SATURDAY SEPT. 18 10:11 a.m. Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties
Train Crash Kills One, Injures One
Partin and Schuler win Bronson election
Winners Robert Partin (left) and Sherrie Schuler congratulate each other on their successful campaigns after the numbers were announced.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison© Sept. 14, 2021 at 9:11 a.m.
BRONSON – There were four provisional ballots, which can be “cured” by Thursday at 5 p.m. to stablish that they in fact had the right to vote in the Town of Bronson election, however those four votes would not make a difference.
A provisional ballot exists when a person thinks they are eligible to vote in an election, but an election officials sees reason to question it. The voter can then prove to the elections office within a couple of days that they are eligible or the vote is not counted.
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Sherrie Schuler is seen at her tent before the election was final.
Robert Partin is seen at his campsite before the election was final. His family members helped him throughout the day. His campsite included an RV.
Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks is seen speaking with Levy County Supervisor of Elections in the Dogan Cobb Municipal Building.
Levy County Court Judge James Tim Browning (left) and Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks open mailed-in ballots.
Some of the people who showed up to hear the results of the election are seen before the final tally was announced.
(from left) Levy County Court Judge James Tim Browning, Bronson Deputy Town Clerk Wendy Maragh, Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks and Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones help in the process of tallying mail-in ballots.
The unofficial count in the Bronson Town Council Election shows that out of the 861 qualified registered voters who could have cast ballots in Bronson for this election, there were 148 voters who showed up on election day (Tuesday, Sept. 14) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and there were another 89 people who voted by mail-in ballot.
Therefore, 237 of the possible 861 people decided the winners in two races for Bronson Town Council seats.
In the race for Bronson Town Council Seat 1, Robert Partin won with 155 votes over Mark Kjeseth who received 69 votes.
The breakdown for Partin was 98 election day votes and 57 mail-in votes.
The breakdown for Kjeseth was 38 election day votes and 31 mail-in votes.
In the race for Bronson Town Council Seat 3, Sherrie Schuler received 123 votes and won in the contest over Allen E. Alexander who had 112 votes.
The breakdown for Schuler was 74 votes on election day and 49 mail-in votes.
The breakdown for Alexander was 73 votes on election day and 39 mail-in votes.
There was one ballot that had to be redone (duplicated) by the Canvassing Board of Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks, Levy County Court Judge James Tim Browning, Bronson Town Manager Susan Beaudet and Bronson Deputy Town Clerk Wendy Maragh.
That one ballot was marked where the machine could not read it, although the marks were clear enough for the officials to mark the replacement (duplicate) ballot to properly record the votes via the machine, which were clearly meant to be cast by that voter.
Town Manager Beaudet served as the municipal supervisor of elections, and was helped by the deputy town clerk, and Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones and staff.
Before the election, there were posts set up by the winners across the street from the Dogan Cobb Municipal Building where Partin and Schuler had family and friends supporting them through the day, including through some light rain.
Among the people in the Partin campsite were his mother Louise Partin, and three sisters – Ella Johnson and her husband Wayne Johnson, and Carolyn Hunt and her husband Larry Hunt. Janet Owen, Partin’s third sister did help during part of the day, however she had many other duties for the day that demanded her attention.
Sherrie Schuler’s father Franklin Schuler, a former Town Council member and a former mayor of Bronson, was at her campsite as were many, many other family members and friends.
Immediately after the election results were announced by Canvassing Board Chairman Meeks, Town Councilman Partin said he was too tired to say anything. He has had demands on him that would be exhausting to anyone.
Meanwhile, incoming Town Councilwoman Sherrie Schuler provided a response when asked for feedback after she was announced as a winner.
“I am honored,” Sherrie Schuler said. “I feel like it is a privilege to be able to serve the people. I am thankful for every single vote – everybody that came out in the weather, everybody that came out and showed some support. So, I am grateful.”
Dixie county attorney’s
federal criminal trial
now set for November
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 14, 2021 at 7:11 a.m.
JACKSONVILLE – Despite the limits caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, civil and criminal trials in county, state and federal courts continue.
A Dixie County attorney who was indicted for his alleged activity in violation of federal law, as a private attorney, and another attorney who is one of the former state attorneys for the Third Judicial Circuit of Florida are seeing their cases evolve after their indictments on federal criminal charges were filed in February, according to records.
About six months after United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced on Feb. 26 the unsealing of an indictment charging Jeffrey Siegmeister, then 52, of Live Oak and Marion Michael O’Steen, then 41, of Old Town with conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for unlawful activity, conspiracy to commit extortion, and aiding and abetting extortion, O’Steen is tentatively scheduled for jury trial in November, according to information gathered through PACER.
