Thursday, July 29, 2010

What It Costs To Run For Hendry Commission - Lots of Signs

Harris Raises $4165 For Commission Campaign - Splatters Signs Along Roads

LABELLE, FL. -- In the race for Hendry County Commission, the six candidates have raised amounts from as low as $1750 to a high of $4165.

The top fund raiser so far is Darrell Harris, topping out at $4165 raised, and $3297 spent so far. The major category for expenses for most candidates, including Harris are the several thousand dollars for the filing fee, and for road signs. Some candidates have paid for websites.

Harris so far is leading in number of sign posted, splattering usually illegal signage on Hendry county roads. Signs along roadways, according to Hendry Building and Zoning regulations and the Hendry county sign code, requires a sign permit, which regulates the size and placement of signs, with the exception of political signs. The Hendry commissioners changed the law June 8 to exempt political signs from regulation and to not require a permit anymore.

Harris has been asked to remove some signs spotted by the Building and Zoning Department. One Glades Commission candidate was asked, and has removed a sign in Port LaBelle. No candidates so far have applied for a sign permit.

Candidates using road signs feel it's a way to advertise without spending money on a printed or online newspaper advertisement, it is considered 'free advertising' after paying a printer for the signs.

Second highest in campaign funds raised is Dwight Hatfield with $4000, and having spent $2138.

The amounts raised and spent by the remaining four candidates are:

Laura Smith $3500/$1809
Ron Zimmerly $2550/$2225
Al Perry $1780/$1729
Andy Herrero $1185/$875


Moore Haven's Rodriquez Joins Goodwill Board

Joins Board Of Directors

Moore Haven, Fl --
Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc.  announced this week that Belinda Rodriguez has joined the organization's volunteer Board of Directors.
An honor graduate of Moore Haven Junior Senior High School's class of 2000, Rodriguez joined First Bank in October 2000 as a teller in the Clewiston Main Office.  She has since worked her way up to Branch Manager and Loan Officer at the First Bank Moore Haven branch. 
Rodriguez received her diploma in Financial Services Operations and Mortgage Lending from the Center for Financial Training in Lauderhill.  She has continued her education with the Florida Supervisors Academy and the Florida Bankers Association in Tallahassee.
She also a Notary Public with the State of Florida, and owns and operates her own cleaning service in the Clewiston and Moore Haven area. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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Hendry Getting Tough On Rogue Political Signs

Illegal Signs Being Picked Up Says Hendry B&Z Official

LABELLE, FL. -- Politicians and their campaign workers may be in for a surprise this election cycle. Hendry County Building and Zoning will be enforcing the zoning code sign ordinances strictly this year says Building Chief Bob Bott.

Bott says the Hendry commission approved an ordinance that bans political signs placed along county roadways. The existing code mandates that anyone wanting a sign placed must apply for a county temporary sign permit and have permission from the property owner as well.

Cutting down on visual clutter along the highways, Bott says county crews have already picked up signs illegally placed along roads from LaBelle to Clewiston. Bott says he has contacted one Glades county politician to remove a large wooden sign on State Road 80 and Birchwood in Port LaBelle.

The sign owner said they had permission from the property owner, a church, but apparently will need a permit allowing such a sign along the Hendry "Gateway Corridor'', a special section of the code with stiffer regulations of signs and buildings along State Road 80.

The Gateway portion of the building code attempts to create a pleasing atmosphere to visitors and residents along Hendry's main thoroughfare from Lee county to Palm Beach county, with special regulations pertaining to the look of buildings and limitations on signs allowed in this corridor.

The political campaign sign has since been moved a mile north to a Glades county location. Glades county's building and zoning office does no enforcement of sign regulations, even after public complaints, an earlier Sunday Morning News investigation revealed.

Update: The county commission, it has since been learned, quietly included in the new Hendry county sign ordinance June 8, an exemption for political signs of the requirement a permit and doubling the time they could be placed from 60 day before an election to 120 and doubling the time to take them down from 14 days to 30 days.

