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Brevard Clerk Charged With Bribery

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File photo of a court.  (Credit: Thinkstock)

File photo of a court. (Credit: Thinkstock)

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VIERA, Fla. (AP) — The former Clerk of the Court for Brevard County was arrested Thursday on charges of bribery and bid tampering.

Mitch Needelman, who is a former state lawmaker, also was charged with official misconduct and conspiracy in what prosecutors describe as a kickback scheme involving a contractor hired to digitize records in the clerk’s office located on Florida’s Space Coast.

Also charged was lobbyist William Dupree, Needelman’s one-time business partner.

The contractor, BlueWare, promised to give money to Dupree for Needelman’s re-election campaign in exchange for the multimillion-dollar contract, according to authorities. The Brevard County Clerk of the Court obtained a loan for $5.6 million last August and the loan money was forwarded to BlueWare, authorities said.

BlueWare executives helped draft the invitation to make bids posted for other vendors, and they also answered the responses of the potential bidders for the contract, authorities said.

BlueWare also lacked the scanning equipment to digitize the documents at the time the company won the contract, according to authorities.

Online records show the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity negotiated with BlueWare to receive $1.3 million in incentives in exchange for creating 190 jobs. But the agency’s online database shows the money was never paid.

“In the case of BlueWare, the state’s incentive programs have worked exactly as designed — to protect tax payers from projects that do not perform as outlined in their contracts,” Enterprise Florida spokesman Sean Helton wrote in an email.

Needelman lost his bid for re-election last year. No one answered the phone at Needelman’s Melbourne home Thursday.

An attorney for BlueWare said he hadn’t seen the formal charges and couldn’t comment on their details.

“They’re looking forward to getting this resolved,” said Orlando attorney Mark Horwitz.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

 

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