TAVARES – Election controversy has reached Lake County as Tim Sullivan, who is running for re-election as commissioner, is facing residency accusations that could severely impact his campaign moving forward.
Sullivan is running for re-election in District 1 of Lake County, where he has held office since 2012. Recent news reports, however, have put that campaign in question due to Sullivan’s residency, which lies in District 3.
The Florida Constitution states that any candidate for commissioner must reside in the district in which they are running. Yet, Sullivan has been exempt from this for the last four years, which has mystified his opponents.
“In my opinion, Lake County Commissioner for District 1 Mr. Tim Sullivan has violated and continues to violate the state of Florida Constitution as well as the election laws for Lake County,” District 1 County Commissioner candidate Tim Loucks told the Florida Record.
Part of the problem is that these rules are not clearly defined. Determining whether a candidate resides in a specific district can be subjective, which leads many candidates to run in a county they believe they have the best chance of winning.
Loucks pointed this out, stating that nowhere in the Florida Constitution does it state a candidate must live in the district they are running; however, starting their first day in office, they must reside there. This creates a major loophole, and it’s been repetitively taken advantage of, he said.
This still does not protect Sullivan, however, who has been in office for four years yet lives in a different district. Sullivan often cites an apartment he has rented in District 1, but critics often point out he spends the majority of his time at the house with his wife in District 3.
While the state seems to be at fault for a lot of these discrepancies, they have tried to fix it. Two years ago a bill that would have clarified residency for electable candidates died in the House after passing in the Florida Senate.
Despite all of this, Loucks believes Sullivan could be in even greater trouble due to the oath he took after winning his first election win.
“It appears from my research Mr. Sullivan is also guilty of perjury as outlined in Florida State Statue 837.02 by lying under oath on Nov. 20, 2012, that he was ‘duly qualified’ to hold ‘County Office’ in Lake County,” Loucks said. “Mr. Timothy I. Sullivan knowingly and continues as of this date to commit perjury due to the fact he swore under oath.”
This claim is under the assumption that Sullivan knowingly broke election residency rules that are not very clear in the first place.
If Sullivan were guilty of perjury, he would be removed from office under state law. This is unlikely, but gives Loucks and the other Lake County Commission 1 candidate Michael Phillip Levine an advantage, as well as a possible means to beat Sullivan in an election.
Sullivan initially ran unopposed in 2012.