Hendry Sheriff Re-Starts Bike Patrol

Bicycles Now Patrolling Hendry County Neighborhoods

LABELLE, FL. -- The Hendry County Sheriff's Office bike patrol unit consists of three deputies, Deputy Joshua Woods, Deputy Clifton Green and Deputy Daniel Cruz. These deputies are three of the four assigned to Community Policing in Hendry County.

Due to the fact that the community policing unit is countywide, these bicycles are utilized on both East and West sides of the county.

The bike patrol is mostly used for patrol functions, but is also used for special events such as: parades, community gatherings, football games, and other community policing opportunities.  The bike is used to patrol areas such as city parks, bike paths, downtown areas, and places where a vehicle may have a difficult time operating.

The Advantages to Officers on Bikes are:
  • Bike officers can travel faster and farther than foot officers, and they are able to patrol areas unreachable by car.
  • Because they are silent, officers on bikes can ride right up to the scene of a crime before they are noticed.
  • Bicycles are a great public relations tool - an officer on a bike is much more approachable than one in a patrol car.
  • Bike officers also have the ability to better enforce bicycle laws, monitor road conditions for bicyclists, promote bike safety and encourage crime prevention practices.

The most common areas patrolled are the City of LaBelle and areas in Clewiston that are patrolled by the Sheriff's office such as Harlem, Hookers Point and Twin Lakes.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hendry Sheriff Removes "Drug" Trailer

Drug Evidence Trailer Removed From Sheriff's Office

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry Sheriff Steve Whidden moved a large semi-trailer from the Sheriff's office to the Sheriff's Gun Range after disposing of many years of no longer needed drug-related criminal evidence.

Chief Deputy Kevin Nelson said this trailer was seized from a marijuana grow house operation in 2006 and former Sheriff Ronnie Lee decided to use it for evidence storage.

When Sheriff Whidden came into office on January 5, 2009, the trailer contained evidence for over forty criminal cases. These court cases were primarily drug related, some containing 10-12 pieces of related evidence. These cases were already disposed of in court but still required complete inventory, recording, weighing and then court ordered destruction.

The process took Sheriff Whidden's office one and one-half years to complete.

The drug contraband was taken to the Lee County incinerator for disposal. The empty trailer has been relocated to the Sheriff's gun range where it will be used for non-drug related storage.

Port LaBelle's Margaret Pass Tries Again For Elected Seat

Fired Former Coral Gables Building Chief Runs Again For Hendry/Glades Office

LABELLE, FL. -- Margaret Rose Pass is running a second time for an elected seat on the Port LaBelle Development Board which governs home and lot owners in Port LaBelle in both Hendry and Glades county.

The $100 a month position mainly calls for attendance at monthly meetings, deciding on the yearly budget, and decisions on what turns out to be rules for Glades County's Port LaBelle Ranchettes, where most of the board members live.

In November 2006, Pass lost her bid for an elected board seat to Scott Wegscheid.

Pass was the long-time Director of Building and Zoning and 22-year employee of the city of Coral Gables, Florida until a scandal broke in mid-September of 2006. She was suspended from her duties after the arrest of her administrative assistant on charges of corruption and fraud in the wealthy exclusive city-suburb of Miami.

Her assistant, Jorge Reyes was arrested in connection with allegations of time-sheet scams, bogus employee scam, fraud, and drug related charges. The suspension of Pass followed an anonymous letter that accused both Pass and Reyes of a list of possible felony charges and alleged nepotism from both in the 80-person Coral Gables building and zoning department.

Claims were made that Pass had city employees working at her property in Port LaBelle while on the city payroll, and inappropriate use of 'comp time' by her office.

The state later withheld adjudication against her assistant Reyes, but an investigation into Pass and her prior office continues. Pass appealed her dismissal by the City, but in September 2009, called off the appeal. 

