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City’s IT Department looking into taped call ‘leak’

By Staff | Jul 14, 2011

Councilmember Bill Deile said the city’s Information Technology Department is looking into the internal source of information that resulted in release of a taped conversation he felt painted a fellow councilman in a bad light.
Deile also believes a felony could have occurred when Pete Brandt was unknowingly recorded while speaking with a city billing representative on behalf of a citizen.
Deile said the taped conversation — when Brandt asked to have a sewer bill reduced for the owner of a local pool company — was used to politically attack Brandt by his detractors and could have been illegally recorded.
“They’re flirting with felonies,” Deile said. “It’s appalling that at this level the disaffected would stoop to felonious behavior to attack Brandt.”
Both Brandt and Deile are running for re-election.
Brandt spoke with a customer billing representative in June regarding a business owner who accidentally ran up the water and sewer bill for a customer after leaving a hose on for five days. The business did not question the fee for the water used but had questioned the sewer portion of the bill for those extra gallons.
Brandt said he felt that his conversation was illegally recorded, but had no plans to pursue the matter.
Brandt added that he felt the business had the right to have more of the sewer portion adjusted because the city did not have to pay to process the water. The company was able to recoup $360 as per the city’s ordinance, he said.
He said that had he known he was being recorded, he wouldn’t have done anything differently, and that he mistakenly did not look at the ordinance allowing for fee adjustments before making the call.
“I did not give direction to anybody, I was just inquiring about the situation,” Brandt said.
City Manager Gary King said the billing department’s main number features a recorded message alerting callers that their calls will be recorded. And that some staff members had their direct lines equipped with the same recording capabilities.
Over time, some of those lines lost their ability to record, while others didn’t, King said. He added that only the main line for billing is now able to record, and subsequent lines have all lost that capability.
King felt neither the recording, nor Brandt’s conversation, broke any rules or laws.
“It lacked intent,” King said. “I believe this is a tempest in a tea pot … all Pete was doing was advocating for a citizen, he did nothing inappropriate.”
Deile said he’s reserving judgement until the IT Department concludes its investigation. He didn’t know what the next step would be, he said.
Deile added that local blogger Dave Montrose – whose “Spotlight on Cape Coral” blog broke the story – knew about the recorded conversation between Brandt and the customer billing representative within 24 hours of its occurrence.
Finding out who “leaked” that information, Deile said, could lead to larger conclusions as to why those phones were set to record in the first place.
“I’m seeking answers to how all those lines got tapped, how technically it was done, who authorized it and why,” he said.
Dave Montrose maintains that Brandt’s phone call, while not be a violation of the city charter, was a misuse of power.
Montrose added that he obtained the information through a public records request.
“It’s standard practice for calls of that nature to be recorded,” Montrose said. “There wasn’t a leak involved. We heard about the conversation from someone, and we did a public records request and got it.”