The Lakeland Association of Realtors trade group in Florida has conducted an investigation over allegations of voter fraud in a board of directors election.

The Ledger newspaper of Lakeland, Fla., reported that the association conducted a five-week investigation and voted Monday not to take action against Sue Riley, the association’s executive director since 1997.

A special meeting is planned Thursday to allow further discussion.

Gene Engle, a real estate broker and past president of the association’s board in 1976 and 1988, told Inman News that he was not invited to the Monday meeting but plans to attend the Thursday meeting. “There has been an investigation, as I understand it,” Engle said. The Thursday meeting was apparently called by someone who is not a member of the board, he added. “It’s kind of a mess.”

The Ledger reported that the association hired a former FBI agent to investigate possible online computer voting fraud during the association’s 2003 board of directors election.

Riley did not respond to Inman News requests for comment. Her lawyer, Robert M. Brush, said that the evidence linking Riley to voter fraud in the board election is circumstantial, and she maintains her innocence.

“She denies doing it, she is offended by the accusations, and there is no direct evidence,” Brush said. “They have this whole house of cards of conclusions and assumptions. If they’ve got proof that she did it then fine, she should be punished. This is not proof of anything. There hasn’t been a chance to contest the so-called evidence.”

He also said that there were several other individuals who worked at the Lakeland association office who would’ve had access to information that could have been used to commit election fraud.

The investigator provided some information suggesting that individuals’ partial Social Security numbers may have been used without authorization to place votes in the past board election.

“Ultimately his findings are that people who shouldn’t have voted to some degree did vote in the 2003 election,” Brush said. “We don’t know who did it and we don’t know how they did it. The last four digits (of Social Security numbers) could have been obtained in a number of different ways.”

The Ledger has reported Riley resigned earlier this year and was reinstated by the board, and that the Lakeland Association of Realtors, which has about 1,300 members, has not hired a firm to conduct an independent financial audit in a decade. Brush said that there is no evidence of any financial misdeeds within the association.

The board could make a decision about Riley’s employment at the Thursday meeting, Brush also said. “They have asked me there to be able to present a response on her behalf. Regardless of how it turns out, (Riley) is suffering, both emotionally and physically.”

The association’s board president, Matt Ruthven and president-elect Peggy E. Daley were not immediately available for comment. Other board members include Arthur Mattson, treasurer; Jeri Jackson, secretary; Vera Tungate, past president; Joe Lorio; John Tubb; Sylvia Miller; Joe Joseph; Wes Cowley; Linda Leonard; and affiliate director Shane Glor.

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