2010 Political Cortadito Story On Pass:
2006 Sunday Morning News Story On Pass -

Port LaBelle Development District Candidates For Seat #5:
Shannon L. Craft, P O Box 2895, LaBelle, FL 33975 Phone: 863-675-3993
Margaret R. Pass, 2140 Birchwood Pkwy., LaBelle, FL 33935 Phone: 863-612-0806 email:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Glades Tax Rate To Be Proposed July 26

Speak Now Or Glades County Taxes May Go Up?

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Glades County Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing  on Monday, July 26, 2010 at 6:00 PM in the County Commissioners Chambers, Glades County Courthouse, Moore Haven, Florida.

The purpose of the public hearing is to adopt a proposed millage rate for Glades county, adopt a proposed millage rate for the Glades County Law Enforcement MSTU and schedule a date, time and place of the tentative budget hearing. 

Written comments received prior to the hearing shall be considered.  Direct written comments to:  Chairman, Glades County Board of County Commissioners, Post Office Box 10, Moore Haven, Florida 33471.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Clewiston's Olde Cypress Bank Fails

Now Branch Of Winter Haven's CenterState Bank

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Olde Cypress Community Bank, Clewiston, Florida, was closed Friday afternoon by the Office of Thrift Supervision, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with CenterState Bank of Florida, National Association, Winter Haven, Florida, to assume all of the deposits of Olde Cypress Community Bank.

The four branches of Olde Cypress Community Bank will reopen on Saturday as branches of CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A. Depositors of Olde Cypress Community Bank will automatically become depositors of CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A.

Deposits will continue to be insured by the FDIC, so there is no need for customers to change their banking relationship in order to retain their deposit insurance coverage. Customers of Olde Cypress Community Bank should continue to use their existing branch until they receive notice from CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A. that it has completed systems changes to allow other CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A. branches to process their accounts as well.

Friday evening and over the weekend, depositors of Olde Cypress Community Bank can access their money by writing checks or using ATM or debit cards. Checks drawn on the bank will continue to be processed. Loan customers should continue to make their payments as usual.

As of March 31, 2010, Olde Cypress Community Bank had approximately $168.7 million in total assets and $162.4 million in total deposits. CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A. did not pay the FDIC a premium for the deposits of Olde Cypress Community Bank. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A. agreed to purchase essentially all of the assets.

The FDIC and CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A. entered into a loss-share transaction on $128.2 million of Olde Cypress Community Bank's assets. CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A. will share in the losses on the asset pools covered under the loss-share agreement. The loss-share transaction is projected to maximize returns on the assets covered by keeping them in the private sector. The transaction also is expected to minimize disruptions for loan customers. For more information on loss share, please visit:

Customers who have questions about today's transaction can call the FDIC toll-free at 1-800-591-2817. The phone number will be operational this evening until 9:00 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (EDT); on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EDT; on Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m., EDT; and thereafter from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., EDT. Interested parties also can visit the FDIC's Web site at http ://

The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $31.5 million. Compared to other alternatives, CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A.'s acquisition was the "least costly" resolution for the FDIC's DIF. Olde Cypress Community Bank is the 95th FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the seventeenth in Florida. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was Turnberry Bank, Aventura, earlier Friday.

All shares of Olde Cypress Community Bank were owned by its holding company, First Glades Corporation, Inc., Clewiston, FL. The holding company was not included in the closing of the bank or the resulting receivership.

The bank has been on troubled bank lists for at least a year, and was given a zero star rating by Bauer Financial in Spring of 2009, along with the former Florida Community Bank which failed in January 2010.

3/10/10 Warning Story About Hendry's Troubled Olde Cypress Bank:
3/17/09 Story On Local Troubled Banks:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hendry Mosquito Spaying Begins

Mosquitos Watch Out!

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County will be conducting aerial adult mosquito control operations over the Pioneer & Montura Ranch areas on Monday, July 19th.  The treatments will be performed during evening hours, weather permitting.

