Coyle questions Henning for abstaining from Immokalee Master Plan vote

Eric Staats/Staff- 
 An overgrown half-acre lot in a low-income neighborhood on 18th Street North in Immokalee is at the center of a vote this week that doomed the Immokalee Area Master Plan. Commissioner Tom Henning, a beneficiary of a trust that owns the lot, said he had a conflict of interest and abstained from Tuesday's vote by county commissioners. That left the plan one vote short of the four-vote supermajority it needed to pass.

Eric Staats/Staff- An overgrown half-acre lot in a low-income neighborhood on 18th Street North in Immokalee is at the center of a vote this week that doomed the Immokalee Area Master Plan. Commissioner Tom Henning, a beneficiary of a trust that owns the lot, said he had a conflict of interest and abstained from Tuesday's vote by county commissioners. That left the plan one vote short of the four-vote supermajority it needed to pass.

Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle on NewsMakers 9-25-11.

Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle on NewsMakers 9-25-11.

Tom Henning, Collier County commissioner on NewsMakers 6-5-11

Tom Henning, Collier County commissioner on NewsMakers 6-5-11

Jim Coletta, Collier County Commissioner, District 5 on NewsMakers 6-26-11

Jim Coletta, Collier County Commissioner, District 5 on NewsMakers 6-26-11

One of Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning’s colleagues is questioning his decision to abstain from voting on the Immokalee Master Plan last month.

Commission Chairman Fred Coyle on Tuesday asked his fellow commissioners if they would like the Florida Commission on Ethics to make a decision as to whether Henning could vote on the master plan.

“The Immokalee Master Plan is going to come back before us sometime within the next nine months,” he said. “I do not want another surprise. I don’t think there is a voting conflict.”

Henning abstained from the Dec. 13 vote because he is the beneficiary of a trust that owns property in Immokalee.

Henning’s lot, at 1233 18th St. N., north of Lake Trafford Road in Immokalee, was purchased by the commissioner in January 2007 for almost $50,000 and then transferred to a trust in June 2010. Henning said he has been working on selling the property.

He has said the master plan would mean increased uses for his lot, so it represented a conflict of interest.

In his public declaration, which he is required to file 15 days after abstaining from a vote, Henning wrote that voting for or against the plan would be seen as a conflict of interest because of the property.

Commissioner Jim Coletta said he believed the commissioners should drop the issue of taking it to the ethics commission, adding he did not want the plan’s passage tainted by questions of whether a commissioner acted ethically.

“Let it go,” he said.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has given Collier County until Sept. 27 to approve the master plan, according to a Dec. 27 letter from Tom Beck, the director of the Division of Community Development, to Coletta.

But the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency failed to ask commissioners for a reconsideration after a supermajority — four of five commissioners — failed to accept the master plan last month. Staff is exploring how the master plan can be brought back by the commissioners for discussion and a vote.

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