Tarpon Springs Mayor Archie Violates Public Trust for Greenlight Pinellas; Should Declare Conflict of Interest.

“One Cannot Serve Two Masters”. Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:24

Tarpon  Springs Mayor Archie should not have voted to endorse Greenlight Pinellas since he is also a member of the Pinellas Planning Commission and Metropolitan Planning Organization. This is a conflict of interest for these groups that have been developing the Greenlight 14% sales tax hike, but he still cast the deciding vote for a 3-2 Tarpon Springs endorsement.

Tarpon Springs Mayor Archie should not have voted to endorse Greenlight Pinellas since he is also a member of the Pinellas Planning Commission and Metropolitan Planning Organization. This is a conflict of interest for these groups that have been developing the Greenlight 14% sales tax hike, but he still cast the deciding vote for a 3-2 Tarpon Springs endorsement.

This week, the City of Tarpon springs narrowly endorsed the Greenlight Pinellas 14% sales tax hike, 3-2.  The Mayor of Tarpons Springs, David O. Archie, cast the swing vote by the Tarpon Springs City Commission to support creating the highest sales tax for the state right here in Pinellas county at 8%. Tarpon Springs commissioners Banther and Tarapani voted “no”.  The question arises: should Tarpon Springs Mayor David O. Archie have recused himself from the vote based on his well defined conflicts of interest? The City of Tarpon Springs has clear cut law that states City officials may recuse themselves from votes when they have a Conflict. Some officials are required to do so, but the Mayor is not subject to that mandate. Maybe it is time to change that.


 Fiduciary:   “An individual in whom another has placed the utmost trust and confidence to manage and protect property or money. The relationship wherein one person has an obligation to act for another’s benefit.”

“..“conflict of interest” means a situation in which regard for a private interest tends to lead to disregard of a public duty or interest.” Florida statute 112.312.


Mayor, David O. Archie, is the chair of the Pinellas Planning Commission and serves on the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Both are separate entities with separate responsibilities.  As such, the Mayor is in a position of having a conflict of interest on the matter of Greenlight Pinellas when he is acting as Mayor. As Chairman of the Pinellas Planning Commission that is creating the “Transit Oriented Development” blue print for Greenlight Pinellas, he has a fiduciary responsibility to that separately incorporated entity to successfully advocate for their agenda. If he does not do that effectively, he is risking his position and his position as chair. That creates conflict of interest number one. He is also a member of the Metropolitan Planning Council which main purpose is “to improve transportation in the county for all principal modes of travel, including mass transit, walking, and bicycling, as well as automobile.” Again, a separately incorporated entity that requires its members to have a fiduciary responsibility in serving its mission. That is conflict of interest number two. If he does not support their missions, he is risking his position and the many political benefits that come from it including political donations to run for future office by the wealthy interests pushing Greenlight Pinellas. He is clearly conflicted in the matter.

It is common and appropriate for elected officials to serve on such bodies. They certainly do gain great knowledge and experience in doing so. However, when serving different entities with different missions, the citizens expect those people to recuse themselves from voting on matters when a conflict of interest arises.  Even if the letter of the law would allow Mayor Archie to avoid “Conflict of Interest”, morally the conflict is clear and public trust requires the Mayor to abstain from votes on this matter. Sadly this is hardly the case throughout Pinellas county where the inbred nature of all these planning commissions and organizations is common with elected officials appointed (by law) to these organizations that have a huge impact on the public (best Examples are Ken Welch – Chair of County Commission/PSTA, Jeff Danner – Past PSTA member/St. Petersburg City Council).

