Former Brevard Clerk of Courts accused of bribery

Mitch Needelman also faces official misconduct, other charges

VIERA, Fla. - A former state representative and clerk of courts in Brevard County was arrested Thursday on bribery charges.

Mitch Needelman, 60, was arrested on charges of bribery, bid tampering and official misconduct.

Needelman's one-time business partner, lobbyist William Matthew Dupree, 47, was also arrested on bid tampering and bribery charges.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said the arrests came after a year-long investigation and are related to the BlueWare scanning contract signed by Needelman when he was the county clerk of court.

An arrest warrant on bid tampering and bribery charges has also been issued for BlueWare CEO Rose Harr, 55.

The investigation began in July 2012 when the 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. 

The investigation revealed that Dupree introduced Needelman to BlueWare CEO Harr and COO Nick Geaney in January 2012, according to the FDLE.

The state says 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 the company would be diverted back to Dupree for Needelman's 2012 reelection campaign.  The investigation shows that a portion of the BlueWare payments was funneled back to Dupree for Needelman's 2012 reelection campaign, the FDLE said.

In April 2012, BlueWare 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 state said.  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, according to the FDLE.

In August 2012, Needelman lost his bid for re-election 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.  Information obtained indicated that BlueWare received the loan money although Brevard County was obligated to repay the loan, the state said.

Each of the arrestees 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."

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