Robert Stuart, Jr. filed a complaint Tuesday alleging the candidate running against his father is using campaign signs that fail to disclose who paid for them.
The complaint was filed just five days after an Orlando resident lodged a complaint against Orlando Commissioner Robert Stuart for misusing campaign funds.
The tit-for-tat complaints are par for the course in the District 3 race, which has been contentious from the start.
Stuart, executive director of the Christian Service Center, is running for his fourth term in office against Attorney Asima Azam, a Muslim born and raised in the United States. Their religious differences have been brought up during the campaign.
The latest complaint said Azam has posted 60 campaign signs that do not have the required disclosure telling who paid for the signs. The complaint filed with the Florida Department of State includes photos of the signs, one of which sits in Azam’s Baldwin Park yard.
“What became most bothersome as I have walked this district is that some signs include the disclaimer while others do not,” said Robert Stuart, Jr. “This means that Azam and her campaign knowingly distributed and failed to correct illegal signs hoping nobody would notice.”
Alan Byrd, Stuart’s campaign manager, said he first noticed the signs at an Oct. 2 College Park candidate forum. Last weekend, he and the commissioner rode around the city and counted 60 signs that did not have the disclosures.
“If she cares about the law, she needs to remove all of these signs that are a blatant violation,” Commissioner Stuart said. “Campaign disclosures are a tenet of keeping elections — and who is funding them — in the public eye. As a lawyer who is running for office, she should have ensured she was following the law before throwing stones.”
Azam agreed Tuesday that some of her signs do not have the required disclaimer and said the vendor is replacing the non-compliant signs.
“This has been a week of responding to Commissioner’s Stuart’s attempts to detract from his willful displays of abuse of power,” Azam said. “As a first-time candidate, I regret that this mistake was made.”
Azam pointed out that the law says, “any person who willfully violates any provision of this section is subject to the civil penalties.”
“Emphasis on the word willful,” Azam said. “It would be ludicrous for anyone to argue that my campaign willfully took one third of the same signs we distributed and willfully left off our disclaimer. Doing so confers no benefit or special privilege in the campaign on me. Contrast that with the actions that my opponent has been accused of.”
The complaint filed Oct. 12 by College Park Realtor David Rose lists three infractions by Stuart. Rose claims Stuart used City of Orlando funds to pay for a Sunday in the Park event sponsored by the College Park Neighborhood Association, which included his campaign signs.
The second complaint said the commissioner sent out a letter during Hurricane Irma on campaign letterhead volunteering services of government staff.
The third complaint contends that Stuart appeared in a Facebook ad with members of the Orlando Police Department, which Rose charged is “using government resources for campaign purposes.”
Stuart said Monday that, “these claims are baseless.”
Both complaints are under investigation. The Florida Department of State will report its findings to the Office of Statewide Prosecution or to the state attorney for the judicial circuit in which the alleged violation occurred for prosecution, if warranted.
A candidate can be fined up to $1,000 for each violation.