CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended Cape Coral Councilwoman Patty Cummings. On Tuesday, she was arrested on three felony charges, months after the city asked for an investigation into possible fraud.
He signed the Executive Order late Thursday evening, announcing the suspension.
"It is in the best interests of the residents of the City of Cape Coral, and the citizens of the State of Florida, that Patty Lee Cummings be immediately suspended from the public office which she now holds, upon the grounds set forth in this Executive Order," the order reads.
The order went on to say, "Patty Lee Cummings is prohibited from performing any official act, duty, or function of public office; from receiving any pay or allowance; and from being entitled to any of the emoluments or privileges of public office during the period of this suspension, which period shall be from today until a further Executive Order is issued or as otherwise provided by law."
Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter announced a press conference shortly after the suspension was announced. He says he agrees with the governor and says her removal is the best decision for the city and state.
"It's unfortunate this type of event has happened," Gunter said.
When Fox 4's Colton Chavez asked if the suspension comes as a surprise, Gunter said "it did not."
"I think the integrity of the remaining members of the council is still there and we will move forward with the best interest of our community at heart," he said.
Her suspension also means her seat is vacant.
On Friday, City Council will hold a special meeting at 3 p.m. to talk about what the next steps will be for her vacant seat.
City Council has two options: hold a special election to fill the position or appoint someone. At the meeting, they will talk about appointing another person, which would need to be done in 30 days.
The State Attorney’s Office announced that a judge approved an arrest warrant for Patty Cummings.
The charges are:
- Fraudulent Application for Driver's License
- Two counts of False Swearing in Connection with or Arising Out of Voting or Elections.
Assistant State Attorney John Dommerich Jr., Chief of Special Prosecutions, is prosecuting the case and has been handling the investigation, along with State Attorney’s Office Investigators.
1. On May 9, 2022, in Lee County, Florida, did unlawfully and knowingly make a false statement, knowingly conceal a material fact, or otherwise commit fraud in an application for a driver's license or identification card.
2. On June 14, 2022, in Lee County, Florida, did unlawfully and willfully swear or affirm falsely to an oath or affirmation in connection with or arising out of voting or elections.
3. On November 18, 2022, in Lee County, Florida, did unlawfully and willfully swear or affirm falsely to an oath or affirmation in connection with or arising out of voting or elections.
The State Attorney's Office says Cummings turned herself into the Lee County Jail on Tuesday afternoon.
She was bonded out Tuesday night.
"At this point she is still a council member," John Gunter, Cape Coral's Mayor said.
The majority of council voted to ask Governor Ron DeSantis to make the decision on her position to remain on council after a residency investigation.