HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — A 71-year-old Florida county commissioner allowed a couple to live in his home rent-free in exchange for paid sex with the 30-year-old wife, a Hernando County Sheriff's report says.

  • Nicholas Nicholson, 71, facing prostitution charges
  • Nicholson allegedly paid to have sex with Valerie Surette, 30
  • Surette, husband feared being homeless if they didn't comply

Hernando County Commissioner Nicholas Nicholson was arrested Thursday on several prostitution charges. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Valerie Surette is named in the Sheriff's Office report on the incident.

It states that on Feb. 20, deputies responded to Nicholson’s home for a reported domestic dispute between Surette and her husband, Kendel Surette. While speaking with deputies, Kendel Surette told them that Nicholson allowed he and his wife to live in the home rent-free in exchange for sex with Valerie Surette.

He said Nicholson paid his wife $100 for sex on Tuesdays and $200 for sex on Saturdays.

“There was always the threat that if I didn’t do what he wanted sexually or physically, we wouldn’t have any money, we wouldn’t have anywhere to live,” Valerie Surette said. “We depended on him for my husband’s doctor bills, our food and our house. We were kind of being trapped here almost.”

Valerie Surette said she used the money Nicholson paid her to fuel a drug habit that she said she fell back into after meeting him while working at a strip club. She said she felt caught in a cycle of needing drugs to deal with the sexual relationship and needing money to pay for drugs.

“Hopefully, after this, he won’t be able to do this to anyone else again,” she said.

According to the report, Kendel Surette also told deputies other men came to the residence.

“If he didn’t want to give me money that day, he would let me have other clients come by, knowing they were coming by to pay for sex,” Valerie Surette said.

“It’s always disappointing because, as an elected official, I think my fellow elected officials work very, very hard to hold ourselves to a higher standard,” Sheriff Al Nienhuis said.

Nienhuis said the arrest came almost two months after the initial incident because investigators needed time to compile sufficient evidence. He said the case was turned over to the Vice and Narcotics Unit after the initial call. Special agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were also called in, and the State Attorney’s Office was also involved.

County Administrator Leonard Sossamon said he found out about the allegations in a call from the Sheriff’s Office on Thursday.

“I was surprised,” Sossamon said. “Today’s my commissioner day, and I’d already met with him to talk about next Tuesday’s board meeting.”

Sossamon said as far as Nicholson’s job as commissioner goes, the county can’t take any action. He said that would be up to Gov. Rick Scott, and the county hadn’t heard from his office as of Thursday afternoon.

As for Valerie Surette, she said she’s in a rehab program, no longer works as a stripper, and plans to look for work.

“Finally, it’s over,” she said.

The investigation is ongoing.