Thursday, August 15, 2013

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

Mitch Needelman
UPDATE: BlueWare CEO Turns Herself In

MELBOURNE, Florida – Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Office of Executive Investigations, arrested former State Representative and Brevard County Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman, 60, and his one-time business partner, lobbyist William Matthew Dupree, 47. 

The two were 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. Needelman is also charged with official misconduct for allegedly directing employees to use private email accounts to circumvent public records laws. 

In addition to Needelman and Dupree, an arrest warrant has been issued for BlueWare CEO Rose Harr, 55, also on bid tampering and bribery charges. 

The investigation began in July 2012 when FDLE received information alleging Needelman approved Brevard County Clerk of Court contracts with BlueWare in exchange for personal financial gain for himself and Dupree. The investigation focused on a multi-million dollar scanning contract for digitization of Brevard County records even though, at the time, BlueWare had no equipment to scan the documents. 

Florida State Attorney Phil Archer said in a release that the investigation revealed that Dupree introduced Needelman to BlueWare CEO Harr and COO Nick Geaney in January 2012. 

In March 2012, Needelman and Dupree met with Geaney at Needelman’s residence and allegedly told him Brevard County would enter into the scanning contract with BlueWare if a portion of the money paid to BlueWare would be diverted back to Dupree for Needelman’s 2012 reelection campaign.  According to Archer, the investigation shows that a portion of the BlueWare payments was allegedly funneled back to Dupree for Needelman’s 2012 reelection campaign.

In April 2012, BlueWare allegedly assisted in drafting the invitation to negotiate (ITN) for Brevard County Clerk of Court for the scanning contract and subsequently responded to the ITN. The ITN was posted on May 4, 2012, and records indicate questions from other bidders were sent to a county employee’s personal email account and then forwarded to Harr and Geaney to write responses. The responses were then emailed back to the bidders using the county email system. On May 23, 2012, a payment of $500,000 was wired to BlueWare even though the contract had not been signed. The actual contract was signed June 29, 2012, and on that day, the first monthly payment of $90,000 was sent to BlueWare. 

In August 2012, Needelman lost his bid for reelection for Brevard County Clerk of Court. Before leaving office, in October 2012, Needelman entered into a loan with Hewlett-Packard Financial Services for $5.6 million dollars. Information obtained indicated that BlueWare received the loan money although Brevard County was obligated to repay the loan. 

Needelman was arrested at his home this morning; Dupree was arrested at his office, 2012 West Drive, Melbourne, Fla. Each was booked into the Brevard County Jail on bonds of $50,000. 

“The investigation shows Needelman, Dupree and Harr swindled Brevard County taxpayers out of millions of dollars,” said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. “Although not the final chapter, today’s arrests should present a degree of satisfaction to Brevard County taxpayers.”

Brevard County State Attorney Phil Archer’s office will prosecute the case. Archer said his office assisted FDLE throughout the probe by subpoenaing records and data crucial to the case. 

“This partnership allows professionals to do the job they are trained to do, free from any outside alliances or influences. It benefits both agencies by allowing prosecutors to attack white collar crime in the courtroom with the facts the law enforcement experts have pursued and established,” Archer said. 

"FDLE has done an outstanding job on the case," said current Brevard Clerk of Court Scott Ellis who repeatedly raised these allegations during his 2012 campaign to defeat Needelman.  "We are mostly just relieved to see these actions brought to justice."

Brevard Times was the only news source to continue a series of in-depth investigative articles led by Charles Parker into this story:
Scott Ellis To Run For Clerk of Court Again January 4, 2012
Clerk of Court Staffer Endorses Needelman, Ellis Responds February 7, 2012
Needelman Calls Ellis A Liar In Brevard County Clerk of Courts Debate February 16, 2012
Brevard County Clerk of Court Debate: Video March 23, 2012
Brevard County Clerk of Court Debate in Titusville: VIDEO  April 23, 2012
Scott Ellis Wins Clerk of Court Viewer Poll  April 30, 2012
Brevard County Clerk of Court Debate In Melbourne: VIDEO  May 8, 2012
Mitch Needelman Named Finalist For 'Tax Cutter' Award  May 17, 2012
Brevard Constitutional Officer's Straw Poll Results May 25, 2012
Charles Parker: Clerk's Race Heats Up May 30, 2012
Brevard County Clerk of Court Debate: VIDEO June 4, 2012
Ellis: Taxpayers Foot Bill for Endless Self Promotion of Mr. Needelman June 25, 2012
Needelman: Ellis' "Complicated" Requests Delayed Release of Clerk Documents, BlueWare Contracts Jul 5, 2012 
Contract Controversy Taints Florida Governor's Jobs Campaign July 10, 2012
Scott Ellis Republican Picnic Video (Mitch Needelman Not Present) July 15, 2012
2012 Bi-Annual Brevard Republican Picnic Straw Poll Results July 15, 2012
Clerk of Court Sunshine Lawsuit Hearing Monday  July 21, 2012
Needelman Wins Partial Victory in Court Case Brought by Ellis July 23, 2012
Opinion: Why I Support Ellis, Blickley, Ivey, Trettis, Kneessy, Romney July 25, 2012
Republican Primary Candidates Brevard County Clerk of Court Monday, July 30, 2012
Needelman: Ellis Complicit in Extortion Plot?  August 12, 2012
Ellis: Panic sets in as Race comes to an End August 13, 2012 
Dirty Brevard County Politics Caught On Surveillance Video  Aug 13, 2012 
Brevard Clerk of Court Recount, No Layoffs Anticipated  August 24, 2012 
$8.5 Million Brevard Clerk of Court Records Digitizing Underway  Oct 17, 2012 
Clerk's Attorney Refers Staffing Questions to BlueWare  Nov 1, 2012 
BlueWare Misses Clerk's Office Deadline  Nov 7, 2012
UPDATE: Needelman and Company Owner Mum Regarding Digitizing Contract Nov 15, 2012
DuPree Confirms BlueWare Scanning Readiness  Nov 17, 2012 
Charles Parker: Hey Mitch and Matt: How About Some Answers? December 4, 2012
Charles Parker: Divergent Views on Clerk's Contract Continue December 11, 2012 
Former Clerk's Digitizing Contract Under More Scrutiny  Jan 19, 2013 
Ellis: Emails Appear To Contradict Needelman Attorney's Testimony  Jan 24, 2013 
Brevard EDC Cites "Non-Disclosure Agreement" and Confidentiality  Jan 25, 2013 
Ellis Claims Proof of Needelman Campaign Lies in Emails and Video  Jan 29, 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
Charles Parker: BlueWare, Rose Harr, and Me  March 2, 2013
BlueWare Not Using Available Training Funds Mar 15, 2013
Hewlett Packard Threatens Lawsuit Over BlueWare Debt Mar 23, 2013
Brevard County Clerk of Court Files Suit Against BlueGem March 29, 2013
Details of Brevard Clerk of the Court Lawsuits Against BlueGem and RoseWare Emerge In Court Filings March 29, 2013
Space Coast Economic Incentives Make Florida Headlines  Apr 1, 2013
BlueGem Counter-Sues Clerk's Office: Claims Ellis' "Ignorance"  May 5, 2013
Ellis and Hewlett-Packard Still At Odds Over Scanning Contract Loan Payments  June 2, 2013 
Hewlett Packard Sues Brevard Clerk of Court For Disputed Scanning Contract Payments Jul 26, 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