INVESTIGATION | Did travel waste taxpayer money?

Posted at 11:04 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 06:35:47-04

FORT MYERS - A Fox 4 investigation shows Lee County's top official is under fire; accused of taking a trip on your dime and without permission. Lee County manager Roger Desjarlais is now striking out with at least one commissioner over a deal involving baseball fields.

At today's meeting, Commissioner Frank Mann said, "What I felt uncomfortable with was the casual conversations by our county manager at that level." Mann further stated, "We have not given Roger direction to pursue that."
Commissioner Mann is upset about Desjarlais, along with Assistant County Manager Dave Harner, both flew to Tallahassee last month to talk baseball.

According to a memo about the trip, the two met with members of Governor Rick Scott's staff to discuss building a huge baseball park off State Road 31 with the developer of the Babcock Ranch.

Mann says the baseball deal calls on the county "to spend millions of dollars for us to build 12, 15 ball parks out there. It was a huge number and was totally inconsistent with today's comp plans."

Mann also says the County Manager never got permission from commissioners to discuss the baseball deal in the first place. Mann exclaimed during the meeting, "With no direction from us and no public input as to us becoming developers of baseball fields in a place previously occupied by birds and critters."

Four in Your Corner obtained receipts from the trip showing what Lee County tax dollars paid for; including two plane tickets, two hotels rooms, food and a rental car. It all ended up costing more than $2,500.

The trip didn't seem to bother other commissioners. With John Manning exclaiming at one point, "This is helter-skelter conversation."