Complaints filed against three county commissioners were dismissed last week by the Florida Commission on Ethics.
The complaints were filed by Jim Garth, chairman of Citizens Improving Gulf County, against Commissioners Carmen McLemore, Ward McDaniel and Tan Smiley.
The Commission on Ethics found all three complaints lacked legal sufficiency to be reviewed by the Commission, with the issues raised largely outside the purview and jurisdiction of the Commission.
The Commission noted that the dismissal did not reflect conclusions concerning the accuracy of the allegations and also suggested that the issues could be reviewed by the court system.
The allegations, in another form, provide some of the substance behind a Circuit Court case filed in an effort to overturn the April granting by the BOCC of a land variance for property immediately adjacent to Veterans Memorial Park in Beacon Hill.
Beacon Hill resident Bo Williams has sued the Board of County Commissioners, contending the variance was granted illegally.
The case is currently before Circuit Court Judge John Fishel.
The lawsuit seeks to overturn the variance, which opponents argue would, along with changes to the county Land Development Regulations by the BOCC, permit not only the building of an illegal structure abutting the park but also would negatively impact density requirements in Gulf County.
During a recent community meeting on the lawsuit nearly 40 interested individuals came out in support.
An earlier default finding against the county has been stricken, with the agreement of Williams’ lawyer Pat Floyd, while filings seeking reimbursement to the county of legal fees expended to defend the default were denied.
Fishel is awaiting additional filings in the case in advance of further hearings.
The Ethics Commission complaints alleged six violations of state ethics laws by McDaniel, McLemore and Smiley during the consideration of the variance.
“None of the allegations, nor the conclusory assertion, indicates a possible violation” of ethics laws, the opinion issued by the Commission detailed in part.
Those allegations centered around voting conflicts and whether approving the variance was a violation of the authority granted by their offices.
Other allegations are that the three “shut down” discussion or comments from those opposed to the variance, but the Commission on Ethics opinion read, in part, that the allegations did not rise to a violation of ethics laws.
“In sum, rather than substantively alleging a possible violation of a standard within the Commission on Ethics’ jurisdiction, the complaint is indicative of a dispute regarding a land-use variance.
“Such a matter may be subject to review or further consideration in the courts or before local boards, but not before this Commission on the facts alleged,” wrote Commission chair Linda McKee Robison.