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Former school board candidate, city of Cape Coral, settle ‘false arrest’ lawsuit

By Breeze Staff Report - | May 14, 2021

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A former school board candidate who says he was falsely arrested days before the race’s 2018 primary, costing him the election, has settled his claim against the city of Cape Coral.

Louis C. Navarra, 76, and the city settled the claim through federal court mediation on April 1, according to public records documents released by the city Friday.

According to the “full and final release document,” Navarra accepted $1,675 in “compromise of a disputed claim,” with the payment not to be considered an admission of liability on the part of the city.

The settlement included a confidentiality provision that precludes Navarra from either disclosing the settlement amount or commenting “except to state this matter as been settled.”

He confirmed the matter was closed and declined comment on the agreement.

He did, however, comment on the amount he says the city spent to fight the suit in which he mostly represented himself.

“I think nearly $32,000 is a lot of money to fight a pro-se case,” he said. “The city spends a lot of money on outside lawyers.”

The amount cited for city legal expenses could not be immediately confirmed Friday.

A public records request related to mediation costs produced two documents. According to records provided by the city, the law firm of Henderson Franklin billed the city $9,886 in total fees for services provided from March 1-March 31, 2021. The law firm of Yeslow & Koeppel sent the city a mediation invoice of $1,575 for the April 1 mediation conference — a three-hour mediation session, plus a half hour of preparation time — with each side responsible for half that amount.

Navarra, a retired educator who taught in the Lee County School District for 38 years, was charged with burglary with assault or battery, a felony, on Aug. 10, 2018, after he reportedly crashed a party twice.

According police records, Navarra first drove by and then stopped by a home where a party was happening and asked why he hadn’t been invited. He was asked to leave and did so but returned an hour later and, after repeatedly being asked to again leave, reportedly shoved a relative of the homeowner, an allegation he denied.

Navarra said the house at which he stopped was owned by someone that he and his late wife had known well for years. According to the police report, they had had a falling out a year before.

The felony burglary charge was reduced to misdemeanor trespass by the State Attorney’s Office. The trespass, and the assault or battery charge, were dismissed upon completion of pretrial diversion. Navarra’s record has been expunged.

Claiming he had been falsely arrested and that his civil rights had been violated, he then filed a federal lawsuit in December 2019.

Navarra originally sought $611,365 in damages from the incident he said caused him great humiliation and was to blame for his loss at the polls. Less than two weeks after the arrest, he came in last in a four-way primary race with just over 11 percent of the vote.

He previously said he filed the lawsuit to restore his good name.

“I’m 75 years old, a widower, a Vietnam War veteran and was a 40-year teacher here. They knew I was no felon,” Navarra said at the time. “I was never arrested or had a DUI and I’m a first-degree felon? The humiliation is, I lost the election and it was in the media.”

He subsequently unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Cape Coral City Council in 2020 on a platform that included a call for police reform.

“I lost friends who still think I was a burglar and are afraid of me,” he said. “The police, in their wrong doings, put things in people’s mind. The Fort Myers Police did this to NFL football star Nate Allen with their charge and falsely detaining him at jail in 2015.”