Tuesday, July 20th & Wednesday, July 21st will be make-up days if needed.  The insecticide to treat for adult mosquitoes is approved for application by the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Florida.  This operation will be conducted by Clarke.
If you have questions concerning this operation, please call Clarke at 800-443-2034 between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

$25,000 Reward Possible For Fraud Reports

Report Suspected Fraud To State of Florida For Big Rewards

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Division of Insurance Fraud made 1,077 insurance fraud-related arrests in FY 2009/2010, and investigates various forms of insurance fraud, including health, life, auto, property and workers� compensation insurance.
Over past months, the Division cooperated with the State Attorney's Office and it's Mortgage Fraud Prosecution Unit, and this week arrested six South Florida individuals for mortgage fraud.

''Mortgage fraud is an insidious crime that continues to be a drag on Florida�s overall economy and hurts all Floridians, including borrowers, neighborhoods scarred by foreclosures from mortgage scams, and lenders weakened by loans that won�t be repaid,'' said Florida's Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

Depending on the estimated loss amount, DIF will pay up to $25,000 for information directly leading to an arrest and conviction.  Anyone with information about any other suspected fraud is asked to call CFO Sink�s Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or visit to

Re-Elect Donna Storter Long

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fort Myers Forestry Center To Open Green Pathway

Ideas For Home Gardeners At Forestry Center

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA -- The Caloosahatchee Forestry Center will get a 'green' pathway behind its administrative building this Thursday that will soon offer visitors ideas to landscape their yards while providing an environmentally friendly amenity to the center.

The pathway is pervious concrete (click the link to learn more) that will be installed this Thursday, July 15. The concrete allows water to move through it and meets stormwater regulations set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The path winds behind a sign at the center that shows current local and state wildfire numbers. The path connects to Manatee Park. We will partner with park staff to promote the new area when it is complete. Center staff will plant Florida-friendly ornamentals and other plants in the coming months. The plants and accompanying interpretive signs will help create an interactive area for residents to learn how they can landscape their yards with vegetation that looks beautiful and is adapted to wildfire. The area will also provide visitors information about center activities in our state forests.

All materials and labor were donated by several local businesses to promote the pervious concrete product. The district did not pay for any of the work. Officials from several local agencies will visit the center on Thursday to learn about the product.

The Forestry Center is on State Road 80 (Palm Beach Boulevard) in Fort Myers, about two miles east of I-75.

Hendry Votes By Mail

Vote By Mail Available Now

LABELLE, FL.-- Has an Election Day ever slipped up on you?  Did you ever have a family problem or something at work that kept you from getting to the polls before they closed at 7 o�clock?  Are you usually in too much of a hurry when you go downtown to take advantage of Early Voting in person at the Elections Office in either LaBelle or Clewiston?  Signing up for Vote By Mail can be the solution to problems that may have kept you from voting in the past.

Hendry County Democratic Chairman Joe Thomas said, ''Vote By Mail is really the old absentee ballot made easy.  Voters no longer have to swear they will be out of the county or sick in bed in order to get an absentee ballot.  All the voter has to do is request a ballot from the Elections Office no later than six days before the election."  Thomas added that Hendry County Supervisor of Elections Lucretia Perkins says the request can be for just the current election or for every election through the next General Election.

Hendry County voters can check their current registration status online.  Thomas said the web link is .  This website can take the voter to another site to request an early ballot.  Voters may also check their status in person by going to the Elections Office at either the Courthouse in LaBelle or the Clewiston Satellite Elections Office at 100 East El Paso Avenue with photo identification and proof of residence address.

Pick up your telephone if you have trouble getting to the Elections Offices during normal business hours.  Then, call 863-675-5230 if you live in LaBelle or 863-983-1592 if you live in Clewiston;  the Elections Office will take your information over the phone and make certain your ballot is mailed to you in plenty of time for it to be returned by 7 o�clock on Election Day.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Glades County Crash Leaves One Dead

Fedex Driver Dead In Three Vehicle Crash

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Deborah R. Welch, 52 of Sebring died as a result of a three vehicle crash Saturday July 10 about 8:35 a.m. at State Road 29 and Glades county road 74, southwest of Palmdale.

