ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Mayor Buddy Dyer, a judge and two campaign workers surrendered Friday on felony charges that they violated a state law barring payments for the collection of absentee ballots.
Defense attorneys quickly denied the allegation against Dyer, Judge Alan Apte, Dyer campaign manager Patti Sharp and Ezzie Thomas, a campaign consultant to Dyer and Apte.
The indictments were issued a day earlier by a grand jury looking at whether Thomas illegally collected absentee ballots in predominantly black neighborhoods for Dyer’s and Apte’s campaigns before last year’s election.
The successful campaign, which cleared the threshold that triggers a runoff by only 234 votes, has drawn accusations of fraud, and the runner-up is seeking in court to have the results thrown out.
Now Dyer is a Democrat, but campaign aide Ezzie Thomas has been employed by prominent Florida Republicans.
Thomas was also hired by Dyer’s campaigns for state attorney general and Orlando mayor for get-out-the-vote activities. Thomas also has worked for some of central Florida’s most prominent politicians, including Sen. Mel Martinez when he was a local county official, and Secretary of State Glenda Hood when she was mayor.