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No crimes in Hernando Beach dredge project, prosecutors say

BROOKSVILLE — There were no criminal violations in the county staff's hiring of Hernando Beach Channel dredging construction manager Greg Jarque, prosecutors said Monday.

Mark Simpson, assistant state attorney, explained in a memo that he reviewed an audit by Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai's office last month that found County Administrator David Hamilton had breached four county purchasing protocols in hiring Jarque.

Those breaches put Hernando County at risk and damaged the county's image, audit services director Peggy Caskey determined.

But Simpson said there was no indication that the actions violated the law. The FBI has also been reviewing the audit and audit working papers and that agency's review is ongoing, FBI spokesman David Couvertier said.

Simpson specifically examined the possibility of bid rigging in hiring Jarque. He found no evidence that Hamilton was involved in the formal taking of quotes for the construction manager job.

"There is no evidence which supports the allegation of bid rigging,'' he wrote.

Facing a strict state funding deadline, the County Commission had waived normal purchasing rules for the staff to get the long-stalled dredge back on track.

Hamilton's wife, Linda, told him about Jarque because they both were involved in building the Arc Nature Coast training center and hurricane shelter in Spring Hill. Several people suggested that hiring Jarque amounted to cronyism.

Simpson also determined that Jarque did not commit perjury when he told commissioners he was a general contractor even though he was actually a building contractor.

Jarque was later fired from the project after the St. Petersburg Times revealed he had a prior criminal record in New York for attempted arson.

Simpson also examined whether Jarque was paid twice for contract review work he did before the county hired him as dredge manager. But Jarque had nothing to do with the paperwork glitch that could have allowed him to be paid twice. And, so far, he has not invoiced the county for the $2,430 review fee or the construction management work he did before he was fired by Hamilton.

"I conclude that there is no evidence to support further review of this matter,'' Simpson wrote.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

No crimes in Hernando Beach dredge project, prosecutors say 07/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 11, 2011 10:56pm]
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