DAVENPORT, Fla. – The mayor of Davenport was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of using a dead woman's handicapped placard so she could park in handicapped spots at City Hall, according to officials with the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies said they began investigating Teresa Bradley, 60, after a tipster told them in November that Bradley was parking in handicapped spaces, even though she didn't have a handicapped placard.
During the investigation, deputies said they discovered that Bradley used handicapped placard number of A7324747, which had been issued to a woman named Evelyn Klinger Letterman, who died in 2012. Records from the Office of the Polk County Tax Collector confirmed that neither Bradley nor her husband, John Lepley, had any documentation issued to them indicating that they were handicapped, a news release said.
News 6 asked her husband about the recent arrest and a comment about his wife's charges.
"You'll have to talk to her attorney," Lepley said.
Lepley told News 6 he never used the placards.
But Davenport's city manager, Kelly Callihan, said he has seen both Lepley and Bradley use the handicapped parking spots in front of City Hall.
"She parked right there in the handicap spot, and then I was asked did you say anything. Well, we never said anything because we just assumed that there was some reason why she had a handicap placard and it was OK, so we never questioned it," said Callihan. "He also parked in the handicap spot, so I'm not sure what placard. I never really paid attention to it."
Video from Davenport City Hall, embedded below, showed Bradley driving her black Ford Crown Victoria into one of the handicapped spots on the north side of the building, putting the placard on her rear-view mirror, then getting out of her vehicle, removing a wheeled briefcase from the trunk and going inside City Hall, deputies said.
When Bradley returned to her car after her meeting, she removed the placard from her mirror and drove away, according to a news release.
"We expect our elected officials to set the proper example. She not only violated the law, she embarrassed the citizens of Davenport with her illegal conduct," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
"This is out of character for the mayor. This isn't something that we would think that she would have done," said Callihan.
Bradley's attorney issued a statement saying that Bradley thought the placard was for her husband's visual impairment and she prefers to park as close as possible because she was carjacked in 2012.
"We look forward to seeing the evidence regarding the two felony charges. It is my understanding that my client was of the erroneous belief that the placards were associated with her husbands visual disability and did not have any information that the placards belonged to someone other than her husband. She was the previously victim of a violent carjacking and continues to feel unsafe after dark and acknowledges that she parks as close to the door as possible at not for safety concerns. Unfortunately, when my client ran for office, she upset the political apple cart and this case is being handled in a manner that it would not normally be handled but for the politics involved. This should have been a civil citation or a misdemeanor at best but powerful interest are taking full political advantage of a decision my client made for her legitimate concerns for her safety."
Bradley was charged with criminal use of a deceased person's ID, possession of an altered or counterfeit decal and unlawful use of a handicapped placard. She was released from the Polk County Jail after posting $2,250 bond.
A special commission meeting will be held Thursday at City Hall at 3 p.m. to discuss the incident. The meeting is open to the public.
"The city charter basically says that you have to be convicted of a felony to be, for her dismissal. Right now, she has a due process and you know, we will wait and see how this falls out," said Callihan.