Opponents of Casino Gambling Initiative Fire Back in Lawsuit | Daily Business Review – Law.com

December 20, 2021 by No Comments

Legal wrangling escalated about signature gathering for a proposed constitutional amendment that would open the door for casinos in North Florida, with lawyers for entities linked to the Seminole Tribe accusing backers of the ballot initiative of breaking the law.

Florida Voters in Charge, a political committee behind the casino proposal, is racing to meet a Feb. 1 deadline to submit nearly 900,000 signatures to state elections officials to make it onto the 2022 ballot.

The committee, financed largely by casino behemoth Las Vegas Sands Corp., filed a lawsuit Dec. 1 alleging that businesses, individuals and a committee tied to the Seminoles are trying to “sabotage” the petition drive, in part by paying people to stop gathering signatures.

Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey on Dec. 10 refused to dismiss the lawsuit, which accuses the defendants of “tortious interference.” But Dempsey ordered the plaintiffs to quickly provide the names of workers who had been targeted and contracts.

The following day, the plaintiffs withdrew a petition for an emergency injunction, though the underlying lawsuit remained pending.

On Friday, lawyers for the defendants filed a motion seeking to enforce Dempsey’s order on turning over information and alleging that some of the plaintiffs had violated state elections laws in the petition drive.

“Plaintiffs are brazenly violating Florida election law. This raises serious integrity questions. As it pertains to the instant case, while the plaintiffs have accused defendants of hiring plaintiffs’ employees, the underlying employee contracts at issue are based on an illegal scheme, so the contracts themselves are illegal and therefore … unenforceable,” West Palm Beach attorney William Shepherd, who represents the defendants, wrote.

The motion said that contracts provided to the defendants were heavily redacted, but the plaintiffs “offered no explanations for the redactions.” It accused backers of the ballot initiative of intentionally trying to hide the information.

“Upon closer analysis, including review of one of the plaintiffs’ own websites, it appears these redactions were done to hide the illegal compensation scheme for how the plaintiffs pay their circulators,” the motion said.

The motion pointed to the website of Grassfire LLC, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The website showed that workers would be paid $25 per hour plus bonuses of up to $2,000, depending on the number of signatures they collected in a week. Florida law makes it illegal to pay petition gatherers by the signature for ballot initiatives.

But Jim McKee, a Tallahassee attorney who represents the plaintiffs, disputed the accusations.

The defendants’ “allegations are meritless, and are nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from their aggressive attempts to prevent …….

Source: https://www.law.com/dailybusinessreview/2021/12/20/opponents-of-casino-gambling-initiative-fire-back-in-lawsuit/

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