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Lollipops Strip Club manager arrested

Daytona- A Daytona Beach strip-club manager was arrested Wednesday on a felony warrant alleging he funneled $8,500 in illegal campaign contributions to two City Commission candidates last year.

A former political consultant who also serves as the second-in-command at the Seminole County Clerk of the Court’s Office is accused of acting as a middleman for the transactions but has not been arrested.

Sean L. Bishop, the 39-year-old manager of Lollipops Gentlemen’s Club, surrendered at the Volusia County Branch Jail for the two election-law violations.

The violations date back to an undercover operation 14 months ago in which former candidate Paul Zimmerman and City Commissioner Shiela McKay wore hidden microphones while discussing the contributions, according to court records. Bishop was released on $7,500 bond.

“This is definitely a case in which I’m positive that Mr. Bishop had no involvement,” said Brett Hartley, Bishop’s attorney.

Bob Lewis, deputy court clerk in Seminole, was the person who met with the candidates, according to an investigative report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Lewis is a former political consultant who has been active in Seminole County Republican politics for years, running countywide and city races. He denied any wrongdoing.

“I have never had any meeting or conversation or contact with Sean Bishop,” he said. He said he met with the candidates to offer his services as a political consultant, which they refused.

FDLE spokeswoman Susie Murphy said she couldn’t discuss whether other arrests or charges would be forthcoming.

“This is still an active investigation,” she said Wednesday.

Zimmerman, who lost his bid for the Zone 2 seat, was pleased the investigation yielded an arrest.

“I had lost faith and was very frustrated with the investigation,” he said.

McKay, who won re-election in 2005, was relieved the investigation confirmed her suspicions about the contributions.

“I knew there was illegality going on there,” she said. “I helped because I just wanted people in this city to see what is going on.”

According to the FDLE report, Bishop is accused of being the source behind $8,500 in contributions to Zimmerman and McKay. Investigators said other people wrote the checks and were reimbursed by Bishop. Lewis met with both candidates, while another person delivered the checks during separate meetings, according to the report. The person who delivered the checks has not been arrested.

Florida law limits personal contributions to no more than $500 to a candidate for each election.

Zimmerman said he was suspicious about the offer of financial help and contacted the State Attorney’s Office, where the investigators asked if he would help their investigation.

“I met with Lewis, and I wore a wire,” Zimmerman said.

Bishop’s strip club is one of many that have been battling Daytona Beach in court over the city’s nudity ordinance, which a federal judge struck down last year. The case is still on appeal before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

During meetings in September 2005, Zimmerman said, the source of the campaign money was vague, and there were no specific requests of him.

“There was no quid pro quo, but it’s an implication,” he said. “They say, ‘We’ll fund your campaign, and you’ll remember who we are.’ That’s how it works.”

Zimmerman said he thinks such arrangements are common.

“It’s my belief that this was typical of the way politics is run in Daytona Beach,” he said.

McKay also remembered being told that no strings were attached to the contributions.

“They never did ask for favors or specific votes,” she said.

Lewis acknowledged meeting with Zimmerman and McKay in 2005, but only to offer his services as a campaign consultant. The pair was among a half-dozen or so Daytona candidates Lewis said he contacted that year.

Zimmerman and McKay turned down his offer, he said.

“They had no interest in using my services,” he said.

Lewis said he offered to raise — not provide — campaign contributions for Zimmerman and McKay.

“It comes down to the difference between provide and raise,” he said. “That’s a pretty narrow distinction to determine whether you’re a crook or not.”

Lewis acknowledged knowing — and at times hiring — the person accused of delivering the checks to do campaign work in Volusia County. But he denied that the person was working for him when the checks were provided to McKay and Zimmerman.

Lewis’ boss, Clerk of the Court Maryanne Morse, thinks Lewis is not involved.

“I just don’t buy it,” she said. “I haven’t talked to him about it, but the idea he would be involved in it doesn’t make sense. If they had any evidence, why isn’t he being named as a co-conspirator?”
 

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