Board of Education Chair Tom Grady has been found not guilty of federal misdemeanor charges filed in October.
Officials accused Grady of excavating the water near his former Islamorada property in 2017 without obtaining the proper permits. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees the waterway near 87429 Old Highway in Islamorada. Grady’s attorneys, David Oscar Markus and Margot Moss, said Grady did apply for local, state and federal approval to begin the project and disputed the charges from the get-go.
The U.S. Southern District Court agreed in Thursday’s ruling.
The indictment accused Grady of “obstruction of navigable water” after he moved forward with the project in a nearby channel without securing approval from the Army Corps. The charges came more than four years after the incident, a position Grady’s attorneys honed in on in a previous statement.
“Unfortunately, the federal government’s position is that any existing federal permits were insufficient,” Markus and Moss said. “This case should never have been brought, let alone four years after the fact. Mr. Grady has always acted in good faith and believes he had the appropriate approvals.”
In a statement to the Naples Daily News, Grady said, “‘Liberty and justice for all’ means something. Truths are stubborn things and this very diverse jury (men, women, Black, white, Hispanic, Democrat, Republican) chose not to punish me for work done by a licensed contractor with permits obtained as much as 8 years ago, or let the government put me in jail for an alleged permit violation …”
“These charges were so weak that we never even called a witness to testify — not one,” Grady wrote. “The government of the USA took three days to prove its case and proved nothing — because there was no crime.”
In 2014, Grady applied for permits with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to build a dock and boat lifts near his former Islamorada property. However, acting U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez argued that under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, Grady needed federal permits.
Grady is a former member of the House, representing parts of Collier County from 2008-2010. Grady also formerly led the state’s Office of Financial Regulation and served as interim President of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.
The Education Chair has been in the news during the COVID-19 pandemic as he oversaw the effort to sanction several school districts after the state barred the use of mask mandates in classrooms. State officials moved to revoke funding for those districts equivalent to school board members’ pay.
Grady also backed Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ controversial efforts to ensure critical race theory is not taught in Florida’s K-12 schools. Grady has held the Education Chair position since 2015, when then-Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to that role.