The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service provides electronic access to federal court records. PACER provides instantaneous access to more than one billion documents filed at all federal courts. There is a fee for the service and journalists are not excluded from paying.
The honorable United States District Court Judge Marcia Morales Howard, who is based in Jacksonville, issued an order granting a motion to continue the trial when that motion was heard in August, according to records.
In her most recent rulings, Judge Howard set the status conference for O’Steen’s trial for Oct. 18 at 3 p.m. in Jacksonville Courtroom 10-B of the United States District Court to be before her -- Judge Howard, according to records.
The jury trial currently is scheduled for the trial term commencing on Nov. 1 at in Jacksonville Courtroom 10-B before Judge Howard, according to records.
Motions from prosecutors Assistant United States Attorney Kelly Karase and Assistant United States Attorney Mai Tran are due Sept. 27, according to records. That order was signed by Judge Howard on Aug. 12. AUSA Karase is the lead prosecutor in this case, according to records.
The motion to continue the trials of both O'Steen and Siegmeister, were granted, according to records.
As noted, Siegmeister is a former state attorney for the Third Judicial Circuit of Florida, which is an elected position as the chief prosecutor for this judicial circuit in state court.
O’Steen is not only a private attorney, but he is also the attorney for the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners as well as the Dixie County School Board.
In the original 12-count indictment handed down in February, Siegmeister was additionally charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, wire fraud and filing false tax returns, according to records.
O’Steen was additionally charged with failure to file a form in connection with the receipt of currency, according to records.
The most recent records show O’Steen charged with the federal crimes of conspiracy to defraud the United States and interference with commerce by threat or violence, according to records.
The crimes alleged by the government against O’Steen are level 4, according to records. This is the fourth in the ranked list of federal felonies. It is a serious crime, though not as serious as those in the three categories above it.
O’Steen remains free on $100,000 bail, according to records.
United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced on Feb. 26 the unsealing of an indictment charging Siegmeister, then 52, of Live Oak and O’Steen, then 41, of Old Town with conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for unlawful activity, conspiracy to commit extortion, and aiding and abetting extortion.
In the original 12-count indictment, Siegmeister is additionally charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, federal program bribery, wire fraud and filing false tax returns.
O’Steen was additionally charged with failure to file a form in connection with the receipt of currency, according to records.
Siegmeister was arrested in Arizona on Feb. 26 and made his initial appearance in federal court (Flagstaff, Arizona) on Monday, March 1. O’Steen appeared in federal court in Jacksonville on Feb. 26 and pleaded not guilty. He was released on a $100,000 bond.
According to the indictment, Siegmeister was the elected State Attorney for the Third Judicial Circuit of Florida from 2013 through 2019. O’Steen was a defense attorney who represented clients being prosecuted by Siegmeister’s office during that time, according to records.
As part of the alleged conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for unlawful activity, between approximately November 2017 and May 16, 2019, O’Steen is reported to have requested official acts from Siegmeister --including the favorable disposition of charges filed against his clients, and the delay of official actions in order to enable O’Steen to obtain additional “fees” from at least one of his clients -- for which Siegmeister is accused of having solicited bribes from O’Steen, according to the charging documents.
Regarding the extortion charges, the federal government alleges that O’Steen solicited Siegmeister to resolve a case against one of his clients through pre-trial intervention (PTI). O’Steen demanded $60,000 from that client in order to procure the PTI agreement from the Third Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, according to the initial allegation in the indictment handed down by the federal government.
O’Steen and Siegmeister then are accused of having coordinated to withhold the finalization of the PTI agreement until the client paid $60,000 in cash to O’Steen. In connection with this case, Siegmeister solicited O’Steen to purchase a bull from a herd of livestock he owned for $4,000, and to make a political contribution, according to the information in the original indictment.
Additionally, O’Steen is charged with failing to file within 15 days the required Form 8300 with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to acknowledge his receipt of more than $10,000 in cash from the client, according to the information in the original indictment.
Siegmeister is separately charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and federal program bribery in connection with another prosecution by the State Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial Circuit. According to the indictment, Ernest Maloney Page IV, was a defense attorney representing a client charged with two driving under the influence (“DUI”) offenses.
There was a time when Page served in the State Attorney’s Office of the Third Judicial Circuit.
The Third Judicial Circuit includes Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties. There are 20 judicial circuits in Florida.
