When the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported in April there was no proof that Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann dedicated against the law in connection to abuse of power allegations made in opposition to her, it was not the one time this yr the company had inquired in regards to the mayor.
In late March, the FDLE closed an investigation into Heitmann’s campaign finances after discovering no proof to warrant additional inquiry, an FDLE investigation report states.
The FDLE started an inquiry into Heitmann’s alleged “misuse of campaign expenditures and improper public workplace communications” after the case was referred in February by the State Attorney’s Office, a letter from the workplace to FDLE states.
Heitmann instructed the Naples Daily News she was not conscious of the investigation and mentioned she didn’t violate campaign finance legal guidelines.
“This FDLE investigation is information to me,” Heitmann mentioned final month.
Tara Norman, Heitmann’s former campaign treasurer, relayed the allegations to City Council in October of final yr, and an unidentified complainant forwarded e mail exchanges between Heitmann and Norman to the State Attorney’s Office a couple of month later, FDLE investigation reports state.
Norman declined to be interviewed, however in her resignation letter from her job as campaign treasurer dated June 1 of final yr she wrote that one in every of her issues was that Heitmann despatched her an invoice for $787 in authorized bills incurred by a 3rd social gathering after the City Council election in March of final yr.
“Even if it have been in your title and associated to the campaign, it could not in my view qualify as a campaign expense because of the date when the companies have been rendered,” Norman wrote in an email to Heitmann.
The bill from Upton Law Firm P.L. was billed to John Lehmann, former vp of Ethics Naples Inc. and a member of the Naples Ethics Commission since November of final yr, a duplicate of the bill reveals.
The authorized recommendation surrounded the emergency COVID-19 ordinance and town supervisor’s potential to cancel scheduled City Council conferences, based on the FDLE investigation and the legislation agency’s bill.
An evaluation of Heitmann’s subpoenaed campaign finance financial institution data revealed that the authorized bill was not paid with campaign funds, based on an FDLE report.
Heitmann mentioned final month that Lehmann didn’t ask her to pay the invoice and that she by no means mentioned she would pay it. Heitmann additionally mentioned she despatched the invoice to Norman to let her know Lehmann independently sought the authorized recommendation after they spoke in regards to the metropolis’s emergency order.
“I used to be attempting to be clear,” Heitmann mentioned.
Heitmann additionally mentioned she despatched a textual content to Norman after the election asking her in jest if she might use the campaign’s leftover cash to pay for legal professional charges.
“I now know it’s not humorous,” Heitmann mentioned.
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Lehmann instructed the Daily News final month he did nothing improper.
“I agree with the FDLE findings that there was completely no impropriety associated to my requesting authorized recommendation relating to town’s emergency order, paying for it myself and discussing that recommendation with members of City Council, together with Mayor Heitmann. I by no means requested or acquired any reimbursement for this,” Lehmann mentioned.
Lehmann declined to say why he despatched a duplicate of the bill to Heitmann.
The FDLE additionally seemed into two separate funds of $1,500 every made on the day of the City Council election to a resort and to a person after Norman instructed investigators she didn’t know in regards to the latter, based on the FDLE investigation.
The FDLE concluded Heitmann’s campaign paid the resort for a post-election social gathering and paid a person for promoting companies, discovering them lawful.
Calls, emails with ‘supporters’
Campaign payments and funds weren’t Norman’s solely issues, paperwork present.
Norman mentioned she turned uncomfortable after Heitmann allegedly requested her following the City Council election to take part in convention calls organized by Lehmann and attended by a few of Heitmann’s supporters, based on her resignation letter and FDLE studies.
Norman additionally instructed FDLE that she requested Heitmann to “take her title off the record” as a result of the group made Norman really feel “as if Teresa (Heitmann) weren’t in cost”, and that “frightened her,” based on the FDLE studies.
Heitmann instructed the Daily News final month she fashioned a bunch after she was elected to assist her with the transition from candidate to mayor.
Heitmann mentioned the group took half in two telephone calls and that among the many callers have been Norman, Lehmann and a number of other Naples residents.
“It was only a handful of us,” Heitmann mentioned.
Norman additionally wrote in her resignation letter that Heitmann instructed she acquire “a separate e mail server” to obtain communications from the callers.
“I sincerely warning you to keep away from something that could possibly be thought-about a violation of the Sunshine Law, together with failure to reveal data that is perhaps thought-about public which can reside on a personal e mail server or laborious drive,” Norman wrote in the letter.
Heitmann instructed the Daily News on Tuesday she has not used personal emails for metropolis enterprise however that she has forwarded emails from her authorities e mail to a private e mail “to maintain it for my data.”