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2nd county worker arrested on bribery charges

The clerk is accused of taking bribes to falsify contractors' licenses.

By REBECCA CATALANELLO
Published January 25, 2007


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A second Hillsborough County employee has been arrested on charges of taking bribes to falsify contractors' licenses.

Gisela Martinez, 25, of 706 Sunlit Court in Brandon took hundreds of dollars from contractors during three years while working as a clerk in the county's Planning and Growth Management Department, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

Martinez is the second county employee in three months to be charged with issuing fake county contracting licenses in exchange for under-the-table payments.

Building employee John Demetrius Oats, 31, was arrested Nov. 17, accused of committing a similar scam. His case is pending before the courts.

Both cases came to the attention of law enforcement after Ron Collodi, a general manager in the building services division, noticed that some contractors' licenses didn't appear to be authentic, county officials said.

While Oats and Martinez were involved in similar activities, their cases do not appear to be related, Carter said.

Martinez was first hired as a temporary employee in the Planning and Growth Management Department from March 2000 until June 2001. In November 2001, she was hired again on a temporary basis until, in April 2003, she became a full-time clerk, county spokeswoman Lori Hudson said.

Her current salary is $31,512, though she has been placed on leave without pay pending a disciplinary hearing, Hudson said.

Detectives are still investigating the department. Neither the county nor the Sheriff's Office would release the names of the contractors involved, but Carter said they could also be subject to criminal charges.

County Administrator Pat Bean said there's no telling whether additional arrests will be made. And while she's not happy with the situation, she said she's glad to see corrupt practices halted.

In 2004, Bean created an internal affairs division called the Professional Responsibility Section staffed by former law enforcement officers who investigate such matters.

Martinez is charged with three counts of unlawful compensation or reward for official duty, three counts of official misconduct and three counts of bribery. She was released on her own recognizance Wednesday.

This was Martinez's first arrest in Florida, according to state records.

[Last modified January 25, 2007, 00:54:38]


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