The Mayor may want to review the Ethics Code of the of the City of Tarpon Springs that he signed in 2012. The Ethics code states that the Mayor and other elected officers and agents “are public servants of the people and hold their positions for the benefit of the public.” That is the Public that is supposed to benefit, not the MPO or the PPC or the Greenlight Pinellas campaign.  It further states that “e)No City representative shall transact any business in their official capacity with any business entity of which they are an officer, director, agent or member, or in which they own a controlling interest.” Mayor Archie is definitely working as an “officer” and “director” or the MPO and the PPC. They are entities separately incorporated under the laws of Florida. They have a substantial impact on business with the PPC creating a “Transit Oriented Development” template that is based on public-private partnerships. The Ethics code of Tarpon Springs, and the natural ethics of humanity, should raise enough red flags for Mayor Archie to recuse himself from supporting Greenlight.

Perhaps the Mayor should read the ordinances of Tarpon Springs. The ordinances (*excerpts from  text below) require that members of the Board of Adjustment, the Planning and Zoning Board, the Historic Preservation Board and Public Art Committee “disqualify themselves from the vote on and discussion”  on matters where a conflict exists.  The Mayor should follow that example. Tarpon Springs Ethics codes signed by Archie indicate that they should exhibit the same behavior. Florida law states that public officials should not vote when a Conflict exists, but does give an exception for Agencies like PPC and MPO. This is another example of how politicians and governments beleive they can serve with no conflicts of interest and set a different standard for themselves than for those outside of government (the governed). The voters may want to get that law or those officials who abuse conflicts changed but in the meantime, responsible public servants should voluntarily recognize these conflicts and recuse themselves. As Jesus Christ said “One cannot serve two masters”.

Tarpon Springs citizens should expect that Mayor Archie would declare his Chairmanship of the PPC And memberserhip of the MPO as a conflict of interest on Greenlight Pinellas and recuse himself from the vote to endorse the Greenlight 300% tax revenue hike for PSTA.  However, Mayor Archie, as is often the case on Greenlight issues, declared he is the “most informed” on the matter and therefore should vote. That would be like the CEO of Duke Energy saying he is the most informed on electricity and then voting on a project to send millions of dollars of electrical business to his company (BTW Duke Energy has contributed $50,000 so far to the Greenlight campaign). David Archie should bring this matter back before the commission. He should ask for the commission to move to reconsider the vote and then ask for another vote from which he abstains. If he did that, the vote would be 2-2 and the City of Tarpon Springs would not endorse Greenlight Pinellas.


* Excerpts from Tarpon Springs City Ordinances

If any member of the Board of Adjustment finds that he has a conflict of interest as defined by state statute on any matter coming before the Board then that person shall disqualify themselves from the vote on and

If any member of the Planning and Zoning Board finds that he has a conflict of interest as defined by state statute on any matter coming before the Board then that person shall disqualify themselves from the vote on and discussion of that matter. Appropriate forms shall be filled out and filed with the City Clerk and Collector.

If any member of the Historic Preservation Board finds that he has a conflict of interest as defined by state statute on any matter coming before the Board, that person shall disqualify himself or herself from the vote and discussion on that matter.

Conflict of Interest. If any member of the Public Art Committee shall find that his or her private or personal interests are involved in the matter coming before the Committee, he or she shall disqualify himself or herself from all participation in that matter.

 

 

 

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15 Replies:

  1. Dave Scooterman Kovar

    Actually, no. Your entire premise and therefore entire article is incorrect.

    The mayor, and various council members serve there various boards boards by sitting in mixed groups on other boards. Whether it is the PSTA board, Juvinile Welfare Board, planning board, development boards, or the like.

    They serve representing their city (or region for the beaches, safety harbor / oldsmar) not for themselves. They consult their boards and then bring back reports.. If the Tarpon board had voted AGAINST greenlight, we might question the mayors ability to work with and represent his city on a seperate community board. We would expect the board to support his findings (yes in this case) as the voice of the board and therefore of the people.

    A better example of a county politician that should have resigned from a board is commissioner Norm Roche. He regularly voted against the consensus of his board (county commission) and therefore against the majority of the voters, showing favoritism to a minority. Acting a a loose cannon, he considered himself above the people, not a servant to the people. The commission voted AGAINST his proposals, so he did not serve the voters.

