What Bribery Charges Mean For Commissioner’s Campaign

April 28th, 2010 by

ORLANDO – Mildred Fernandez is waking up at home a former Orange County commissioner after being arrested on bribery charges.

Fernandez was behind bars for less than two hours Tuesday. She posted bond, and was released around 8 p.m. Since then, she has likely begun plans to clear her name.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Fernandez from her position on the Orange County Commission following her arrest.

In the charging affidavit, the now former commissioner said running a campaign is expensive, and allegedly agreed to help building projects in exchange for money.

The bribery charge stemmed from an alleged meeting at Fernandez’s campaign headquarters March 31, when an undercover agent posing as a developer said he wanted to start a building project in the commissioner’s district.

The commissioner allegedly said she could accelerate the process through the Orange County Planning Division, but only if the builder gave $1,000 cash to her campaign for Orange County mayor.

The agent was also allegedly asked to bring a list of 20 names of people to be listed as the ones who donated.

On top of the bribery charge for the $1,000, Fernandez was also charged with grand theft for not reporting the contribution in time.

She then allegedly told the agent that she called Orange County Planning, gave him the agent’s name and put him at the top of the list, saying he bought access.

The two met again Tuesday, and the agent gave Fernandez an envelope with $6,000 cash.

Acccepting more than $5,000 is an illegal campaign contribution, a violation of a third degree felony. Fernandez was arrested later that night.

When she was arrested, Fernandez told reporters she did not know why, saying it was “politics.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they had both cash encounters on tape, and more arrests could be on the way.


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