If Commissioner Tom Henning made a mistake, he plans to own up to it.
That is what Henning told the Naples Daily News' editorial board Wednesday when he came to discuss the ethics complaint lodged against him by longtime resident and former Collier County Commission candidate Gina Downs and longtime resident John Barlow.
The complaint — a copy of which was provided to the Daily News — addresses potential discrepancies on financial disclosure forms Henning has filed since becoming a county commissioner. The state requires elected officials to fill out the financial report annually.
The pair assert Henning didn't disclose all of his property and income, and that the forms include mathematical errors. Specifically the complaint alleges:
In June 2005, Henning bought property in Golden Gate Estates near the intersection of Golden Gate and Everglades boulevards. He then sold the property to Tuscany Preserve Development in 2006, making a $71,000 profit. Neither the property nor the gain were included on the corresponding year's financial disclosure form.
Henning said Wednesday he did sell the property at a profit and turned around and used that money to purchase three more properties, one of which was later donated to Habitat for Humanity. Henning's 2006 Form 6, which lists 2005 assets and liabilities, lists a home on 10th Avenue Southwest, a lot in Golden Gate and properties in Fort Myers.
In March 2003, Henning sold property at 1680 40th Terrace SW, Golden Gate, to Deonaire Interprises Inc. The profit of the sale was $286,500. The profit before or after improvements wasn't listed on the 2003 form, but there is an asset listed on the form in the amount of $292,000 and an income of $16,400.
Henning said he held paper on the property and disclosed the interest. Following the sale, he said, the money was disclosed as money in his bank account.
In 2007, Henning bought a property at 1233 18th St. N. in Immokalee, which was put in a trust in June 2010. The asset was listed in the 2008 financial disclosure, but was not listed on the 2009 or 2010 form. Henning abstained from a 2011 vote on the Immokalee Master Plan, which sets goals for the community's growth and development, because of his interest in the property. No form was filed declaring what the business association was, which led Henning to abstain.
Henning, who did file a form with the state as to why he abstained, said Florida Statutes state, "No employee of an agency acting in his or her official capacity as a purchasing agent, or public officer acting in his or her official capacity, shall either directly or indirectly purchase, rent, or lease any realty, goods, or devices for his or her own agency from any business entity of which the officer or employee ... has a material interest."
In March 2005, Henning purchased property at 12268 First St. in Fort Myers as a rental property. The rental income was listed on the financial disclosure form from 2005 through 2009, but wasn't listed in 2010.
Henning said he operated the property at a loss in 2010 because he had to replace the air conditioning unit on the home.
In March 1996, Henning purchased property at 2151 42nd St. SW, Golden Gate, and sold it in 2002. The $40,500 profit wasn't listed on the 2002 form.
"It might not have been income, but it was listed as an asset," Henning said of some of the disparities. "It's not like I was trying to hide something."
In October 2006, Henning purchased a parcel, which has no site address on the Collier County Property Appraiser's website. The property was deeded to the Rogers Trust in 2010 and wasn't listed on the financial disclosure forms.
The complaint also contends Henning made mathematical errors totaling $439,629 since 2000.
Henning admits he has made errors in his math adding up his assets on previous financial disclosure forms. He said while going through divorce proceedings, he discovered some errors in math adding up his assets. He corrected those, he said, by filing a Form 6X with the State Ethics Commission.
The Ethics Commission provided the Naples Daily News with copies of two Form 6Xes filed by Henning, one amending his 2008 disclosure and one amending his 2007 disclosure. Those forms were filed Oct. 5, 2011.
"I have corrected the ones I know about," he said.
Henning said he has received notice that the complaint filed by Downs is in the hands of the Ethics Commission. He told the editorial board he is waiting to hear if the Ethics Commission pursues an investigation.
"Anything the Ethics Commission wants me to address I am willing to address," he said.
Downs did not want to address Henning's comments Wednesday, saying the complaint was in the hands of the Ethics Commission, which would determine if something needed to be done.
"It's not for me to say it's OK or not," she said, pointing out she filed the complaint because of discrepancies she saw in Henning's forms.