    If you are looking for an example of a servant disobeying the voters, it is Roche, not Archie.

      1. Dave "Scooterman" Kovar / Ron Thompson

        Actually, no, a conflict of interest is when a person has some tangible benefit from the decision of the board. If Mayor Archie sat on the board of a corporation, and that corporation was bidding on a city contract, of course he would have a conflict of interest.

        When the mayor represents the city, it is not personal. No matter how much the GLP opponents want it to be. It is a city function. Wish and hope, it is still a city function. He represented the city on the board. Took with him the wishes of the city commission, brought back to the city commission monthly reports of the planning board. This is how the county-wide boards operate.

        I can’t imagine that the members of NTFT do not understand the fundamentals of Pinellas government. I understand that the Seminole city commision just broke all protocol by passing a “NO” endorsement of PSTA during a recent meeting under New Business with no prior public announcement and no public input. Since they seem to be NTFT supporters, willing to circumvent normal rules of open governing in support of the position you support, why not ask THEM how interlocking county boards work regarding personal conflict-of-interest.

        Members of the Seminole board (and every other city and county elected board) serve on Arts commissions, various planning commissions, PSTA, JWB, and various oversight boards. Ask them if they come back to Seminole and recuse themselves what you cite here as a “conflict of interest”. Such a policy, if you were correct, would not just apply to those supporting GLP, but to any vote on any issue on any board. You would have your hands full here calling out politicians if your claim was true.

        This is not about my position on GreenLight. I am citing legal precedent, common sense, and what goes on every day in Pinellas county. For you to accuse me of being somehow blinded by ideology is amusing. Reread your article, do some research, then quietly pull this page down when you understand how your narrative to raise fear and anger is simply 100% wrong. I’m trying to help you retain your credibility. You accept my help.

    1. Sun Beam Times Post author

      Again, the responsible elected official would recognize that they can’t represent one group pushing Greenlight and then represent the citizens in endorsing the tax hike. He should recognize the conflict exists. YEs, the politicians have granted themselves legal loopholes. That doesn’t make it right.

      BTW, my sources tell me County Commissioner Janet Long pushed Seminole to vote on the Greenlight resolution, it was not an effort by NTFT.

      1. Dave "Scooterman" Kovar / Ron Thompson

        You would be very upset if a council passed a “YES” vote on GreenLight without it being on the agenda and without it having public comment, letting people prepare, and speak. I hope you check out what I’m saying and write an article about how the Anti-GreenLight forces “Railroaded” the city of seminole. Regardless of who initiated the plan (I heard otherwise), the board voted “NO”, and those members should have voted instead to place the issue on the agenda, have a public hearing, then vote.

        I look forward to reading that column.

        Looks like we will have to disagree, it seems, that representing your city by serving on a planning board is, well, representing your city. Did you ask Norm Roche to recuse himself from the Pinellas Commission vote on GreenLight. As I recall, he was the only “No” vote on PSTA, and the only “No” vote on the commission. By your standards, not mine, that is a conflict of interest. Ask commissioner Roche about the personal power you imagine are achieved by serving on boards. These boards are not conflicting, as they are all elected representatives of the voters. There is no personal gain, except, what, “prestige”? That claim is a stretch.

        I’m done, do the research I suggest, or leave this up. It is your reputation, not mine.

    2. Sun Beam Times Post author

      You do the research. Post it here and I will approve any TRUTH. the Seminole meeting was properly noticed and the vote was done properly.
      Again, the GLP people change the subject when they have lost the argument.

      1. Dave "Scooterman" Kovar / Ron Thompson

        I do not live in Seminole, and accept the word of those that do. I did 20 minutes of research, and see that indeed the GreenLight / NTFT item was on their July 8th agenda. I did not see it on prior agendas, but I do not know the week to week council procedures in Seminole.

        To maintain my credibility, I apologize to all readers for my incorrect statements about Seminole’s agenda.

