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Cape leader accuses fellow councilman of defamatory rumors

Gabrielle Sarann

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Cape leader accuses fellow councilman of defamatory rumors

CREATED Aug. 27, 2013

CAPE CORAL, Fla. - A Cape councilman is threatening legal action, after he says another councilman is trying to ruin his reputation.

City councilman Chris Chulakes-Leetz is under fire. The controversy involves Leetz's outburst toward his fellow councilman, John Carioscia at a July 24 utilities expansion meeting.

"Oh that was all?!" said Leetz from the dais. "That was very, very nice Mr. Carioscia. He just pointed to his crotch to me. What a very nice man!"

And the next day, a radio interview on WINK. Followed by a July 26 e-mail to Sharon Greenstein, in which he wrote, "Does an elected official behave as Mr. Carioscia did. He made the most vulgar gesture any man can make to another man. Key word here is man and the District 2 council member no longer qualifies as a man."

On Tuesday, Carioscia took action. His attorney, Scot Goldberg, served a cease and desist letter warning Leetz to stop defaming Carioscia's character and reputation.

"Can you tell me why Mr. Carioscia went to this length?" Fox 4 reporter Gabrielle Sarann asked Goldberg. "What are his other options?" he replied. "His other options are to confront him personally, which is not safe for either of them; take it up on city council time, which is not productive for our city."

Leetz didn't make himself available for an interview. But by phone he said that the letter is funny and that he hasn't thought about the exchange they had at that special council meeting in weeks.

"I think it's gotten too personal," said Mayor John Sullivan. "I don't think it belongs up there and it's bad for the city."

Sullivan and other members of council see this as a distraction. 

"Have you ever seen anything like this between two council members during your time here?" Sarann asked Marty McClain, councilman for District 1. "No, I have not," he replied. "I can't imagine Carioscia going to an extent or an extreme such as this, if other things weren't being said out in public," he added.

And city leaders say it's in the best interest to stop this from consuming city hall. 

"I think it's time to let this one go away," said Rana Erbrick, council woman for District 5. "Chock it up to lessons learned. Move on."

Most importantly, Carioscia's attorney says he wants Leetz to stop making defamatory remarks and he hopes he doesn't have to file a lawsuit against him. Meanwhile, Leetz says he's surprised Carioscia is still reeling from that council exchange and he stands by his comments.