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Sheriff Keith Pearson accused of misusing staff, property and tax dollars to campaign

'What better campaigning is there to have your name on the hat and shirt of law enforcement officials,' attorney Glen Torcivia says
Posted at 6:12 PM, Jun 13, 2024

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Electronic billboards warn drivers of construction, Amber Alerts or special event parking.

But a candidate for St. Lucie County sheriff said Sheriff Keith Pearson used a taxpayer-owned property as a campaign sign.

Earlier this year, the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections asked the sheriff's office to use billboards in the March presidential primary to mark an early voting site and for drivers to slow down.

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The sign read: "Sheriff Pearson says obey the speed limit."

"Those are dirty tricks," said attorney Glen Torcivia, the lawyer for Richard Del Toro's campaign.

Del Toro is the Port St. Lucie police chief, who is challenging Pearson in August's Republican primary.

Torcivia said the sheriff's use of a name on a billboard on public property that's an election precinct is a violation of Florida's election law.

"It's playing a game and you figure, 'Oh, if I get away with it, and win. I'll take the fine later, I've won the office,'" said Torcivia. "We're not going to stand for that."

Torcivia also claims the sheriff misused precinct deputies during the primary.

These deputies are responsible for keeping order inside polling places, and they wore newly purchased ball caps and polo shirts with Pearson's name emblazoned over the sheriff's star.

Attorney Glen Torcivia the lawyer for Richard Del Toro's campaign June 2024.png
Attorney Glen Torcivia, the lawyer for Richard Del Toro's campaign, says Sheriff Keith Pearson is using staff and tax-owned property to campaign.

"You're basically electioneering inside the polls," said Torcivia. "What better campaigning is there to have your name on the hat and shirt of law enforcement officials."

WPTV obtained an email from a sporting goods store showing the sheriff's office ordered 141 shirts.

It does not show the number of caps ordered or the cost to taxpayers.

I called, emailed, and then went to the sheriff's office about the signs and clothes, but have not received a response.

Deputy J.D. Small, the lawyer who represents the sheriff's office, noted Pearson was not on the ballot in March, adding, "seems like a far fetch" to be an issue.

In April, St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker wrote: "I have never requested any sheriffs use his name on an electronic billboard."

The supervisor of elections also added she will not allow any clothing with the sheriff's name on it to be worn in polling places.

Whether the sheriff appeals or complies, we don't know.

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