UPDATED: FDLE probe: Evidence does not substantiate any charges against former mayor
A former Cape Coral official will not face any charges subsequent to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into her actions while in office.
Citing “insufficient evidence to prove any criminal law violation,” the State Attorney’s Office said in a felony agency review disposition notice signed Wednesday that no action will be taken following the FDLE investigation regarding former mayor Marni Sawicki.
The disposition notice provides no details as to what possible crime, or crimes, were being investigated by the state police agency.
The no charges decision was expected, Sawicki, who co-operated with FDLE investigators, said.
“I did nothing wrong,” she said in a telephone interview. “I knew I did nothing wrong.”
Sawicki said the FDLE did not tell her or her attorney the basis for the investigation.
The questions she was asked, however, centered around possible corruption or money laundering – her relationship, if any, with a property owner in the Bimini Basin redevelopment area; whether she was an investor in a South Cape venue that has been a participant in and proponent of the extended bar hours program; and a trip to Italy with family members and a former boyfriend with the group allegedly staying in a villa owned by a major Bimini property owner.
Sawicki said her explanations to investigators were simple: She had met the Bimini property owner twice, both in her official capacity; she was not nor had she been an investor in the business in question; and the trip was booked and paid for through a Cape Coral travel agency which offered 10 lodging choices from which they picked one.
The FDLE began its probe after the Cape Coral Police Department received an internal administrative report concerning Sawicki’s then-estranged husband, who had been employed by the city. The report, which dealt with a personnel issue, included accusations concerning Sawicki. CCPD Police Chief David Newlan turned that report over to the FDLE, an outside agency, for investigation into the allegations concerning the former mayor.
Sawicki said the complaint was both politically motivated and fallout from a personal relationship.
“I am happy it’s behind me,” Sawicki said. “Our city has so many good things going for it and it’s important we move forward with those things.”
“But it’s hard not to be angry, and I work on that every day,” she said. “I can’t let that define me.”
In March, the Florida Commission on Ethics also found no probable cause in a complaint filed against Sawicki.
As per a staff advocate’s amended recommendation, the nine-member appointed board “that serves as the guardian of the standards of conduct for officers and employees of Florida and its political subdivisions and functions as an independent commission responsible for investigating and issuing public reports on complaints of breach of the public trust by public officers and employees” found no evidence to substantiate any violation of law by Sawicki, who was accused of failing to report gifts and disclose potential conflicts of interest as required by state statutes.
She said the FDLE investigation was spawned from the ethics complaint.
“I have no doubt it’s the same complaint. Ethics looks at whether it was the right thing to do and FDLE looks at criminal intent,” Sawicki said, adding both agencies found – as she knew they would – no sufficient evidence to support the complaint allegations.
According to the FDLE investigative summary, released late Thursday in response to a request from The Breeze, the “considered law violations” did overlap with the ethics review concerning gifts accepted, including the vacation to Italy. Statutes cited included those related to voting conflicts and other offenses by public officers and employees.
FDLE spoke with a dozen witnesses, in addition to Sawicki and the ex-boyfriend with which she co-habitated before reaching its conclusion of insufficient evidence and no further action.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include investigative information released by the FDLE late Thursday.