SPRING HILL (FOX 13) - Nicholas Nicholson is a county commissioner in Hernando County. Now, according to his county's sheriff's office, he's also the purveyor of prostitution.
Nicholson, who was first elected to the board in 2012, was arrested Thursday and accused of running a brothel. Deputies say he also paid a woman who was living there for sex.
The allegations against Nicholson came to law enforcement's attention in February, when Hernando County deputies responded to the commissioner’s home at on Tiburon Avenue in Spring Hill for a domestic disturbance.
They said when they arrived, Valerie Surette told them she and her husband, Kendel Surette were fighting and he threw a screwdriver at her. Kendel Surette was arrested for domestic battery.
However, during the investigation, deputies said they became aware of other criminal activity at the home.
Valerie Surette, 30, says she met the 71-year-old Nicholson a year ago while working as an exotic dancer in Pasco County. She says he offered her money to have sex, which eventually turned into a home for her and her husband, as she suffered a relapse of drug addiction.
Surette said Nicholson would tell her, "You, your husband, your dog are going to have nowhere to live. I will kick you out if you don't do exactly what I say."
She showed us a restraining order a judge granted Thursday in which she wrote, "If I told him he was hurting me, he would hurt me more."
Deputies did not confirm physical abuse took place, but Kendal Surette told them, starting six months ago, Commissioner Nicholson paid his wife $300 a week to have sex on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
They say other clients would come to the house for sex, too.
On one occasion, Nicholson allegedly greeted deputies while under the influence and with his privates exposed.
"Being the chief law enforcement officer in the county, it is important, I believe that all elected officials be held to a higher standard," said Sheriff Al Nienhuis.
At the time, he denied a Hernando County Republican party request to resign. Instead, in 2016, he was re-elected to his seat by a 52-to-40 margin.
County Republican leaders say they had a meeting on Thursday and would likely discuss the most recent allegations.
Only the governor can officially remove him from office. Governor Scott's office says they are watching this case closely.
"The reason I cooperated with the investigation is because I never want to see this happen to a younger girl again," Valerie Surette said. "He is 41 years older than me."
The state attorney’s office filed charges against Nicholas Nicholson for owning a building for lewdness or prostitution, as well as purchasing services from a sex worker.
"I just want to say, I am glad the sexual abuse is finally over," Valerie Surette said.
After bonding out of jail, Commissioner Nicholas Nicholson declined to answer our questions.