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Fort Myers City Council asks for election fraud investigation into council candidate

Fort Myers City Council voted Monday to have Lee County Sheriff’s office investigate whether a candidate for city council filed fraudulent documents to run for office.

The allegation is that Anthony Thomas, a candidate for Ward 2, did not reside at the address that he used on his official campaign documents when he registered to run for office.

According to an affidavit filed with the city clerk and presented as a walk-on item to the council agenda, Thomas has never lived at an address on Lemon Street in Ward 2.

The sworn statement was made by a cousin of Thomas, Melissa Blue, who is being represented by attorney Sawyer Smith.

Smith, a fixture at Fort Myers City Council meetings, said that Blue approached him to act on her behalf because she was tired of “covering up for her cousin.”

City Attorney Grant Alley advised councilmembers the city charter does require candidates to reside within the ward where they are running at the time of qualifying for office.

Alley said council could not ignore the allegation and advised council to hire a hearing examiner to investigate and present a report.

After nearly two hours of discussion, council ultimately voted to ask LCSO to investigate and provide a report no later than Oct. 30.

Thomas amounted the entire thing to a political witch hunt and claimed that the Lemon street address has been his official residence for years.

“I receive my mail there; I register to vote there; my vehicle registrations are there; my bank information is there,” Thomas said. “Everything that would establish where a person lives, I meet that qualification.”

Thomas claimed, after qualifying to run for office, he had to move out of the address and to an apartment down the street. He provided documents to WINK News that showed he established a water bill at an address in September. That address is also in Ward 2, where he is running for council against incumbent Johnny Streets.

Streets recused himself from voting on the issue Monday.

Smith’s law firm donated at least $500 to Streets’ campaign but said his support of Thomas’ opponent had nothing to do with his involvement in bringing the allegations before council.

“I am performing my duties as an attorney,” Smith said. “I’m obligated when a client hires me to represent them to the best of my ability. That’s what we are doing. We are representing Miss Blue. This is Miss Blue’s affidavit, not mine.”

Thomas told council Monday his cousin “wouldn’t be able to pick Sawyer Smith out of a lineup” and insinuated that Smith’s involvement was part of an orchestrated effort by other members of council against him.

“I feel like President Trump,” Thomas said. “Here, you have a convergence of events, where people are concocting non-sensical fantasies about they are going to tell me where I live. They are going off the word of a family member who I am currently having problems with.”

Reporter:Lauren Sweeney
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