Villages Developer’s dirty tactics could steal Sumter County elections

The Villages Developer and his family should be ashamed of themselves for such blatant attempts to influence the outcome of the upcoming Sumter County Commission races in the August Primary Election.

By now we’re guessing that you’re aware of the debacle surrounding the three incumbents – commonly seen as Developer-controlled puppets – but in case you’re not, let’s just say it appears that no dirty tactic will be left on the table before voters head to the polls.

Don Burgess, Al Butler and Steve Printz, from left.

The latest round of shame involves the Republican incumbents – Don Burgess, Al Butler and Steve Printz – who had no problem hitting many of you with a 25 percent tax increase last year that clearly was favorable to the Developer as he continues to churn out more homes in his mega-retirement community. Lines of Villagers came to meetings to complain about the increase but the commissioners clearly had their minds made up in advance to do whatever it would take to fund infrastructure for the growth of The Villages on the backs of taxpayers.

Many residents wondered if those three would be arrogant enough to run for re-election after the underhanded shenanigans they pulled. Others wondered what might be up their sleeves if they did run. And other Villages Republicans – Gary Search, Craig Estep, Oren Miller and Daniel Myslakowski – tossed their hats into the election ring because of that outrageous tax increase that was rammed down our throats.

As many of you know, the Developer’s first attempt to manipulate the election outcome came when two of his reliable cronies – Pete Wahl and Jerry Prince – entered two of the races as write-in candidates. Wahl is a former Villages district manager and Prince is the head of The Villages Republican Club and neither one has any desire to win their respective elections. But by entering, they effectively eliminated 45,000 Democratic and No Party Affiliation voters because of the way Florida election law is written.

Pete Wahl and Jerry Prince

Now, don’t think for one minute that either of those fake candidates has any desire to represent you. After all, Prince’s club donated $5,000 to each of the incumbents – including Printz, the guy he’s “running against.” And Wahl was just reappointed to the county’s Industrial Development Authority and he used Burgess – the man he’s running against – as a reference. Clearly these two will do anything to chum up to the Developer, which apparently includes selling their souls for political gain.

(Luckily, Sumter County voters can click HERE to change their party affiliation and take part in the election if they so desire).

Of course, the Developer wasn’t willing to settle for just one form of manipulation, so the next nasty move centered around money. Last week, the three puppet candidates raked in more than $60,000 apiece to spend on their campaigns – the majority of which is most likely headed back to the Developer’s pocket through his tightly run propaganda newspaper that seems to trip over itself to tell us what a great job these tax-raising sycophants have done.

Conveniently, none of the money in the puppets’ war chest came from the Developer, but the list of contributors is a who’s who of those making a living through their affiliation with the Morse family. We’re guessing they were told to donate money with the notion that failing to pony up for the puppet brigade could easily come back and bite them down the road.

Think about it. If you’re one of the main contributors like the many companies under the T&D Concrete umbrella, what real choice do you have? You can shell out contributions from your various subsidiaries and continue to make millions of dollars pouring concrete slabs for the thousands of new homes being built in The Villages. Or you can suddenly find yourself on the outside looking in for failing to be a “team” player.

Now please don’t get us wrong. We know that T&D is a great company with a fine reputation for doing good work. The company’s owners, Terry and Glendora Yoder, are two of the nicest people you will ever meet.

But three of their employees are already government officials – State Rep. Brett Hage, Sumter County Commissioner Doug Gilpin and Wildwood Commissioner Marcos Flores. So do you really want their contributions – $18,000 so far, with more surely to come – to have an even bigger influence in deciding who runs your government? We certainly don’t. But then again, we believe in clean, fair elections that are run above board and don’t rely on dirty tactics to undermine voters who have the right to choose their leaders.

Others who ponied up also clearly have something to lose if they don’t play ball with the Developer. Some of those include:

  • Rainey Construction, which gave each of the incumbents $1,000;
  • Great Lakes Carpet & Tile, which added $1,000 to each incumbent’s campaign fund;
  • Pike Electric, which contributed $1,000 to each of the incumbents;
  • Galaxy Homes Solutions, which gave each incumbent $1,000;
  • Floormasters which added $1,000 to each of the candidates’ campaign funds;
  • Dale Borrowman, owner of Technology Solutions Group, who gave $1,000 to each of the incumbents. Borrowman lives in the Morse family compound on County Road 466.
  • Michael Pape, the longtime landscape architect in The Villages, also gave $1,000 to each of the incumbents through his Ocala firm. He and his wife, who also live in the Morse family compound, also gave each of the incumbents $500.
  • Thomas “Tommy” McDonough, the director of development for The Villages, gave each of the incumbents $500. He also lives in the Morse family compound and just recently was featured in a Villages V-Mail with owner Jennifer Parr; and
  • Ocala resident Richard Busche, an engineer with Kimley-Horn & Associates Inc., who gave $100 to each of the incumbents. He is well known for his role in advising on the project to repair sloughing at the Morse Boulevard Bridge embankment.

Of course, we find it even more amusing to see all of those contractors who don’t live in Sumter County but didn’t hesitate to contribute money in an effort to stay in tight with the Developer and help him influence the outcome of the County Commission races. Those contributors include:

  • Fred Nickel Tile of Ocala;
  • Patriot Builders of Summerfield;
  • Bernard Painting Services of Leesburg;
  • Geremy Crouch Construction LLC of Dunnellon;
  • Tri-County Landscape of Summerfield;
  • Kling Towing of Fruitland Park;
  • Kling Painting of Fruitland Park;
  • Munn’s Sales & Service Inc. of Fruitland Park;
  • Precision Trim and Services of Inverness;
  • Express Tops LLC of Gotha;
  • Raymond Seijas Plastering Inc. of Hernando;
  • Wade Surveying Inc. of Lady Lake;
  • Batterbee Roofing of Ocala;
  • Sunshine Stucco of Leesburg;
  • Sun Kool air conditioning of Ocala;
  • Down to Earth landscaping of Tangerine;
  • Leware Construction of Leesburg;
  • Water Wizard of Lady Lake;
  • Andreyev Engineering of Sanford;
  • Geo-Technologies of Ocala;
  • Blackton Inc. flooring company of Orlando;
  • Amscot Corp. of Tampa, which specializes in cable splicing;
  • Southeast Environmental Solutions of Plant City;
  • Flatwoods Consulting Group of Tampa; and
  • Florida Paints & Coating LLC of Winter Garden.

Gary Search, Craig Estep and Oren Miller, from left.

Interestingly, three of the challengers in the Commission races – Search, Estep and Miller – have promised not to take business and corporate dollars. They have pledged to only accept contributions from individuals so they won’t be “beholding” to anyone.

We think that’s an admirable stance to take and we find it refreshing to see politicians who are running for office for the right reasons instead of being controlled by someone with big purse strings.

That said, we knew the Developer was worried about losing control of the Sumter County Commission, especially after ramming through the 25 percent tax hike that angered so many residents. But even we didn’t think he would stoop as low as he’s gone to try to keep his puppets in place. We find his tactics appalling but we know voters in Sumter County are smarter than that and will make the right choices for them in August.

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