ORLANDO, Fla. — Rick Singh this week filed suit against a political committee for “character assassination” during his failed bid for a third term as Orange County’s property appraiser, saying he suffered more than $1 million in damages.
What You Need To Know
- Departing property appraiser alleges PAC defamed him in mailers
- Suit alleges committee had backing from major tourist attraction
- Former state representative Amy Mercado is replacing Singh
Singh accused Miami-based Florida Public Corruption Task Force of attacking him with “vitriolic, false, and maliciously defamatory statements” in “massive public mailings” before Amy Mercado beat him and another candidate in the August 18 Democratic primary.
“Defendants must pay for the injury caused, and Singh brings this action seeking millions of dollars in damages,” the 13-page complaint filed Monday in Orange County Circuit Court alleges.
After Mercado topped Singh in the primary, the former state house member blew away a write-in challenger in the November 3 general election.
Singh’s final day in office is January 5.
“The defamatory statements had their intended effect, damaging Singh personally, professionally, and ultimately politically,” his lawsuit added.
Orange County's property appraiser earns a base annual salary of $177,000 and serves for four years.
An attorney listed as the chairman, treasurer, and registered agent for Florida Public Corruption Task Force did not immediately return a message Tuesday night. The committee has a secondary address — a UPS store in Windermere.
State records show Florida Public Corruption Task Force received $600,000 in seven cash donations between July 14 and August 14 from a nonprofit called the South Florida Anti-Corruption Task Force.
The nonprofit’s address is the same as the Miami office for the attorney for the political action committee.
The lawsuit alleges an unspecified financial backer for the PAC.
“The resources to sponsor this character assassination did not come from grassroots political support, rather Singh alleges upon information and belief that much of Defendant’s monetary support came from at least one major tourist attraction which had a history of conflicts with Singh over property valuations,” the suit says.
The suit against the PAC and 10 nameless “John Doe” defendants does not name the “major tourist attraction.”
Singh takes issue with the content of least two mailers dropped before the primary.
One alleges he “misspent taxpayer funds and destroyed documents.”
That’s an apparent reference to an investigation by state prosecutors into allegations Singh had travel records altered before a 2015 audit by the Orange County Comptroller’s Office.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement found 10 possible crimes, but prosecutors closed the case against Singh without filing charges, saying there was “insufficient evidence to establish criminal activity beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The second mailer used allegations from that investigation and claims raised in lawsuits filed against him by former employees who alleged a hostile work environment under Singh.
The piece compared Singh to Mercado, asking readers “Who Do We Trust?” It credited the former state lawmaker with securing funding for schools, libraries and public safety departments. It also said she would restore trust and ensure fair property evaluations.
The suit does not allege Mercado was involved in the political committee.
A message to her was not immediately returned Tuesday.