In regard to Page’s client’s family, they owned a tractor dealership. In or around September of 2017, State Attorney Siegmeister informed attorney Page that he would favorably resolve one of the client’s DUI charges in exchange for a $10,000 discount on a tractor that Siegmeister wanted to buy from the client’s dealership, and favorably resolve both DUI charges in exchange for a $20,000 discount, according to information provided by the federal government in its original indictment of Siegmeister.
Ultimately, Siegmeister and his wife at the time purchased a tractor and accessories from the client’s dealership, the price of which Page’s client discounted by approximately $20,000. In exchange, Siegmeister dismissed the DUI charges and Page’s client pleaded guilty to charges of reckless driving with alcohol and refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test, according to the charging document.
On Aug. 20, 2020, Page pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery for his role in facilitating this transaction. As part of the plea-negotiated agreement with the federal government, Page agreed to cooperate fully and testify against others if needed, according to reports.
Siegmeister also is charged with wire fraud in connection with his legal guardianship of an elderly individual who lived in Columbia County. According to the indictment, from approximately January 2010 through April 2016, Siegmeister engaged in a scheme to defraud his ward and his ward’s estate by, among other things, transferring the victim’s assets for his own benefit, filing materially false documents with the court to conceal those transfers, and by creating a last will and testament for the victim, which designated Siegmeister’s relative as the sole beneficiary of the victim’s estate.
Siegmeister is also charged with filing false tax returns for tax years 2015, 2016 and 2017, according to the original charging documents by the federal government.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.
As noted, this trial now is scheduled to be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kelly S. Karase as the lead prosecutor and Assistant United States Attorney Mai Tran.
The defense attorneys listed in records on O’Steen’s case are Mitchell A. Stone, and T. Bradley McRae.
Siegmeister’s initial attorney that was listed is Bobi Frank, a Gainesville criminal defense attorney. Waffa Hanania of the Federal Public Defender's Office is the current lead attorney representing Siegmeister now, according to records accessed via PACER.
As noted, an indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
Chiefland City Commission members
rate City Manager Laura Cain
Vice mayor gives her a 100 percent
This HardisonInk.com file photo shows the front of the Hardy R. Dean Municipal Building (Chiefland City Hall) with a monument for The Ten Commandments in its front yard. This is where the Chiefland City Commission normally meets and it is one of the structures where the city government conducts its business, and it is where the City Commission is scheduled to conduct a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday (Sept. 13) to discuss its evaluation of the first three months of work by City Manager Laura Cain.
Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 12, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
CHIEFLAND – They meet in a building that used to be a bank and was named in honor of a past city manager – the Hardy R. Dean Sr. Municipal Building – which is also known as Chiefland City Hall, 214 E. Park Ave.
They are the current Chiefland City Commission members.
That group is comprised of Mayor John Christopher “Chris” Jones (Group 1), Vice Mayor Robert Norman “Norm” Weaver (Group 5) and city commissioners Lewrissa “Rissa” Mainwaring (Group 2), James Rollin Hudson Jr. (Group 3) and Lance Hayes (Group 4). They marked their evaluations and notes to show their ratings of the most recent Chiefland city manager (and ex officio city clerk) for Chiefland -- Laura Cain, where they evaluated her first three months of service.
Each of the eight municipalities in Levy County has its own iteration of city (or town) governmental operations, and each one continues evolving as its local legislators create laws, approve budgets and the like as the elected public servants of the residents and visitors of those geo-political subdivisions of Levy County. In Bronson, there may come a day when voters will approve a Town Charter that appears in need of amending.
Meanwhile, on Monday (Sept. 13) at 5:30 p.m., the Chiefland City Commission is scheduled to conduct a special meeting for the evaluation of City Manager Cain after her first three months of serving the people and the city, after the retirement of City Manager (and ex-officio city clerk) Mary Ellzey.
City Manager Cain was the deputy city clerk before her appointment to be city manager.
The regular twice-month Chiefland City Commission remains scheduled, as usual, to start at 6 p.m., after the scheduled evaluation of City Manager Cain.
On a numeric scale, the following items were rated by each of the five members of the Chiefland City Commission: Relating With Government Body – Providing Information, Most Possible Points 55; Fiscal Management, Most Possible Points 20; Personnel Management, Most Possible Points 30; Managing The Organization, Most Possible Points 45; Relations With The Public, Most Possible Points 15; Relations With Other Governments, Most Possible Points 10; Managerial And Administrative Performance, Most Possible Points 30; and Personal Qualities, Most Possible Points 60.
