High Profile Mitch Needelman Brevard County Corruption Trial Opens Today In Sanford
By Space Coast Daily // October 16, 2017
Charged with bid tampering and bribery
SANFORD, FLORIDA – The much anticipated trial of former State Representative and Brevard County Clerk of Courts Mitch Needelman will begin today in Sanford in the courtroom of 18th Judicial Circuit Judge Marlene Alva.
Needelman, 64, along with BlueWare Inc. Chief Executive Officer Rose Harr and former BlueWare executive Matthew Dupree, are the defendants in one of Brevard County’s most notable public corruption cases in history.
Alva ruled last week that Needelman, Harr and Dupree would have separate trials, all in front of Alva in Sanford.
The trio were arrested and charged in 2013 in an alleged quid pro quo arrangement in which BlueWare Inc. would make a contribution to Needelman’s 2012 re-election campaign in return for a $8.5 million contract to digitize Brevard County court records.
Needelman is charged with bid tampering and bribery related to the BlueWare scanning contract, and is also charged with official misconduct for allegedly directing employees to use private email accounts to circumvent public records laws.
A former member of the Florida Marine Patrol and Florida House of Representatives, Needelman represented the 31st district from 2000 to 2008. He then served as Clerk of Brevard County Courts, but lost his bid for re-election in 2012.
Needelman was a member of the City of Melbourne Zoning Board of Adjustments from 1988 to 2000, and its Chairman from 1996 to 1997.
CHRONOLOGY OF CORRUPTION
In early 2012, BlueWare CEO Rose Harr met then Brevard County Clerk Needelman, via Matt DuPree, a former lobbyist and business partner of Needelman.
On April 6, 2012, Needelman signed a contract with RoseWare LLC, one of the 10 companies within BlueWare’s “corporate family.” On the day of signing, $100,000 was wired from Brevard County to BlueWare.
On April 18, 2012, former Brevard County Clerk Scott Ellis filed a public records request for any and all contracts between the County Clerk’s office and BlueWare.
On May 3, 2012, Needelman issued an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for a contract to digitize old paper county records which were then being stored in a gymnasium.
This ITN, which was reportedly written by BlueWare itself, allowed only eight days to submit bids, which prevented other firms the time needed to prepare.
Selection of a bid was made only five days later. BlueWare, which had never performed such services for government before, submitted a bid of $8.5 million under the company name BlueGem, Inc.
Despite the short time-frame, the experienced document imaging company FNTI had submitted a bid of $3.5 million.
On May 23, BlueWare was wired an additional $500,000. The contract was signed on June 29, and BlueWare received its first monthly payment of $90,000.
While this was ongoing, Needelman and Ellis were competing for the Republican nomination for County Clerk. One of the major issues in the campaign was the contract Needelman had signed with BlueWare.
It would later emerge that some of the money Needelman had arranged for BlueWare to receive was being diverted to his campaign. The primary was held on August 14, 2012, and Ellis defeated Needelman with 60.8% of the vote.
On August 30, 2012, a former BlueWare employee filed suit against BlueWare and Harr for, among other things, illegal termination.
The suit claims that the employee was terminated in retaliation for threatening to expose Harr’s “improper conduct” with “a certain government official in the State of Florida.” Sometime in the next month, DuPree was hired by BlueWare.
On October 27, 2012, Needelman signed a $6.1 million loan with Hewlett Packard, despite the fact that the County Clerk is not allowed under Florida law to borrow money. On November 8, 2012, Needelman wired $5,690,526 to BlueWare.
On January 8, 2012, Ellis was sworn in as Brevard Country Clerk and continued his investigation into Needelman and BlueWare.
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– Wikipedia contributed to this report