LAUDERHILL — Police are investigating a complaint that a worker for Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion’s re-election campaign physically threatened the president of a homeowners association who refused to let Eggelletion speak at a recent meeting.
“She’s lucky I don’t pick up this chair and throw it over to her,’’ said Loretta London, a member of Eggelletion’s re-election campaign staff who is also the commissioner’s sister, according to a police report.
In the report about the June 10 incident, London recalled her quote in a statement she gave to investigators.
In her statement, London said she was sitting near the back of the room, far away from St. George Homeowners Association President Mae Smith, and that she did not have a chair in her hand at the time.
“It’s an active, open investigation and at this point there is not a whole lot of information I can give out,’’ said Lauderhill Police Asst. Chief Mike Cochran. “What’s happening right now, is our detective is going out to talk to everyone and get their statements.”
Several witnesses told the South Florida Times that London threatened Smith after Smith asked Eggelletion, who also attended the meeting, not to distribute his campaign literature there.
Smith is a former campaign worker for Alan Jackson, who unsuccessfully challenged Eggelletion in 2004 and is running against him again this year. Lauderhill Commissioner Dale
Holness and Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner John Billingsley are also competing for Eggelletion’s District 9 seat.
London told police that Smith did allow Jackson to speak at the meeting.
“We have a process in place for all candidates who would like to speak or present their materials, but Joe [Eggelletion] will not complete that process and refuses to abide by our rules or respect our meetings, so he was told not to do so,” Smith said.
According to Smith, after a brief exchange in which Eggelletion reportedly told her they were in a public building at St. George Park, he proceeded to distribute campaign literature anyway.
Smith, 42, of Lauderhill, said Eggelletion then took a seat and waited, but was not allowed to introduce himself or address the meeting. He left the facility a short time later without incident.
Eggelletion did not return calls to his county commission office seeking comment. Attempts to reach London at her home and place of business about the allegations and pending probe were unsuccessful.
But according to witnesses who attended the meeting, London entered the building shortly after Eggelletion left, and began speaking loudly – without being recognized – about Smith and the process that was implemented to allow candidates to speak.
Phil Hodor, 50, a member of the homeowners association, attended that meeting and said he has never before witnessed what took place next.
“She started disrupting the meeting and arguing about the way Mae [Smith] was running things, and she thought it was unfair to her brother,” Hodor recalled. “I heard her say several times that she was going to throw a chair and hit Mae up side the head with it. Then after we had moved on to another subject, she started to get out of order again by yelling things out of turn.’’
After the meeting ended, Smith said she was warned by several people not to exit the building because London was waiting outside and was reportedly heard making threatening statements.
London later admitted to police that she waited for Smith in the parking lot, but that she “just wanted to speak with Mae,’’ according to the police report.
She told police that she then got into her van and began driving it in the parking lot without her lights on. She also told investigators that she did not realize her lights were off because there was so much light in the parking lot.
As she began driving out of the parking lot, she told investigators, she realized her lights were off, and turned them on. Then, she said, she drove back into the parking lot to talk to a friend. Afterward, she went home.
“I was right there with some other people, and heard her say several times that she was waiting for Mae to come outside because she was going up side of Mae’s head,” Hodor said.
“I have no axe to grind on either side, but for someone of her age carry on like that is embarrassing.”
When Smith did exit the building, Hodor said a man he did not recognize restrained London.
“He grabbed her by the arm and led her to her car,” Hodor explained. “She was still talking about what she was going to do Mae.”
Regardless of her affiliation with Eggelletion’s opponent, Smith said, “Yes, I want Alan to win, but I am not on his campaign team this year, but I do support him.”
She added, “But this has nothing to do with it. His campaign worker threatened to hurt me and I want her charged.’’
Politics aside, Lauderhill police say they are taking the incident seriously.
“If it turns out to be a felony, it will be handled by our department, and if it’s a misdemeanor she will have to take it to the Broward State Attorney’s Office,” Cochran said of the process involved. “It depends on what the investigation turns up and is able to support. First, it has to be determined if it was a threat, and if they had the ability to carry out the threat, and if the person on the receiving end was in some sort of fear.’’
Smith said because she was in fear for her safety, she filed the police report and took other steps to obtain a restraining order against London.
“I tried to get a restraining order, but was told there would have to be repeated incidents before one could be issued,” she said. “I intend to see this through.”
Hodor said he and several other persons who witnessed the incident have been contacted and already gave statements to detectives investigating the case.
Because it is an ongoing investigation, Cochran would not divulge whether witnesses were interviewed or say when the probe might be competed.
“It’s still active, and we are trying to give everyone involved a chance to give their version of what took place,” he said, adding, “I can assure you it will be fair and thorough.”
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Mae Smith