Henry denies wrongdoing in recent primary; elections supervisor ponders if someone’s out to get candidate
BY JAMES HARPER
Volusia County’s elections supervisor is concerned that someone might be trying to “set up” a Daytona Beach mayoral candidate.
Ann McFall said misinformation about Daytona Beach mayoral candidate Derrick Henry was printed in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“It is my hope that the supervisor’s office will not allow such a dark shadow to be cast over such an important election when no law has been violated,” Henry said this week in an exclusive interview with the Daytona times.
McFall said Wednesday – before the Daytona Times went to press – that she did not voluntarily go to the daily newspaper with the story about Henry. She was contacted by a reporter from the paper.
McFall said an absentee ballot request form was never hand delivered to her in DeLand by Henry as reported in the News-Journal.
The elections supervisor also said she doesn’t know how information about an internal matter involving absent ballot request forms linked to the Henry campaign were leaked to the press.
The News-Journal article stated that Henry hand-delivered an envelope with an absentee ballot request form to McFall at her DeLand office.
Henry and McFall both said this week that it never happened.
McFall said Henry turned in absentee ballot request forms at City Island Library to a member of her staff, which was not illegal.
McFall also said red flags were first raised when three envelopes were mailed to her office in DeLand this summer with Henry’s name and address on them in the upper left-hand corner.
This is when she first suspected someone might be trying to set up Henry and she contacted him.
“I don’t want anyone to make a mockery of my system,” said McFall.
In one of the envelopes was an absentee ballot request form from a resident who had died.
Henry was contacted by the elections office about the deceased and learned his name was Jerry Shazel.
The Times has learned that Shazel died May 24, 2011 at the Malcolm Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville following a brief illness.
“I had no idea he died,” Henry said, noting that he didn’t recall sending in the absentee ballot request for Shazel since he and his campaign workers had knocked on more than 5,000 doors.
Henry said he did not know Shazel personally.
McFall said she did not go to the press two years ago when there was an absentee ballot fraud probe involving Henry.
“The state attorney went public (two years ago),” McFall said about voter fraud charges against Henry, which occurred after she turned information over to the state attorneys office and the office began its own investigation.
McFall said she will not be turning anything over to the state attorney this time until she determines if “it was just carelessness” on the part of Henry and his workers or something else.
Henry not deterred
“How did the media know about it? I’m outraged that this has been reported to the media. A crime has not been committed,” remarked Henry, acknowledging the story already has put doubt in the minds of some of those who voted for him on Aug. 14 for mayor.
“This will not stop me from achieving victory. I am going to do what I need to do to get my message out,” Henry said.
McFall said she is worried about upcoming races.
“I’m trying to correct things for the future. It (the envelope with the absentee ballot of deceased) had his return address,” continued McFall. She questioned: “Is someone trying to set him up?’’
Henry will face Daytona Beach Commissioner Edith Shelley during the Nov. 6 general election. He and Shelley were the top vote-getters in the Aug. 14 primary. Other candidates included Fred Hoffman and Gwen Azama-Edwards.
McFall said the probe her office is conducting isn’t related to the charge two years ago that cost Henry his job as a Daytona Beach city commissioner.
During Henry’s 2010 re-election campaign for city commission, he ordered more than 90 absentee ballots online.
Henry was removed from his Zone 5 Daytona Beach city commission seat by then-Gov. Charlie Crist after he was charged with conspiracy to commit voter fraud and illegally obtaining absentee ballots.
After paying fines and completing other orders by a judge, the charges against Henry were dropped last year. Henry has said in interviews he never intended to break the law and was working with his campaign manager only to increase voter turnout.
After reaching a plea deal, Henry officially resigned as a city commissioner and his job with Volusia County Schools after having been reassigned from his assistant principal position at Mainland High School.
McFall said she doesn’t expect her investigation to be completed until after the election.
She said more than likely, after all is said and done, she will be mailing a letter to Henry about carelessness when it comes to dealing with absentee ballots.
McFall said it is not unusual for absentee ballot request forms to be mailed to her office with careless mistakes. She noted that Congressman John Mica’s campaign is under scrutiny for the volume of absentee ballot request forms that can be linked to his workers and volunteers.
McFall said a lot of the Mica campaign absentee ballot request forms were duplicates. Mica is running for the congressional seat 7. He defeated Sandy Adams in the Aug. 14 primary.