anginita_rosier.jpgjackie_lawhon_2.jpgTALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Allegations that a white city clerk tried to suppress the black vote in an election the incumbent black mayor lost by one vote and that also resulted in the ouster of a black city commissioner will be dropped with no criminal charges filed, State Attorney Willie Meggs said Monday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is about to close its investigation into complaints filed after the June city election in Sopchoppy, a small town on the edge of the Apalachicola National Forest that's best known for its annual Worm Grunting Festival.

Mayor Colleen Skipper-Mitchell and commissioner Anginita Rosier claimed in the complaints that city clerk Jackie Lawhon made it more difficult for blacks to cast ballots by questioning their residency.

But a summary of the investigation given to Meggs' office said there was no evidence of fraudulent or corrupt acts by Lawhon or any city or elections officials, nor did they try to influence or interfere with anyone's right to vote.

"We looked at it all and we find no voting irregularities and no voting fraud and nobody was disenfranchised from voting,'' Meggs said. "I think every vote was counted.''

Meggs said that some people weren't allowed to vote, but the investigation found that they weren't eligible to begin with.

Lawhon, who didn't comment on the case while it was under investigation, said she was confident investigators wouldn't find any wrongdoing.

"I knew in my heart all the time that nobody at city hall had done any of these things that we were accused of doing,'' Lawhon said. "We had done everything possible to ensure that we gave the people a fair election.''

But she said it was upsetting that the accusations put the town in a bad light.

Sopchoppy has a population of about 500 and is about 35 miles southwest of Tallahassee. Other than cars zipping along U.S. 319, which leads to the Gulf Coast beaches, little traffic passes through the picturesque town.

Sopchoppy boasts one grocery store, two gas stations and seven churches.

The biggest excitement Sopchoppy sees is the annual Worm Grunting Festival, a tribute to local folks who make their living by going into the forest, hammering a wooden stake into the ground and rubbing it with a metal slab. The vibrations drive worms to the surface, where they are gathered and sold as fishing bait.

Five candidates were on the June 11 ballot for three seats on the commission.

The top three vote-getters were the winners. Eddie Evans received 89 votes, Nathan Lewis 75 and Glenn Rudd 66. There were 65 ballots cast for Skipper-Mitchell and 40 for Rosier. Voters could select up to three candidates.

Rosier claimed after the election that Lawhon and other city employees tried to drive the vote against her and Skipper-Mitchell. Lawhon said Monday that she and other city workers didn't advocate for or against anyone on the ballot.

Rosier said Monday that law enforcement officials were only looking at criminal activity; she maintained there were still problems with the way the election was held. She also said Meggs shouldn't be involved in the case because Evans is an assistant state attorney.

"It really shouldn't have gone to Willie Meggs' office to begin with, considering that one of the candidates is an assistant state attorney there,'' she said. "They have an ongoing relationship, yet he's allowed to review the case. It's absolutely crazy.''

Skipper-Mitchell didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.


*Pictured above are Anginita Rosier, left, and Jackie Lawho, right.