That’s gonna leave a mark! Yes, we’re all presumed innocent until proven guilty, but, it’s clear that this is not going to bode well for Ms. Fernandez’ campaign. Although, the timing could not be better, if you consider what is at stake! This is a vivid reminder to all of us to exercise due diligence in choosing which candidate to support. The choice could not be more critical than it is in today’s political climate.
Matt Falconer, one of her opponents for Orange County Mayor, when reached for comment, stated, “this is America, and everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and I will reserve comment until that process has played out.” – T. Tillison
Sentinel Staff Writer
County Commissioner Mildred Fernandez was arrested this afternoon on bribery charges, according to the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s office.
Fernandez, a candidate for Orange County Mayor, was arrested about 4 p.m. by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on charges of bribery, grand theft and accepting illegal campaign contributions, charging documents state.
Investigators say she accepted $1,000 for speeding a building project through the government planning process. She failed to report the money, officials say.
A man named Tony Cabrero accused Fernandez, 64, of forcing him to contribute to her campaign before agreeing to meet him to discuss a commercial building project he wanted built in her district, No. 3, paperwork shows.
Cabrero notified the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which sent an undercover, Spanish-speaking agent to meet with Fernandez on a similar project, documents state. After meeting with Fernandez, campaign manager Sylvia Bird called the agent to ask him for a campaign contribution, agents say.
The agent was told to bring $1,000 and a list of 20 names so each could contribute $20 apiece. The agent gave Fernandez the $1,000, in $50 and $100 bills, on March 31 and asked how she could help him with his building project.
She told him he “did not have to worry about it at all” because she had called the Orange County planning department and provided the agent’s name so he could be put at the top of the list,” the report states. Investigators say she also told him that the agent had bought access.
Fernandez also was arrested on a charge of grand theft from her own campaign because agents say she didn’t report the illegal cash contribution. She still hasn’t disclosed the contribution, they said.
Today, the undercover agent and Fernandez met again at her campaign headquarters, and the agent gave her an envelope containing $6,000 as an illegal campaign contribution, investigators say. It’s a third-degree felony to accept more than $5,000 in cash as a contribution.
Shortly before her arrest, Fernandez assured the agent that she would continue to help him with his building project, the FDLE said.
According to her campaign biography, Fernandez is a retired IBM executive who was elected as a commissioner in 2004. She was reelected in 2008.
Her mayoral platform advocates small government, low taxes, less bureaucracy and a clamp down on waste, fraud and “abuse of taxpayer resources.”
Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel
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