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FDLE investigation underway into Cape mayor’s office

By Staff | Oct 12, 2017

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Thursday that the Cape Coral mayor’s office is the subject of an investigation that began this summer.

The state agency could not release details nor could officials discuss when its inquiry might conclude.

“We are conducting an investigation in reference to the mayor’s office,” Gretl Plessinger, FDLE spokesperson, said in a telephone interview early Thursday evening. “At this point it is an active investigation and we’re not able to confirm possible subjects or the scope of the investigation.”

She was asked when the agency began its probe.

“I can say in the summer of 2017, so a few months ago,” she said. “It’s hard to say when an investigation will conclude; it depends on what we are finding.”

Mayor Marni Sawicki said she was first contacted by an FDLE agent on Sept. 27 and consulted with her attorney. She said it is her understanding the investigation concerns a complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics last year.

That 50-plus page complaint filed by Cape Coral City Councilmember Richard Leon alleges that Sawicki did not properly report gifts received during a relationship and that she failed to disclose possible conflicts of interest.

That complaint is still pending.

“My attorney reached out and has been talking about this with the (FDLE) agent,” Sawicki said in a telephone interview late Thursday. “He did get confirmation it’s the same complaint; he said the agent said they had no doubt it’s the same complaint the Ethics Commission is looking at.”

She has been advised not to discuss either matter.

“My attorney has said we cannot comment until the Ethics Commission delivers their whatever,” Sawicki said.

She did comment on the timing of the FDLE investigation being made public.

“I think it’s funny that it’s how many days -25?-before the election,” Sawicki said. “I think it’s just another effort to discredit me and anyone I support, and that’s just dirty.”

Sawicki is not seeking re-election.

She had hoped the ethics issue would be behind her before she left office but any hoped-for resolution is not likely now before December or January, she said.

“They’re behind,” she said of the state Commission on Ethics.

“One, they had a lot of complaints during the election year and that bogged them down and then the hurricane pushed it back. We were hoping it would be heard in August or September but with the hurricane and everything, it’s just not possible.”

While others in the city confirmed contact with FDLE investigators, Leon, who filed the ethics complaint in August 2016, said Thursday he is not among them.

“I have not been contacted the FDLE,” Leon said in a phone interview.

He said for this reason, he questions whether that complaint is the focus of the inquiry.

“The FDLE doesn’t typically investigate ethics complaints,” he said.

Leon acknowledged the Commission on Ethics backlog.

“They’re still investigating complaints from 2015,” he said.