TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A convicted felon who broke the law gathering voter signatures in another state is now doing the same work here in Florida, 8 On Your Side has learned.
Shawn Wilmoth pled guilty to two counts of election fraud in 2011. He is not accused of any wrong-doing in Florida. But considering his past, a tipster reached out with concerns about his current role helping collect signatures for one of three constitutional amendments to expand gambling in the Sunshine State.
“I feel like it’s best to stay hidden although everything I’m saying is the truth,” the person who reached out said.
The tipster asked to stay anonymous in order to keep working on proposed constitutional amendments in Florida, like the ballot initiative that would allow existing card rooms to expand into casinos. The person said they worked for Wilmoth on a petition in the past.
“You violated voter’s trust in the past and now you’re working in the business again,” the tipster said. “I hope he’s been reformed but I have no way of knowing.”
Through court records, 8 On Your Side was able to confirm that Wilmoth broke the law while gathering voter signatures in Virginia in 2011, and pleaded guilty to two counts of election fraud.
But we had questions: Did Wilmoth, in fact, help gather signatures in Florida? And if so, was it legal?
Wilmoth and his petition management company, First Choice Contracting LLC, are based out of Michigan.
8 On Your Side tracked him down on the phone and asked about his role in Florida’s current ballot initiative. Eventually, Wilmoth told us he was recruiting petitioners in Florida, not hiring or training them.
In a statement he said, in part, “clients often bring up my background when they want to sling mud at the other side on a campaign. The truth is, there are many people that make a once-in-a-lifetime mistake and that shouldn’t make them a criminal for life.”
The governor’s office says it is legal for someone convicted of election fraud to keep working in this arena. We’re told that’s the case in Florida and in many other states.
Still, like many Floridians, the tipster was concerned about the sanctity of the petition process. Ballot initiatives can drive major policy shifts here in Florida everything from medical marijuana to raising the minimum wage.
Read Shawn Wilmoth’s full statement:
“I was consulting with Mack Douglas LLC in a strictly recruitment capacity. I did not directly hire or train any individuals in Florida on the sands petition. I have not physically been on the ground working in Florida. I have managed hundreds of successful campaigns across the country which puts me in a position of value when it is difficult to find experienced petition circulators. The Seminoles have either paid companies to not work in Florida or have paid people to leave Florida so I have offered my assistance in helping keep people working in Florida. Clients often bring up my background when they want to sling mud at the other side on a campaign.
In 2011, I was convicted of 2 counts of false statements on required form. I was given 3 years’ probation for the conviction and have not been in trouble for anything since the incident. I often work with judges, lawyers, prosecutors and other members of law enforcement in my line of work. If I was doing something illegal or not by the book in some way, I wouldn’t still be in business.
I was accused of knowingly hiring individuals with felonies and directing them to circulate petitions even though they were not legally eligible to do so under Virginia law. The law that I was accused of violating has since been overturned as unconstitutional since my conviction.
The truth is, there are many people that make a once in a lifetime mistake and that shouldn’t make them a criminal for life. Due to the nature of my conviction, I have to go the extra mile in everything I do so that people don’t question my integrity. I am often accused of wrongdoing by my competitors who work in the same industry because they don’t like competition. I have a long list of happy clients and successful projects because my work speaks for itself. Anyone who has worked with me would never question the legitimacy of my work.”
Read the statement from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Office:
“It is legal in Florida and many other states for an individual with a criminal record, including non-violent felony convictions, to work as a petition circulator. The governor’s office is not familiar with the details of this case, and you are the first person to bring this to my attention.
Governor DeSantis’ proposals in the Freedom First Budget are designed to strengthen election integrity in Florida. If the reforms are enacted this upcoming legislative session, Florida would have a dedicated team of law enforcement personnel to investigate allegations of voter fraud – but only in our state.”