SANFORD, Florida – A six-member jury found former Clerk of Court Mitch Needeleman guilty of all counts related to bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, bid tampering, and official misconduct in the BlueWare scandal.
He now faces up to 45 years in prison but will likely receive a lesser sentence due to a clean prior criminal history. Because Needelman is 65-years-old, even a 20-year sentence would likely mean a life sentence for him. Sentencing is scheduled to take place in December.
“Thank goodness he did not walk,” current Clerk of Court Scott Ellis said of the verdict.
The case was transferred from Brevard County to Seminole County due to, in most part
, Brevard Times
‘ investigative coverage of the alleged scandal over the last two years leading up to the arrests.
BlueWare Scandal Timeline
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 Florida State Attorney Phil 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.
On July 10, 2012, Brevard Times raised questions
regarding the propriety of the bidding, payment and contract procedures.
Also in July 2012, the FDLE began a criminal investigation after it received information alleging Needelman approved Brevard County Clerk of Court contracts with BlueWare in exchange for personal financial gain for himself and Dupree.
On August 12, 2012, Needelman submitted a letter to the editor
contending that the alleged improprieties were made up by a disgruntled former BlueWare employee, Nick Geaney, who was merely trying to shake down BlueWare for money.
In August 2012, Needelman lost his bid for re-election for Brevard County Clerk of Court to Scott Ellis in the Republican primary. Before leaving office, in October 2012, Needelman entered into a loan with Hewlett-Packard Financial Services for $5.6 million dollars where BlueWare received the loan proceeds although Brevard County was obligated to repay the loan.
In August 2013, Needelman, Harr, and Dupree are arrested
Ellis refused to make payments on the Hewlett-Packard loan, contending that the contract was unlawful. The Clerk’s office and Hewlett-Packard settled
in March 2016 where each party releases the other from all claims.