Cummings’ attorney responds to allegations related to her arrest
Politics, not any attempt to obtain elective office illegally, is the root cause of the charges Cape Coral City Councilmember Patty Cummings is now facing, her attorney said this morning.
Paul M. Sisco, Esq., said Cummings was targeted by political adversaries and some Council members who wanted her out after she won the District 4 seat last year.
Sisco said he doesn’t fault the State Attorney’s Office, which on Monday obtained a warrant for Cummings’ arrest on three felony charges related to whether she met city charter residency requirements to qualify for the District 4 seat.
However City Council’s decision to bring the matter to the SAO was a “contingency plan” for her opponents to use, he added.
“I believe the State Attorney’s Office is a victim of the larger effort to have her removed from City Council,” Sisco said.“The State Attorney’s Office was shown a micro-level sketch of a few facts, and it was removed from the greater context of the fact that Councilmember Cummings upset the ‘machine’ and some of the powers-that-be would like her off of there. And they can’t beat her in an election, so they want to prosecute her.”
Meanwhile, Cummings, who voluntarily remanded herself to the Lee County Jail Tuesday afternoon, is entitled to due process, he said.
“There seems to be a belief among some (in Cape Coral) that if you bring some allegations to the State Attorney’s Office that you get a political reward of eliminating your political opponent,” Sisco said. “That’s not the way America works. It’s not the way Cape Coral works and it’s certainly not the way any of America should work.”
He also criticized how the city’s charter is written, specifically the language pertaining to the requirements to qualify for office.
“I’ve been practicing for 31 years, and the ambiguity in that language is as bad as I’ve ever seen in a statute,” Sisco said.
The warrant for Cummings’ arrest was issued Monday after the State Attorney’s Office completed a city-requested investigation into allegations that she did not live in District 4 as required by the city’s charter when she qualified for the seat.
Cummings, 51, has been charged with fraudulent application for driver license and two counts of false swearing in connection with or arising out of voting or elections.
Cummings was released Tuesday on $7,500 bond. Her first hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18 at 8:30 a.m.
The residency complaint originated from a resident who at first requested whistle-blower anonymity.
It was referred to the State Attorney’s Office by Council in June after Council rejected a bid to charge Cummings with violating the city’s residency requirements when she qualified, saying the independent “fact finding” report it commissioned in the wake of the complaint was incomplete.
The report was prepared by attorney Vicki L. Sproat of Boy Agnew Potanovic Miller, who was retained by the city on March 24 to conduct that third-party inquiry.
Using what she called a “preponderance of evidence standard,” Sproat found that “Cummings was not a full-time or part-time resident” of the home she listed on Palm Tree Boulevard during the relevant period and that “Cummings did not reside in District 4 until March 22, 2023.”
Sproat also found that “Cummings failed to cooperate in the investigation,” citing what she called “the greater weight of the evidence.”
Council’s decision to request assistance from the State Attorney’s Office was made as Sproat did not have subpoena power to compel witnesses with whom she wished to speak and to obtain all of the documents she sought.
As an investigative agency, the State Attorney’s Office had that authority.
Cummings has steadfastly denied the allegations and the attorney representing her at the time of Sproat’s investigation, Jay P. Lechner of Lechner Law, previously said Cummings co-operated with the investigation and that documents establishing residency as required by the city’s charter were provided.