SARASOTA — A complaint against three Democratic County Commission candidates led to them returning funds after they received contributions over the County Charter limit of $200.
Republican Party of Sarasota County acting Chairman Jack Brill sent the complaint to county commissioners and County attorney Frederick Elbrecht.
According to the complaint, candidate Mark Pienkos accepted three $500 contributions from the Sarasota County Democratic Executive Committee, and $6,000 from the Florida Democratic Party.
Candidates Alice White and Corey Hutchinson received two contributions of $500 from the Sarasota Democratic Executive Committee.
According to the Sarasota County Charter, no candidate for any county office can accept a contribution, including any political committee, in an amount in excess of $200.
Pienkos is running against incumbent Mike Moran for County Commission District Seat 1.
“This is a clear violation of the Sarasota County Charter limits,” Moran said.
All three Democrats called it was a misunderstanding and said they’d return the money.
“Any contributions made over the local Sarasota County ordinance limit was done without intent and will be refunded today to the Sarasota County Democratic Party and the Florida Democratic Party,” Pienkos wrote in a statement.
White called it a mistake.
“Being a newcomer to politics, in this instance I yielded to the answer I was given by those who have been involved in the political process way longer than me,” she said.
She and Hutchinson are both running against incumbent Nancy Detert for the District 5 seat.
”Any alleged violation of the County ordinances … was done without intent,” Hutchinson said.
JoAnne DeVries, Chair Sarasota County Democratic Party, called the contributions “an error.”
“The State law, 106.08(2)(a), Fla. Stat., clearly allows political parties to donate to candidates in excess of limits set to individuals. Any contributions made over the local ordinance limit was done so in error and without intent and will be refunded,” she said.
Elbrecht asked the Sheriff’s Office to investigate the complaint.