Genesis J. Preston, 23 of Clearwater in a 1999 Chrysler  was traveling east on CR 74 approaching a stop sign at the intersection of SR 29. Teresa G. Ramsey, 45 of Avon Park, in a 2005 Mitsubishi  was traveling south on
SR 29 approaching the intersection of CR 74. Welch, in a 2002 Chevrolet Fedex truck was traveling north on SR 29 approaching the intersection of CR 74.

Preston entered the intersection from CR 74 onto SR 29 and failed to yield the right of way to Ramsey. Preston's front right portion struck the right side of Ramsy's vehicle. As a result of the initial collision, Ramsey rotated in a counterclockwise direction. Welch, in the truck, was unable to avoid a collision with Ramsey.

The Fedex truck's left front portions struck the rear of Ramsey's vehicle. Preseton's vehicle came to final rest on SR 29 at the intersection of CR 74 facing east. Ramsey's vehicle came to final rest on SR 29 at the intersection of CR 74 facing east.

The Fedex truck came to final rest on SR 29's east shoulder at the intersection of CR 74 on its right side facing west. The driver was ejected from the truck during the crash.

Ramsey suffered minor injuries along with passenger Tonya Rafferty, age 20. Both were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers. All persons involved were wearing seatbelts, according to Florida Highway Patrol investigators Trooper Corey Rozycki and Cpl. Allen Williams.

Preston was charged with failure to yield after stopping for a stop sign.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Archaeological Site Tour At Fort Center

Tour Of Early Glades Indian Site Open To Public

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- The Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) Southwest Regional Center, in conjunction with the Southwest Florida Archaeological Society and the Clewiston Museum, will host a Public Day at Fort Center in Glades county on Friday, July 16, 2010, from 10:00am to 3:00pm.

Fort Center, an important Belle Glade archaeological site on Fisheating Creek near Lake Okeechobee in Glades County, was first excavated in the late 1960s, and written about in a well-known volume by William H. Sears in 1982.

Dr. Victor Thompson of Ohio State University, who is conducting an undergraduate field school at Fort Center, will lead tours for the public along with project team members. Thompson�s excavations mark the first time in decades that the site has been subject to excavation.

In addition to site tours, FPAN will have archaeological information and activities available.

The Fort Center site is managed by Florida�s Fish and Wildlife Commission and is located off of SR-78 North of Moore Haven at the Fisheating Creek parking access. Please note that the site is located in a wooded and undeveloped natural area, so proper attire (long pants, sturdy shoes), sun and rain protection, and a water supply are strongly recommended during your visit. Restroom facilities, a parking area, and picnic shelters can be found at the entrance.

The Clewiston Museum in Downtown Clewiston will also be open for visitors as part of our Fort Center Public Day. The Clewiston Museum is located off of SR-80 in downtown Clewiston. No reservations are required.

The Florida Public Archaeology Network is a statewide program dedicated to protecting and preserving the state�s fragile cultural resources and involving the public in the study of our past. The Town of Fort Myers Beach Mound House hosts the Southwest Regional FPAN Center, which serves Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee Counties.

For more information, contact the Florida Public Archaeology Network�s Southwest Regional office at (239)-765-0202 ext. 153, or online at Florida Public Archaeology Network

Websites Of Interest To Floridians

Where Your Tax Dollars Are Spent And Where Gulf Jobs Are

LABELLE, FL. -- Here are two websites that may be of interest to many Floridians:

Recovery Act: Increasing the Public's Understanding of What Funds Are Being Spent on and What Outcomes Are Expected

A hallmark of efforts to implement the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) is to be transparent and accountable about how the money is being spent and what is being achieved. To help achieve these goals, recipients must report every 3 months on their award activities and expected outcomes, among other things. This information is available on, the government's official Recovery Act website. This report covers 11 federal programs focused on broadband, energy, transportation, federal buildings, and civil works activities. It describes how the Office of Management and Budget and federal agencies implemented the act to report funds' uses and assesses the extent to which descriptions of awards meet transparency criteria. . In addition, the report provides information on 52 energy and infrastructure awards in states, including Florida, that are part of bimonthly reviews.

