PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — Our I-Team is looking into reports that the Pinellas Park mayor is using her office for personal gain.
I-team Investigator Adam Walser recently sat down with Mayor Sandra Bradbury to discuss unpaid water bills, code violations and using the city attorney as her free personal lawyer.
The mayor starts city council meetings on time, but is usually late paying her water bill.
“I tried to work on it and get it taken care of. I even tried to do an app on the bank. And it was brand new for the bank as well and it didn't work out,” Bradbury explained, when asked why her bills weren’t paid on time.
She received 35 delinquent payment notices in 36 months.
At one time, she ran up a balance of more than $800.
Bradbury paid late fees along the way, but her water was never shut off.
When asked whether she got any special treatment from the city, she replied, “I would hope not.”
"They want to shut my water off, and I’ve got to shower and shave,” said Pinellas Park resident Michael Krupa, who said he’s been cut off for a balance as low as $60.
The city can cut off water service if a customer doesn't pay in 40 days, then residents have to pay a $25 cut-off fee, plus up to at $35 restoration fee.
“That means I don't put food on the table,” said Deloris Barto.
The 91-year-old says she’s been cut off multiple times.
More than 3,000 Pinellas Park residents had their water cut off last year.
“That’s unfortunate,” said Mayor Bradbury, who said she guesses she should have been one of them.
That's not the only department that appears gave Bradbury a break.
Last July, code enforcement cited her for multiple violations at her home and gave Bradbury five days to correct them.
It took her more than three months to come into compliance, but they never charged her a fine.
When we stopped by her house the day before our interview, there were all terrain vehicles in the driveway and side yard, a broken fence and lots of junk.
All those violations were noted in the last complaint.
“Those are things that we're working on,” Bradbury said.
But that’s not where special favors end.
Mayor Bradbury also got free legal representation from City Attorney James Denhardt, for something that had nothing to do with city business.
He represented her when a debt collection company sued her over a credit card debt.
“He asked if he could do it himself,” said Bradbury, who said Denhardt didn’t charge her anything.
“He was going to hearings, he was scheduling hearings,” said Cooley Law School Professor Jeff Swartz, who believes Denhardt shouldn’t personally represent Bradbury.
“It's her job to say ‘No, thank you for the advice, but you can't represent me,’” said Swartz. “It was also his job to say ‘I can give you a little advice mayor, but I’d have to refer you to another lawyer.’”
Bradbury votes on Denhardt's firm's $450,000 annual contract, but denies that could influence his decision to offer her free services.
Denhardt said he couldn't talk about legal work he did for the mayor, due to a settlement agreement.
But he denied there were any ethical issues.
“I apologize to the citizens who felt I had special treatment. I never had asked for special treatment from any of the city employees. And if they felt like they needed to give it to me, I apologize to them,” Bradbury said.