NewsLocal News


After defeating ethics complaint, Giovannelli calls for further investigations

Posted at 7:51 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 19:52:20-04

LEE COUNTY — Lee County School Board Member Melissa Giovannelli just won a two year fight against an ethics complaint she was facing.

Now Giovannelli says she wants the people who filed it to be held accountable. She was originally accused of sharing confidential information with the public, and jeopardizing a school district investigation, but the state said she didn’t break any laws, and now Giovannelli believes the whole thing was politically motivated.

Giovannelli called out some of her colleagues in front of the District Administration Building Thursday.

"We can’t have board members going after other board members, that’s not their job," said Giovannelli.

In a private interview with Fox 4, Giovannelli said she believes one or more of her fellow board members were involved in the complaint, even though the only name on it is former board member Jane Kuckel.

She told us, even though she won her case, it’s the tax payers who ultimately lost.

“It was very silly, because the resources that were involved in using that is really wasting tax dollars," said Giovannelli.

Giovannelli also said the investigation wasted some of her money as well.

“I’m lucky because I had the resources to pay for an attorney. That’s over $6,000," said Giovannelli.

The complaint centered around Giovannelli sharing an email with her attorney and political adviser. That email accused two school district employees of accepting bribes, and it ultimately ended up on the Lee County Transparency Project Facebook page. A copy of the school district's investigation into the email also ended up on that page, and the District was able to prove it came from Giovannelli.

The District found out because District staff made a “collective decision to hide a secret, inconspicuous watermark” on the document. That watermark was different for each board member, so they could figure out who was leaking, but the State Ethics Commission determined the documents were not confidential.

“I think the question really was who authorized it? I think that’s really what we should have determined as a board," said Giovannelli.

That’s the question Giovannelli said she’s asking both the new Superintendent and the Governor’s office to answer.

“I want the governor to make sure that all elected officials are doing their job that they’re elected to do," said Giovannelli.

We did reach out to the School District, but it said it wouldn’t comment because it was not involved in issuing the complaint.

While Giovannelli didn’t name names of people involved, she said she might be considering a lawsuit moving forward.