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."