MARCO ISLAND — Ethic complaints against three Marco individuals fizzled out along with the city’s look into taking over the Island’s electric utility.
The Florida Commission on Ethics released their findings Monday that complaints against Monte Lazarus, Jack Patterson and Gary Elliott, who are members of the city’s committee looking into taking over Lee County Electric Cooperative, were to be dismissed.
The complaints filed by Marco resident Bill McMullan in late January stemmed around letters of intent to do business between LCEC and the Marco-based solar firm, United Energy Technology.
UET’s CEO Gary Elliott, Vice President Monte Lazarus and Jack Patterson, all serve on the city’s committee studying a potential takeover of LCEC.
Lazarus said he hoped the risk of such complaints wouldn’t deter people from volunteering for city committees in the future.
“Even though we knew McMullan’s complaint had absolutely no substance, it was rewarding to have another of his complaints against dedicated Marco Islanders completely rejected by the State of Florida,” Elliott wrote in a commentary regarding the Commission’s decision to dismiss.
Lazarus and Patterson both said they think McMullan’s credibility is questionable because he has a history of filing complaints, including one from January 2008. That complaint was regarding elections and political activities against Celebrate Marco Inc., a group formed to counteract perceived negativity on Island. It was also later dismissed, they pointed out.
McMullan maintains there seemed to be a conflict of interest, adding that the electric committee’s February decision to disband may minimize those potential conflicts.
UET proposed solar power projects with the Collier County School District on Tract K, an approximate 12-acre piece of vacant land near Tigertail Court owned by the School District. Those plans have also been cancelled since the state chose not to grant funding to the project in a February decision.
Lazarus also serves on the city’s planning board, which is a point several residents once said concerned them in terms of a potential conflict of interest.
Community Development Director Steve Olmsted had said the planning board could potentially decide whether to grant conditional permits for the solar project on Tract K. Those points are becoming moot with the cancellation of the solar project plans and an at least temporary slow down in the city’s potential bid to takeover LCEC with the dissolution of their committee looking into the idea.
McMullan’s ethics complaints against Lazarus, Patterson and Elliott were based upon a perceived violation of three sections of Florida Statute. They include 112.313(7)(a), 112.3143(3)(a) and 112.3143(4).
These sections prohibit a committee member from having a contractual relationship with any business entity that is subject to the regulation of, or doing business with the city or its ad hoc committee.
Following an executive session in early March, the Florida Commission on Ethics concluded that there is no contractual relationship between UET and LCEC.
A Nov. 18, 2008 letter from Dennie Hamilton, CEO of LCEC, to Elliott, UET President and CEO was filed along with McMullan’s January complaint, which referred to the letter as an intent to do business.
Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Forchilli wrote in a March 11 public report that the language in the letter made it “clear that there is no contractual relationship” between UET and LCEC.
Furthermore, the commission’s report stated that in the complainant, McMullan, “failed to indicate the existence of any nexus between United Energy Technology and the City of Marco Island ... nor does the complaint suggest that UET would stand to gain or lose if the city were to take over LCEC’s operations.”
“I thought it could have been more inclusive,” McMullan commented Monday.