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Florida Ethics Commission finds probable cause in complaint against Naples Mayor Heitmann

WGCU
The Florida Ethics Commission has found probable cause that Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann, above, misused her position "to steer City employees and City resources to investigate non-City related matters to benefit herself and another individual."

In the complaint, the city's IT director said he was "a witness to Mayor Heitmann's misconduct and unethical behavior."

The Florida Ethics Commission has found probable cause that Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann misused her position "to steer city employees and city resources to investigate non-City related matters to benefit herself and another individual."

The commission, which filed the decision on Wednesday, also found she failed to disclose a gift of legal services in excess of $100. The allegations came from a complaint filed with the commission May 20, 2021 by Bob Dye, the city's information technology director.

In Dye's complaint he charged Heitmann engaged in misconduct and ethics violations.

READ THE COMPLAINT: Allegations made against Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann

ETHICS COMMISSION: Order finding probable cause

"She has abused her position and office, directed me to break Sunshine laws, destroy [public records, investigated political opponents' email addresses, used City resources and funds to the benefit of her friend, retaliated against staff and City contractors for perceived slights."

In the complaint, Dye said that he had worked for the city for eight years and "I have been a witness to Mayor Heitmann's misconduct and unethical behavior."

The complaint appears to be connected to Heitmann's use of city funds to hire an outside attorney in order to "formulate a legal opinion on how to sue the former City attorney because she believed that they had hacked her and a friend’s computer," Dye said in the document.

In the complaint Dye also said:

  • Heitmann ordered him to investigate two Naples Police Department officers due to her belief she was being watched;

  • Claimed that city staffers had hacked her computer and that of a friend and insisted those staffers be fired;
  • Demanded Dye look into her friend's computer for evidence, which he said he was uncomfortable with because it was not city property;
  • A third alleged violation by Heitmann, that she used her position to obtain a disproportionate benefit for herself, was rejected by the commission.

    Neither Heitmann or Dye could be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

    An Ethics Commission official, Lynn Blais, said the case is "far from over."

    Blais said after the finding of probable cause the case now goes to the commission advocate, who is with the state Attorney General's office.

    Two things can happen, she said. One is that a stipulated agreement could be reached, meaning there would be a listing of the violation and possible penalty.

    The second would be a request by Heitmann for a full evidentiary hearing.

    Whatever that outcome, Blais said, the case would go back to the Ethics Commission for them to either approve or deny.

    A June 30, 2021, report on the issue by The Naples News said the Naples ethics commission voted unanimously to dismiss the complaint filed in June by former Mayor Bill Barnett against Heitmann.

    In the complaint, Barnett wrote Heitmann may have breached the public's trust by allegedly accusing him of running a child prostitution ring and hacking her electronic devices.

    At that time Heitmann denied the allegations, which stemmed from Dye's complaint.

    The Naples News report said that after the closed session, Chairman Dudley Goodlette said the commission made the determination because Barnett did not have personal knowledge of the allegations made against Heitmann.

    Furthermore, the report said, Mike Murawski, executive director of the city commission, told the Naples Daily News that the commission also dismissed a portion of the complaint because it determined it had no jurisdiction over an alleged false statement made by Heitmann.

    In an email sent June 30, The Naples News said Heitmann wrote she never made the accusations against Barnett and others.

    "My goal is to work for the best interest of the city with transparency. My character has been attacked and it's slanderous! I love Naples and our community," Heitmann wrote.

    Barnett told the Naples Daily News that it was important to get to the bottom of the allegations made against Heitmann.

    The Florida Center for Government Accountability contributed to this report. FLCGA (flcganews.org) is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to producing strong investigative journalism across the state.

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    Michael Braun
    WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.