a federal bribery and tax evasion investigation.

jgore@keysnews.com

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