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Reporting from Bar Harbor, Maine:
NAPLES — The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has closed its investigation of a complaint that the state’s Sunshine Law may have been violated by two Collier County Commissioners. But that didn’t satisfy John Lundin, who filed the complaint last month.
He has purchased copies of Naples Daily News photographs, which are the basis of his complaint, and said he is having them enlarged and will have a private investigator scrutinize them.
He will turn over the private investigator’s findings, if there is anything, to the Sheriff’s Office. Lundin, 56, a freelance audio visual technician, said he expects the results in about one week. He declined to identify at this time the private investigator he is retaining.
At issue are a couple of photographs taken by the Daily News on Saturday, July 17, in Bar Harbor, Maine, during a weekend program sponsored by Jackson Laboratory, the nonprofit genetics research lab that is developing plans to build a satellite research program near Ave Maria.
Commissioners Jim Coletta and Donna Fiala attended the program and took separate tours of the laboratory to avoid Sunshine Law concerns, which forbid two or more elected officials from discussing in private issues that they will vote on. The law does not forbid them from attend the same functions.
One photograph is of Fiala and a second photograph is of Coletta. In the Coletta photograph, there’s a woman whose back is turned and who is standing a few feet away in a room where Jackson staff members showcased genetically altered mice used in research.
Lundin believes the woman in the Coletta photograph is Fiala and that she may have been in earshot of Coletta’s conversation with either County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow or Nick Healy, president of Ave Maria University, who also are in the photograph.
When Lundin lodged his complaint, Jackson officials knew who was in the photograph. The woman was identified as Jennifer Krecklow, of Cleveland, Tenn., and the person standing to her right in the photograph is her father, Ray Taylor, of Tucson, Az. Krecklow called the Sheriff’s Office to inform investigators she was the woman in the photograph.
“I find it curious the sheriff’s department is taking the word of this woman,” Lundin said, adding that he will ask the private investigator to compare the hair style, style of shirt, black pants and body type of the two women in the photographs. “I want to pursue this to its logical end.”
He said there are too many coincidences for him and he questions why the sheriff’s department didn’t have their forensics experts look at the photographs.
The sheriff’s investigators also looked at the clothing and saw that Fiala was wearing a pale yellow shirt with a green parrots on the front and the shirt worn by the woman in the photograph, identified as Krecklow, was light blue.
“In addition, Mr. Lundin has provided no evidence that Ms. Fiala and Mr. Coletta discussed Jackson Laboratory outside of properly noticed public meetings,” according to the sheriff’s report closing the investigation.
Jackson officials said both commissioners went out of their way to avoid any appearance of a conflict with separate tours and meetings while in Bar Harbor.
The Collier County Commission decided July 27 to provide a first-year loan of $28 million to Jackson to continue pursuing private dollars and research partners as local economic development leaders, commissioners and state lawmakers wait for the fate of a second stimulus package from the federal government.
The state Legislature this past spring earmarked $50 million of the potential stimulus package as part of a state match to $130 million that would be needed as a local match. At the July 27 meeting, the commission delayed a decision on how it would generate the full $130 million.
Connect with health-care reporter Liz Freeman at www.naplesnews.com/staff/liz_freeman.