Florida Gulf Recovery Jobs

This website allows job seekers to locate and apply for positions created in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Florida Gulf Recovery Jobs is a dedicated portal through Florida's official online job bank, the Employ Florida Marketplace, currently listing more than 3,500 positions related to response and recovery efforts, with additional positions posted regularly. Designed as an online 'one-stop shop' for job seekers and employers, the website allows job seekers to access available positions, which are verified by the local Regional Workforce Boards, as employers post them. Floridians can also call 1-877-362-5034 to learn more about available jobs related to response and recovery efforts.

16 LaBelle Homes Sold

Things Are Looking Up In LaBelle Real Estate

LABELLE, FL. -- As the Hendry county real estate economy seems to pick up, more higher priced homes are selling as well as a continuation of Port LaBelle inventory being sold off by banks. From 6/22/2010 to 7/6/2010, there were 16 homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $125,938.

1) $53,000 on Caloosa Loop
2) $35,000 on Corner Oaks SW Rd
3) $309,000 on Cypress NW Ave
4) $46,000 on El Rio Grande Dr
5) $625,000 on Grassy Run
6) $51,000 on Keystone Cir
7) $32,000 on Mariner Ct
8) $57,000 on Pecan Cir
9) $95,000 on Saturn Ct
10) $55,000 on Spice Ct
11) $290,000 on Turtle Ln
12) $63,000 on N Obisbo Cir
13) $57,000 on S Montana Cir
14) $40,000 on S Moss Cir
15) $69,000 on S Rosebud Cir
16) $138,000 on W State Road 80

Friday, July 02, 2010

Are You Registered To Vote? Check Online

New Online Tool Checks Your Voting Status And Information

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Division of Elections has a new tool for voters: an information access system where individuals can look up voter registration, absentee ballot status and polling place location online.

The site easily allows a lookup of voter status, and tells where and when registration and early voting occurs for your voting location. Florida voters can now check to see if they are registered and make sure that their information is correct

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Hendry Deputy Arrested On DUI After Let Go First

Professional Courtesy Didn't Work This Time - Busted!

LABELLE, FL. -- 40-year old Hendry Sheriff's Deputy Timothy John Neidert apparently had his luck run out when he was stopped about 3:15 a.m. Thursday July 1 after driving erratically in Lee County near the Gateway community.

Reportedly, after being stopped by a Lee County deputy, the traffic stop was called in to the Lee Deputy's supervisor for advice after stopping Neidert, an off-duty Hendry deputy. The Lee County Sergeant came to the scene. A call was then made to the Hendry County Sheriff's office, where Neidert's Sergeant was to arrange to pick up Neidert and drive him to Neibert's home in Fort Myers.

The Lee county deputies then left the scene. But, Neidert didn't wait for his Sergeant to pick him up, and drove away, leaving the scene of the traffic stop.

Stopped again after a citizen reported erratic driving, he was arrested at 3:29 a.m. He bonded out of Lee County jail at 6:07 a.m. Deputy Neidert is charged with a misdemeanor traffic offense of DUI Alcohol Or Drugs, his 1st Offense. Hendry Sheriff Whidden's office reports Neidert has been place on administrative leave with pay.

Hendry Sheriff Whidden released a statement saying: ''Hendy County Sheriff Deputy Timothy Neidert was arrested by Lee County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 on charges of DUI. Deputy Neidert was hired by Hendry County Sheriff's Office June 2006 and has been placed on Administrative Leave with pay.

We regret the actions taken by Deputy Neidert and will be conducting an internal affairs investigation into any department policy violations.''

The Lee County Sergeant who failed to arrest Neidert at the first stop has been placed on administrative leave by the Lee County Sheriff's office.