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The Florida Commission on Ethics has found probable cause in three complaints made against former city of Marco Island Director of Community Affairs Bryan Milk.

During closed session at its June 8 meeting, the commission ruled that there was probable cause in three out of four complaints made against Milk, who was terminated from his position on Jan. 2, 2014, for not disclosing a relationship with Michael and Lisa Kelly, owners of Progressive Auto Care, while evaluating land use matters for the city.

The probable cause order pertains to the following violations of Florida Statutes:

  • Failing to disclose ownership in and/or income from two private entities on the statement of financial interests from 2011-2014
  • Using an official position to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself or others
  • Maintaining a contractual interest with a business entity that as subject to the regulation of or had business with his own agency

A complaint alleging that Milk had a prohibited relationship with a business that sold services to the city or purchased goods and services from a business he owned was dismissed.

Milk owned a stake in the business until May 2013 but continued hold onto a promissory note during the period in which decisions were made on zoning and land matters.

Four months prior to his termination, an interpretation was written that permitted additional uses at the car condo such as larger vehicles and trailerable items.

Then-acting City Manager Guillermo Polanco suspended Milk without pay on Dec. 31, 2013.

The termination was made official on Jan. 2, 2014, after Milk was unable to attend a meeting with Polanco, which Milk attributed to being diagnosed with bronchitis.

Milk had been employed with the city since January 1999.

Milk’s attorney at the time of the termination, Douglas Spiegel, issued a press release shortly thereafter in which he accused former Councilmen Larry Sacher and Amadeo Petricca of masterminding the firing.

“Apparently Polanco is nothing more than a puppet at the hands of the puppeteer, Larry Sacher,” Spiegel wrote. “This current City Council has aligned themselves as a black cloud over the people of Marco Island.”

The ruling by the commission is not a finding of guilt but rather moves the process along to where the commission determines if a violation has occurred and, if so, makes a recommendation about penalties.

The commission can also resolve the complaint through stipulation, settlement or consent order per Florida Administrative Code.

 

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