Cape Coral approves outside investigators of city manager

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John Szerlag, the Cape Coral city manager. (Credit: City of Cape Coral)
John Szerlag, the Cape Coral city manager. (Credit: City of Cape Coral)

Cape Coral City Council discussed the need for an independent investigator to look into the allegations against the city manager Monday.

At the meeting Council voted 7-1 to have Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct an inquiry into the allegations against City Manager John Szerlag. Included in the vote was having a law firm out of Tampa conduct an administrative investigation into the allegations.

Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello says it all started when they noticed the issues with the city’s IRS payroll taxes.

The city is now on the hook for $400,000 in penalties, and three people from the finance department are on leave.

During that investigation, more issues came to light. Someone from the finance department sent a letter to city council accusing against Szerlag, among other employees.

Council said it had no idea about the financial issues. The mayor says he has lost trust in the manager’s office.

During a meeting last week, Szerlag told city council he welcomes an investigation.

“Primarily not to save a job or save myself from going on leave. I’m here to maintain my reputation, which is and has been stellar,” said Szerlag.

Mayor Coviello said it is a problem if this was happening and Szerlag was unaware.

“For you to stand up there and say you didn’t know about it, that’s a problem,” Coviello said.

A city spokesperson told WINK News the group they are talking about bringing in could be conducting an administrative or a criminal investigation.

Prior to agreeing to FDLE or a law firm as investigators, there was a vote to fire Szerlag amid controversy without cause, and it failed in a 5-3 vote.

FDLE will decide if the inquiry into Szerlag will become a criminal investigation. At any point in time, if FDLE or the outside law firm discover any corroborating evidence, council will be noticed.


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