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Anti-Druzbick robocalls still being investigated

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:54 PM

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Detectives are still investigating a series of anonymous political robocalls critical of a local county commission candidate.

A subpoena was forwarded to a company that may have been associated with the spate of recorded telemarketing calls, but the Hernando County Sheriff's Office is still awaiting a response, said Sgt. Jeff Kraft, who heads the agency's economic crimes unit.

The recording warned residents against voting for County Commission John Druzbick. Druzbick's opponent in last month's Republican primary, Jason Sager, told Hernando Today he had nothing to do with the robocalls. The recording itself didn't mention Sager by name.

Following a recount, Sager won the primary by eight votes.

Kraft said the robocalls were illegal because they didn't include a disclaimer. The person or organization that paid for or sponsored the call also wasn't identified.

Making such a call is a violation of Florida law and is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The recording features a male voice with a Southern accent. He reminds the person on the other end of the call that Hernando County has "the second-highest unemployment (rate) in the state" and says Druzbick "has done nothing" to bring more jobs to the county.

Kraft said the first company he contacted was Pacific Telecom Communications Group out of Los Angeles. An executive there referred him to another company that also specialized in "predictive dialing," which is the practice of connecting answered calls to telemarketing agents or recorded messages.

Kraft would not identify the company.

In theory, someone could have recorded a message, forwarded it to a business specializing in predictive dialing and paid employees there to make the series of calls, according to the sheriff's office.

Because the company is out of state, executives there are under no obligation to honor the Florida subpoena, said Kraft.

That means the investigation could reach a dead end.

If, however, the investigation moves forward and the calls are connected to a person or organization based out of Hernando County, the case likely would be turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said Kraft.

Bob Kanner, a Weeki Wachee resident who voted for Druzbick, filed a complaint with the sheriff's office after he received one of the robocalls. He was upset at the time, but now that the calls have stopped, he isn't as concerned.

"I can understand not putting too much time into this because there are much more serious crimes that need to be attended to," said Kanner. "I'd still really like to know who was behind this."

Sager will face off in November against Democrat Diane Rowden, a former county commissioner and school board member, as well as no-party candidate Greg Sheldon and write-in candidate Tanya Marsh. (352) 544-5283

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