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2024 Municipal Elections

Candidates, supporters spar at commission meeting

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Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Tuesday, January 30, 2024


Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

Former Commissioner Bob Buchanan said the "public should know" about Mueller's 2021 election violations but not the 2021 violations Iliana R. Jones incurred because he is a "sitting commissioner" while she is not. Meanwhile, they both entered Florida politics at the same time in 2021 and are again running against each other and Danny "DJ" Culberson in March.

Former Winter Garden Commissioner Bob Buchanan tried during Thursday's commission meeting to “clarify” why he sent city officials copies of the Florida Election Commission’s ruling on Commissioner Ron Mueller’s 2021 campaign violations.

Buchanan emailed the document to commissioners on Jan. 16. He made his remarks during Public Comment after another resident, Joseph Richardson, referenced VoxPopuli's reporting on the incident. 

Buchanan tried to suggest Mueller, who is running for re-election in District 2, had been cited for ethics violations (He wasn't). Then he backtracked to say it was “campaign … stuff.” He also falsely suggested (again) that there was $5,000 that was unaccounted for. 

“But on top of that, Iliana is not a sitting commissioner. Ron is. And that's why I thought the public should know it," he said. "Thank you.”

In other words, the public should be informed about violations committed by the person who has the job, but not about violations committed by those campaigning for the job. 

Iliana R. Jones is running against Mueller for District 2 commissioner for the second time. It's now a three-way race that includes Danny “DJ” Culberson. The election is March 19.

As VoxPopuli reported previously, Mueller was cited and fined for campaign finance reporting errors during the 2021 election. Jones was also cited and fined for similar errors plus signage errors. In addition, Jamie Mark, owner of Em Agency, confirmed to VoxPopuli that $5,000 was paid to his company for the creation of 2021 campaign materials. Mueller has said that he paid Em Agency from his personal account, not his campaign account, after his campaign ran out of money.

Jones, who said she hadn’t planned to speak, approached the speakers' podium “since my name was mentioned.” She upbraided Mueller for describing himself as a “rookie” when he “has been a political figure since 1990.” 

“So the fact that you're saying that you're a rookie, you're not. You have been a political figure for years and years and years, so mistakes on your behalf, I don't understand,” Jones continued.

“This was my first time,” she said, referring to the 2021 election, which she lost by 66 votes. “I was learning, and I'm still learning, and I hope to be, you know, learning more. Thank you so much."

Except, Mueller never claimed to be a “rookie.” The word "rookie" was used by University of Central Florida election expert Aubrey Parker in  a VoxPopuli article to describe the types of mistakes often made by candidates for local office — something the professor chalked up to limited resources, inexperienced staff typically comprised of friends or family and Florida’s byzantine election rules.

When it was time for commissioner remarks, Mueller responded to Jones's comments, saying that her calendar was off: “I’m pretty sure that in 1990 I was in the U.S. Navy until August 9, and then I was in college, starting Aug. 18.”

Florida State College of Jacksonville confirmed to VoxPopuli that Mueller graduated in 1992 with an associate of arts degree. Although he was an alderman in Missouri, Mueller entered Florida politics at the same time that Jones did — with the 2021 race. 

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