FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) – The FBI appears to be closely watching the development of a new Boston Red Sox spring training complex in southwest Florida after agents requested thousands of e-mails from four government employees and attended a stadium planning meeting.

Agents filed the request last month, asking for any e-mails that contain more than two dozen search terms from Lee County Manager Donald Stilwell and three employees. The terms include names of four proposed sites for the ballpark and practice facilities, according to a copy of the letter provided by county officials. The county is scheduled to choose a site next week.

The FBI confirmed the request, but wouldn’t comment on why agents are seeking the e-mails.

The Red Sox agreed to keep their spring training home in Fort Myers – the Lee County seat – for another 30 years in December. Part of the deal includes development of a new complex that would open in 2012.

While it’s not the only sign of the FBI’s interest in the stadium development – an agent attended one of the county commission meetings on the project last month – officials said they were dumbfounded by the request.

“This has been a very, very public process,” Commissioner Tammy Hall said Wednesday. “No one from the community or internally has contacted my office and said, ‘Hey, this process has been unfair.”‘

Aside from the names the final four sites under consideration, the FBI asked for e-mails that contain the words “Vegas,” “FBI,” and “Samir,” which is the first name of Stilwell’s son-in-law. Samir Cabrera was convicted in federal court on charges of wire fraud and money laundering related to a real estate scheme earlier this year.

A spokeswoman for the Red Sox said they learned of the FBI request late Tuesday.

Stilwell did not return a message left by The Associated Press Wednesday morning. He told The News-Press of Fort Myers that the e-mails are public records. “And we’re happy to share it with anyone,” he said.

According to the News-Press, the e-mails from Stilwell contain discussion of county business, replies to Thanksgiving greetings, and a note from Cabrera, thanking him for being a good father to his wife and sticking by them in tough times.

Lee County officials said they have already complied with the request and received no further details from the FBI.

“The request was directed to Lee County and, as such, we will not have any comment,” Susan Goodenow said.

The other employees from whom the FBI request e-mails are James Lavender, Scott Gilbertson and Donald DeBerry, who each work in the areas of public works or transportation. Lavender and Gilbertson did not respond to requests for comment.

DeBerry said he was not involved in the stadium selection process.

“It’s got to be an amazing fishing expedition because it’s obviously all over the court,” DeBerry said of the FBI’s request. He was at a loss to explain why his name was mentioned in the request.

AP-ES-04-22-09 1820EDT


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