Saturday, December 09, 2017

Davenport, FL Mayor Faces Suspension, for Felony Forging and Using Dead Woman's Disabled Parking Placard

This arrest brings to mind the lackadaisical attitude of local law enforcement in St. Johns County, who repeatedly ignore violations of disabled parking laws (including alleged serial  violations by dodgy St. Johns County Sheriff's Civil Process Supervisor WILLIAM JONES, President of the controversial St. Augustine Beach Civic Association).  Kudos to the Polk County Sheriff for this righteous bust.

Ex-Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR. did not even sink this low (but he would use an official city business sign in the front window of his car to avoid parking regulations while he was on non-city business).

From THE LAKELAND LEDGER, GateHouse Media (A unionized Newspaper Guild paper)
Davenport commissioners want governor to suspend Mayor Darlene Bradley following arrest
By Suzie Schottelkotte
Posted Dec 7, 2017 at 5:37 PM
Updated Dec 8, 2017 at 8:22 AM

DAVENPORT — Commissioners in Davenport voted unanimously Thursday to ask Gov. Rick Scott to suspend Mayor Darlene Bradley following her arrest Tuesday on allegations she fraudulently used the handicapped placards of dead people to park in a handicapped space at City Hall.
Her lawyer, Rafael Echemendia of Lakeland, asserted in a statement read during the special meeting that the felony arrest was politically motivated.
“Unfortunately, when my client ran for office, she upset the political apple cart,” he wrote, “and this case is being handled in a manner that it would not normally be handled but for the politics involved,” he wrote.
“It is my understanding that Mayor Bradley was of the erroneous belief that the placards were associated with her husband’s visual disability, and did not have any information that the placards belonged to someone other than her husband,” Echemendia said. “This should have been a civil citation or a misdemeanor at best, but powerful interests are taking full advantage of a decision my client made due to her legitimate concerns for her safety.”
According to Bradley’s arrest affidavit, state records show neither she nor her husband, John Lepley, has been issued a disabled placard or handicapped license plate in Florida.
At Thursday’s meeting, City Attorney Andrew Hand told commissioner they didn’t have the authority to suspend Bradley, but could seek her resignation. Commissioners said they were concerned about the finality of that.
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“Once she resigns, that’s final,” Commissioner Tom Fellows said. “I think, in all reality, we would be better off to ask the governor to intervene and suspend her.”
If she’s exonerated, he said, she can be reinstated to her post.
Commissioner Barbara Pierson agreed, saying it would give Bradley the opportunity to address her legal issues while allowing the city to continue to function.
If Scott suspends her, the commission would appoint an interim mayor to fill the vacancy, according to the city’s charter.
She would be removed from office only if she’s convicted of a felony, the charter states.
Bradley, was first elected mayor in 2013 and re-elected in 2015 and in April. She’s registered as a Republican, but elections for the Davenport City Commission are non-partisan. The community in northeast Polk County totals about 2,900 residents.
She was arrested after Polk County sheriff’s deputies reviewed video surveillance of her car parking in a handicapped space at City Hall. The video showed her lifting a large, wheeled briefcase from her trunk before walking into the building.
Deputies discovered the parking placard displayed in Bradley’s car had been issued to a woman who died in 2012, and the expiration date on the placard had been altered to reflect a 2018 expiration date, according to the arrest report.
Further investigation revealed Bradley had additional placards, including one issued to someone who had died in 2015, the arrest affidavit states.
Bradley, 60, is charged with using a deceased person’s identification and possessing an altered or counterfeit decal on a handicapped placard, both of which carry a prison term up to five years if she’s convicted.
She was booked into the Polk County Jail on Tuesday and released after posting $2,250 bail.
In response to Echemendia’s comments regarding the decision to charge Bradley with a felony, Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday he would expect her lawyer to defend her.
“She needs a good lawyer because she’s committed a felony. She has a handicapped placard with a falsified decal that she used to park directly in front of City Hall,” he said. “She will have her day in court to explain why she’s in possession of three handicapped placards from deceased people.”
He said he couldn’t speak to the politics in Davenport because he’s not familiar with it.
Late Thursday, Echemendia expanded on Bradley’s explanation for her actions in a four-page letter to the citizens of Davenport. He detailed how Bradley was carjacked in 2012 in Orlando and used the spare key in her pocket to narrowly escape her captors. Through Echemendia, Bradley touted her accomplishments as mayor and lauded Judd for his efforts to keep the county safe. The letter also stated Bradley recognized that parking in a handicapped space carries a $250 fine and “assumed that improper parking meant just what it said, and a $250 fine was the ultimate penalty and well worth paying if it saved a life.”
After Thursday’s meeting, Pierson said she was saddened by the incident, and she found it difficult to support seeking Bradley’s suspension.
“The moment we took the vote, it was hard for me because I feel her heart is for the city,” she said. “She has been doing wonderful things for the city, and I’m saddened for her tenure to be tainted by this, but I don’t believe there are political motivations behind it. I just think coming back from something like this is very difficult.”
Deborah Burress, a former Davenport commissioner, also supported Bradley’s suspension, telling commissioners Thursday it was making the city a laughingstock.
“This is very embarassing for Davenport,” she said after the meeting. “If she’s suspended, she won’t be in the limelight, creating more attention for the city.”
Vice Mayor Rob Robinson said he’s disappointed this incident has diminished the good things Bradley has done for Davenport.
“She’s a very dedicated public official,” he said. “We didn’t always agree, but that doesn’t do away with all that she has done for the city.”
He, too, said he doesn’t think the incident was politically motivated.
“I hope not, anyway,” he said. “I’ve made more people mad than her.”

Suzie Schottelkotte can be reached at suzie.schottelkotte@ or 863-533-9070. Follow her on Twitter @southpolkscene.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Stealing a parking space from a handicapped person is not just "improper." It can cause serious problems for someone who must use a wheelchair and needs space to lower a ramp to get out of a handicap van. There is a good reason for the penalties. Driving with a disabled relative and circling around looking for accessible parking is an experience that makes me wonder about able-bodied folks who feel entitled to occupy accessible parking spaces for their own convenience. And safety? Not buying it! No safe parking around city hall? Sounds like the mayor needs to fix that for everyone.