Former Brevard lawmaker, an ex-lawman, arrested for briberyby John Kennedy | August 15th, 2013
Mitch Needelman, a former Brevard County Clerk of the Courts and a longtime state legislator, was arrested Thursday on bribery charges, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Needelman, 60, is a former Florida Marine Patrol officer, who served a decade as a Republican in the state House, representing the Melbourne area. The FDLE said that while clerk, Needelman entered into a $8.53 million contract with a company, BlueWare with the agreement that a portion of that money would be funneled back into his reelection campaign.
BlueWare won the lucrative contract to digitize Brevard County court records even though the company didn’t have the equipment to scan the documents, FDLE said. Needelman’s one-time business partner, William Matthew Dupree, a lobbyist, also was charged in the scheme.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Rose Harr, BlueWare’s chief executive officer.
“The investigation shows Needelman, Dupree and Harr swindled Brevard County taxpayers out of millions of dollars,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. “Although not the final chapter, today’s arrests should present a degree of satisfaction to Brevard County taxpayers.”
Needelman lost his re-election bid in last summer’s primary for court clerk. Before leaving office, Needelman obtained a $5.6 million loan through the clerk’s office that was steered to BlueWare — cash Brevard taxpayers are now obligated to repay, FDLE said.
While the alleged bribery was underway, BlueWare also was poised to rake in more cash from the state, according to the watchdog group Integrity Florida.
Enterprise Florida, the state’s development arm, offered BlueWare $760,000 tax refund last year and a separate $550,000 from the state’s Quick Action Closing Fund on the promise the company would create 190 new jobs.
Enterprise Florida, however, said Thursday that no state money has gone to BlueWare because the job-creating milestones had not been met.