Vice Mayor Weaver felt Cain earned a 100 percent rating – giving her the highest possible score in each realm considered.
From there, the rankings by the City Commission members of City Manager Cain’s first three months, from second highest to fifth highest (lowest) are by commissioners Mainwaring, Hayes, Jones and Hudson.
Following is a condensation of each Chiefland City Commission members’ ratings of City Manager Laura Cain, from highest rating to lowest rating, where the highest possible score was 265: Vice Mayor Norm Weaver, 265; Commissioner Rissa Mainwaring, 257; Commissioner Lance Hayes, 213; Mayor Chris Jones, 182; and Commissioner Rollin Hudson, 178.
These are the scores. The meeting to discuss the current city manager’s first three months of service, as noted, is set for 5:30 p.m. on Monday (Sept. 13) in Chiefland City Hall, and the regular twice-monthly meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday (Sept. 13).
COVID-19 testing options
increase for Tri-County Area
By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 30, 2021 at 12:11 p.m.
Updated Sept. 6, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.
FANNING SPRINGS – The Suwannee River Fairgrounds at 17851 90th Ave. in the City of Fanning Springs is the latest location being offered for testing for COVID-19, according to information provided by the Tri-County Unit of the Florida Department of Health, serving Dixie County, Gilchrist County and Levy County.
These are the fairgrounds where the annual SRF Youth Livestock Show and Sale happen for the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties.
Tri-County Area residents and visitors can be tested for COVID-19 for free there on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, after making an appointment online by registering at https://testing.nomihealth.com/easy_registration/26/onsite.
Nomi Health in conjunction with the Florida Department of Health will be providing free testing from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Register online to schedule a test.
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, there is testing in the Tri-County Area through the Florida Department of Health. Also every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the FDOH is providing vaccinations (see the ad on any of the seven pages of HardisonInk.com).
There is no cost associated with the testing at SRF or any of the FDOH sites. There is no need to show symptoms for testing. Individuals with questions may contact any of the Tri-County Health Departments: Dixie- 352-498-1360; Gilchrist-352-463-3120; or Levy-352-486-5300.
Vaccinations are available
in the Tri-County Area
By Jeff M. Hardison © July 28, 2021 at 11:11 a.m.
Updated Aug. 26, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its website July 27 regarding best health practices regarding the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC recommended as of July 27 that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high COVID-19 transmission rates.
The agency is recommending children wear masks in schools this fall as well.
Among the wealth of information available from this public health agency of the federal government, which bases recommendations on what is found from the utilization of the scientific method, it notes the following as of yesterday:
● If you are fully vaccinated (two weeks after the second of two doses for a two-dose regime like with Moderna or Pfizer, or two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson single dose), you can participate in many of the activities that you did before the pandemic.
● To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
● Wearing a mask is most important if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. If this applies to you or your household, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in your area.
● You should continue to wear a mask where required by laws, rules, regulations or local guidance.
As of July 25, in Florida, there were 12,177,959 people or 56 percent of the state’s population that had received at least one dose. As of July 25, overall, 10,407,543 people or 48 percent of Florida's population has been fully vaccinated, according to another set of researchers.
Florida law bans adolescents from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine without parental approval. Other states allow teenagers to make medical decisions for themselves, including vaccinations. Among those other states are Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and some states in the Pacific Northwest.
Children younger than 12 years old are not yet eligible for the vaccine in the United States.
The Florida Department of Health suspended daily COVID-19 reporting in early June and has not resumed the daily sharing of public health information.
The single best general resource for finding a place to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is https://www.vaccines.gov/.
The Florida Department of Health is still testing for COVID-19 and providing free vaccinations in Levy County, Dixie County and Gilchrist County. To see where and when tests and vaccinations are available now in the Tri-County Area, see the advertisement from the FDOH Tri-County Area Unit on any of the seven pages of HardisonInk.com. (Florida Department Of Health -- COVID-19 Testing And Vaccination Days, Times And Places In Levy-Dixie-Gilchrist Counties), ALL SEVEN PAGES, Including The HOME PAGE).
Another method to become vaccinated against COVID-19 is to visit Winn-Dixie, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and local pharmacies. Another method is to check with your primary care physician at places such as Palms Medical Group.
Vaccinations to reduce the odds of catching or spreading mumps, measles, rubella, tetanus, influenza, pneumonia, chicken pox, shingles and other diseases are available. However, these are not all covered by completely by insurance or the government. Vaccinations against COVID-19 are free and relatively easy to get.
In regard to any health matters, consult a doctor and look at reliable scientific data before taking action or not taking action.