Case file reveals query raised local temperatures

Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 10:06 AM.

An investigation into the alleged illegal taking of alligators on Lake Wimico last summer has been closed by State Attorney Glenn Hess with minor charges filed against two local men.

No charges were filed against any employee of the Board of County Commissioners, though Commissioner Carmen McLemore, county attorney Jeremy Novak and Tourist Development Council executive director Jennifer Jenkins were identified early in the investigation as being present during the July 2013 incident.

Though investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission never identified McLemore, Novak and Jenkins as subjects or targets in the investigation, a review of the case file assembled by the FWC and SAO highlights that the investigation brought push-back.

In the end, the FWC moved to charge two county men, Stephen Page and Brad “Wes” Halley, with failing to provide all required information while taking two gators under a private lands permit and using a firearm after dark in taking the gators.

The charges against Halley were dropped. Page still faces the misdemeanor charges, according to the SAO.

But investigators, according to the file, acknowledged that with a sitting county commissioner, a county attorney and a county agency head involved, as well as a former FWC employee under whose private permit the gators were allegedly taken, they were conducting an investigation that was potentially of the highest priority classification under the agency’s investigative system.

Written reports from two meetings with local officials, in particular, show that the investigation created heartburn.

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