Commissioner Steve Gonot Booked; Is Capellini Next?
Well, my timing was exquisite but I focused on the wrong politician. Steve Gonot, according to the Deerfield Advocate blog, has resigned his office this morning, apparently as part of a plea deal with the State Attorney's Office. NEW: He has been booked into jail (mugshot at right). Gonot was investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for campaign violations that included his giving campaign computers to a friend. Calls this morning to Gonot have not been returned. In his resignation letter, he wrote that he was innocent of the charges, which he called political in nature, and that he would be exonerated.
He was charged with grand theft and official misconduct, both felonies, along with two misdemeanors. From the State Attorney's press release:
The arrest warrant signed Wednesday charges Gonot with unlawfully misusing $5,135 in campaign money for his personal use by writing a check from his campaign fund to a long-time friend for "supplies and equipment reimbursement" for his campaign.
Investigators charge that no such equipment had been delivered by the time Gonot had falsely listed the transaction on his January 2008 campaign treasurer's report, and that two computers were belatedly delivered to Gonot by the friend only after Gonot was questioned about the campaign check by FDLE investigator Christopher Pate.
Besides the two third-degree felony charges, Gonot is charged with two misdemeanors: a candidate falsifying campaign finance reports, and a public officer falsifying records. Bond on the three charges totals $3,000.
The friend is Joe DePrimo, who used to work with Gonot at the DOT. It looks like the SAO threw everything they had at Gonot, which is fine, so long as they treat everyone the same. Their recent exoneration of Stacy Ritter doesn't seem to indicate that, however, and a real test will be how they dispose of the case against Mayor Capellini.
UPDATE: I requested a copy of the close-out memo for the Capellini investigation and was informed there would not be one forthcoming. One courthouse source told me, "Don't go out of town anytime soon." Bottom line: The drama is far from over in Deerfield Beach.
Also, I spoke briefly with Gonot. He didn't want to go on the record with most of it, but did say that he was innocent. He said it's the toughest day of his life but he intends to fight the charges, be exonerated, and reenter politics.
Having an absolute ball with all of this is Chaz Stevens, the activist who filed the complaint against Gonot. If you want to hear him bouncing off the walls with glee, check out his website.