Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Brevard Elected Officials On Witness List In BlueWare Bribery Case

Mary Bolin-Lewis
MELBOURNE, Florida -- The Florida State Attorney Phil Archer's Office filed its witness lists last week in the criminal cases where former State Representative and Brevard County Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman, his one-time business partner, lobbyist William Matthew Dupree, and BlueWare CEO Rose Harr have been charged with bid tampering and bribery related to the BlueWare scanning contract signed by Needelman when he was the Brevard County Clerk of the Court. 

Among those on the State's witness list is Brevard County Commission Vice-Chair Mary Bolin-Lewis, the only sitting County Commissioner who was named as a witness in the BlueWare scandal.  Also named on the witness list is former State Representative Jason Steele and former Melbourne City Council member Mark LaRusso.

The witness lists are just part of the State's response to the defendants' discovery requests.  The State indicated that it had in its possession "written, oral, or recorded statements" of the defendant and co-defendants along with "Electronic surveillance of the premises of defendant or of conversations to which defendant was a part."

The State also indicated in its response that it will make available to the defendants "tangible papers or objects not obtained or belonging to the defendant that the State intends to use at hearing or trial."   If those documents that the State has disclosed to the defendants contain documents obtained from the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast (EDC), then, according to an advisory opinion issued by Brevard County Attorney Scott Knox to the County Commission last month, those documents would be considered a matter of public record.   The EDC's "custodian of records" has also been listed as a witness by the State.

Over the past year, current Brevard County Clerk of Court Scott Ellis has repeatedly requested that the EDC turn over its BlueWare documents.  Ellis has since filed a lawsuit against the EDC where he alleges that the EDC has violated Florida's Sunshine Laws.  That same day, the EDC also filed a lawsuit which seeks a declaratory judgment as to whether or not the BlueWare documents should remain confidential "because of the continual harassment by the Clerk [Ellis], which is causing the disruption of business at the EDC..." A hearing in Ellis' lawsuit against the EDC has been set for November 1, 2013.

On August 20, 2013, the Brevard County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to request that the EDC relinquish its documents regarding BlueWare to Ellis so that he can continue his research and investigation into BlueWare's dealings with former Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman.

The EDC had helped BlueWare and some of its affiliated companies to qualify for various government programs that could have totaled at least $1.31 million, plus a local match of somewhere between $250k to $350k from the City of Melbourne and Brevard County.   None of those incentives were ultimately awarded to BlueWare because it did not meet its performance benchmarks.

Just last week, Bolin-Lewis and the EDC made the news in what has the appearance of another scandal where a State of Florida corporate filing indicated that Bolin-Lewis and EDC President and CEO Lynda Weatherman were listed as directors of a private company with the EDC's Rockledge, Florida address listed as its business address.


Contract Controversy Taints Florida Governor's Jobs Campaign July 10, 2012

Brevard EDC Cites "Non-Disclosure Agreement" and Confidentiality  Jan 25, 2013

Ellis and Weatherman At Odds Over BlueWare Documents  Feb 5, 2013 

Commissioner Asserts EDC Confidentiality Claim "Raises Questions" February 14, 2013

Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast Subpoenaed By FDLE February 28, 2013

Former Brevard County Clerk of Court, Business Partner Arrested - Warrant Issued for Blueware CEO August 15, 2013

BlueWare CEO Turns Herself In August 16, 2013 

County Commission Tells Economic Development Commission To Turn Over BlueWare Documents  August 20, 2013 

State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity: BlueWare Confidentiality Lapsed