FDLE investigating 'several allegations' in Palm Bay

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PALM BAY, Fla. – Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents are investigating "several allegations" related to activities inside Palm Bay City Hall, FDLE spokeswoman Angela Starke confirmed to News 6 partner Florida Today.

City Manager Gregg Lynk said the city is not concerned about the investigation.

This follows Lynk's unusual decision last week to order 19 city officials to turn over the city-issued cell phones and computers to have their data copied.

Lynk — who has overall responsibility for managing city finances — said he was being proactive, in case state or federal officials eventually seek information on funds related to the Community Development Block Grant program or the Florida Housing Coalition’s State Housing Initiative Partnership program.

An audit by the state agency that oversees housing grants to local communities criticized Palm Bay’s oversight of its program to provide homes for disabled veterans wounded in combat, and the federal government has slammed the city for its handling of U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant fund expenditures.

In response to a Florida Today inquiry, Starke said she "cannot confirm the investigation is related to the State Housing Initiatives Partnership and/or Homes for Warriors," a Palm Bay program funded by a SHIP grant and administered by city officials.

Lynk said he is not aware of any FDLE investigation.

"At this time, I have the exact same information as I did when we spoke last week," Lynk told FLORIDA TODAY. "I saw a letter from an employee that may have merited an internal investigation. Upon receipt, which is normal procedure, I secured some laptops and phones to ensure any potentially relevant data was preserved."

Because of the city's "good standing" with the HUD when it comes to CDBG funds and the State Housing Initiative Partnership Program, Lynk said: "It's clear we have nothing to be concerned about."

Lynk added that "any additional inquiries pertaining to ongoing investigations from outside agencies should be directed to our city attorney, Andrew Lannon."

Donald Overton is Palm Bay’s veterans affairs and business specialist, and the letter-writer who Lynk said may have sparked the investigation. Overton, who works at the city’s Veterans Resource Center on Port Malabar Boulevard, said an FDLE agent and an FBI agent dropped by without warning on May 2.

“The agents walked through the office, came in, closed my door and said, ‘Clear your schedule.’ " Overton said. "They wanted to talk, and they were going to talk now. From my perspective, I have nothing to hide. So I was more than willing to entertain whatever their questions were.”

Overton said he talked with the agents for 30 to 45 minutes, and they asked questions related to the city’s CDBG and SHIP programs. The next day, on May 3, he said city information technology employees took his desktop computer and city-owned cell phone.

Andrea Aprea, an FBI spokeswoman, said it is her agency’s policy to neither confirm nor deny if it is conducting an investigation.