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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Detectives dismiss claims of Blueberry Fest bribery


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Hernando County Sheriff’s detectives have found the bribery accusations against President and Chairwoman of the Florida Blueberry Festival Michael Heard unfounded and closed the investigation.

In April, Brooksville resident Dennis Purdy filed a criminal complaint against Heard after he saw a letter from her addressed to County Administrator Len Sossaman, requesting the county’s assistance and offering passes and parking vouchers in exchange.

Purdy believes all county commissioners committed a second-degree felony by accepting unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior, in addition to a third-degree felony for receiving of a commercial bribe.

According to sheriff’s Detective Dustin Mormando, attorneys at the Hogan Law Firm and State Attorney’s Office reviewed Purdy’s allegations, as well as documents, and did not find any indication of fraud.

An email of the complaint was sent out by Mormando late Thursday afternoon, and said no crime was found to be committed and the incident had been closed.

Purdy previously told Hernando Today offering VIP passes and parking vouchers had monetary value, and couldn’t be offered to public officials.

“I warned them they should quit negotiating with her when those things were offered,” Purdy said, adding he believed the city of Brooksville also was at fault.

Both Heard and County Commission Chair Dave Russell said the accusations by the frequent government critic were absurd and without merit.

Purdy could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Michael Bates contributed to this report.

(352) 544-5283

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