MARATHON -- The State Attorney's Office found no basis in an allegation that a Realtor tried to bribe a Marathon city official over a liquor law issued in April, the Free Press has learned.
Marathon Mayor Mike Cinque went to the State Attorney's Office that month after he had a conversation with Realtor Bruce Schmitt about the town's controversial 2007 alcohol sales law, according to Cinque and State Attorney Catherine Vogel.
Cinque apparently intimated that Schmitt had offered to buy the Overseas Liquor Lounge, 3574 Overseas Highway -- ending that property's legal woes by neither selling alcohol nor developing there -- in exchange for the city throwing out the ordinance banning liquor sales within 1,500 feet of a church, school or another liquor store, said Cinque's attorney, Hal Schuhmacher.
Cinque owns the nearby Stuffed Pig restaurant at 3520 Overseas Highway.
Schmitt, who has real estate interests with companies such as Publix and Walgreens, has long opposed the ordinance. It keeps him from selling hard liquor at Walgreens.
Schmitt told the Free Press last week he would remain vocal in his opposition to the liquor ordinance, but denied he ever tried to bribe Cinque. The State Attorney's Office agreed, determining that no crime occurred, Vogel said.
"The allegation was bribery of a public servant, but there wasn't sufficient evidence," she said. "There was no non-speculative evidence that Schmitt was acting 'knowingly and dishonestly for a wrongful purpose,' as is required by the statute."
State Attorney's Office investigator Chris Weber and Assistant State Attorney Mark Wilson reviewed the case, Vogel said.
"I think the city wanted to be careful about it and we did our due diligence and closed it back in April with no further action," she said.
The situation has been "blown way out of proportion," both Schmitt and Cinque said last week.
"I have conversations with people all the time over my opposition to this ordinance and will continue to speak to and ask for support from City Council members over the 1,500-foot rule," Schmitt said. "And I never made any offer [to Cinque] and there was never any quid pro quo."
Cinque was just erring on the side of caution, Schuhmacher said.
"As Mr. Cinque's lawyer, and with he being mayor, I felt it was appropriate to report this to the proper authorities and let them make a decision," the attorney said. "They investigated and made a determination that no crime was committed."
Cinque said he has "known and respected" the Schmitt family for a long time and didn't wish for the matter to "be played out in the news media."
"I felt the proposition was borderline inappropriate and, as mayor, I felt it was important to ask my lawyer, and we have courts for these things," Cinque said. "That's where they belong. Not in the newspapers."
Schmitt had been living outside the country for months due to the Dec. 21 arrest of a man charged with trying to pay someone to kill him.
The FBI accuses Dennis Zecca -- co-owner and manager of Marathon Marina Boatyard and former Coast Guard Station Islamorada commander -- of attempting to pay an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration informant $20,000 or a kilogram of cocaine to shoot Schmitt over the holidays.
The government has not cited a possible motive.
Zecca remains in federal jail in Miami under no bail. His trial is scheduled for December.