LARGO - A conflict of interest case in Treasure Island is eerily similar to the pending Florida Ethics Commission investigation of a similar accusation against Pat Gerard, a member of the Largo City Commission.
A citizen, Curtis Holmes, filed the complaint, claiming a conflict of interest, against Gerard after she pressed to have a youth arts program, sponsored by the entity by whom she is employed, occupy the now empty old library building.
Alan Zimmet, Largo's city lawyer, asserted at that meeting last October that Gerard, in fact, did not have a conflict, citing a St. Petersburg case that, it turns out, doesn't remotely resemble the Gerard situation.
However, the Treasure Island case appears to be "on all fours," as lawyers say, with the Gerard case.
The program Gerard was pushing benefits her. She is a vice president of Family Resources, the sponsor of the program. It benefits her in terms of accomplishment in her job. There is no question of pocketing funds, but it does redound to her benefit in terms of "getting the job done" for her employer.
Conflicts like this in Largo are not really new. There are blatant incidents of nepotism and cronyism in recent years.
In the Treasure Island situation, Irving Ellsworth, a former city commissioner said he will appeal the decision of an administrative law judge assessing him $5,000 for an alleged ethics violation.
That fine was recommended to the Ethics Commission by the judge who found Ellsworth culpable when he voted twice in 2002 on development code rules that would have benefited his employer.
Ellsworth, who left office in 2004, manages the John's Pass Marina and amendments he approved to the code would have benefited his employer.
The judge's recommendation of a $5,000 fine was in addition to a recommendation for censure and reprimand.
The pertinent Florida Statute on which Holmes based the filing of his complaint reads as follows -
"Chapter 112.314 (3)(a) No county, municipal, or other local public officer shall vote in an official capacity upon any measure which would inure to his or her special private gain or loss; which he or she knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of any principal by whom he or she is retained or to the parent organization or subsidiary of a corporate principal by which he or she is retained…"
The plan Gerard was pushing would have meant that Largo taxpayers would fund a program for people who don't live in Largo, who pay nothing for the services and lay the burden on the taxpayers for upkeep, maintenance and who knows what else.
John Atanasio, a Largo citizen who is active in the community raised the question of whether "Largo is supposed to be the support of the downtrodden and particularly when they are not even from our city?"
Holmes said that his recent inquiry to the Ethics Commission resulted in no information, merely that the investigation was continuing. Ethics complaints are confidential until a decision is made.
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