        The council did receive an overview of GreenLight/NTFT in Dec 2014, over six months previous to their vote; before the County Commission approved the ballot language and before some of the plan details were even worked out. You could make the case that their July “no” vote would have been more meaningful to be taken at that time, even if it was a vote to delay voting. Also receiving an information update prior to July 8th vote would have been appropriate.

        I was wrong about the Seminole agenda, but I still stand by my comments regarding there being no conflict of interest by the Tarpon Springs mayor.

  2. Paul John Hittos

    Dave “Scooterman” Kovar – I am positively opposed to GreenLightPinellas, but I’ll tell you this – I am impressed by how well you articulate your argument in re: to the Archie-conflict-of-interest issue. But, in re: to YOUR Norm Roche issue – you couldn’t be further from the truth. Norm is the only C. C. who actually has his finger on the pulse of the community. I know it must be terribly frustrating to have some one like Norm who thinks policy out in a logical, responsible & fiscally prudent manner before making a decision on it. It’s TRUE public servants like Norm that might actually help to thwart immature, illogical, and, irresponsible proposals like Greenlight.

    1. Dave "Scooterman" Kovar / Ron Thompson

      No … I completely understand Commissioner Roche’s intent and support for his actions. He and I disagree on his various issue positions, but that is what is called democracy. I’m trying to point out to the author here that you can’t be a victim when you victimize others; you can’t call others “crooked”, if your side is doing the same thing. If the only difference is “We like Mr A but We don’t like Mr B”, then admit that, but say your post is just your opinion dressed up as fact.

      Like I say, I disagree with Commissioner Roche, but respect his right, no actually his RESPONSIBILITY, to vote his conscience and represent his understanding of the voters he meets everyday. But I equally respect Mayor Archie in the same sense, having never heard of him prior to the meeting I attended up in Tarpon last week.

  3. Tom Rask

    Editors Note: This comment refers to the lack of notice by the City of Tarpons Springs prior to their motion to endorse Greenlight Pinellas:
    ——————–
    The city council meeting itself was a Sunshine Law violation because the meeting notice was not posted far enough in advance. The meeting notice was posted in City Hall the morning of the meeting, and I have that in writing from the City. The law is clear: no official business can be conducted at a meeting that violates the Sunshine Law.
    I have written to the City Manager and City Attorney, but not heard back. The City attorney is an arrogant combataive lady named Ms. Kardash. She can go ahead and ignore me, but then I will sue.
    Is the good old bow network alive and well in Pinellas County? Stay tuned for more details by liking my Facebook page.

    Tom Rask
    Pinellas County resident, business owner and
    Candidate for County Commission ヨ District 6
    Website: http://www.vote4rask.com
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/vote4rask

    1. Dave "Scooterman" Kovar / Ron Thompson

      Tom, That is a valid claim, if it proves true. Unlike the conflict of interest, posting regulations of public meetings have very specific details on amount of time and location for posting. However, I personally have no idea about the rules in Tarpon, the practices, or the events on the night in question.

      However, it seems to be quite a stretch to attribute it to anything about GreenLight, since there were about 20 other items on the agenda, including a skit about the founding of the city, and honoring various residents. Sometimes the NTFT people see conspiracies under every rock, which is ok, but it costs your credibility.

      If you say that did not follow procedure, you look smart. If you say “its because of GreenLight”, you look like a looney-toon. Just trying to help you guys maintain your credibility, yet you call me “a troll” for what is very good advice.

      Dave “Scooterman” Kovar
      Not a candidate, Not an employee, Not a paid spokesman

  4. Norm Roche

    Mr. Kover, I certainly respect your opinion, and your right to it as protected by our Constitution; thank God.

    I would however encourage you to read the Constitution and do a little research on this great nation’s form of “Representative Government”.

    Rest assured, sir, that if you feel you’re in the minority on a position and want your voice heard…you can count on this Commissioner to bring it to the table for discussion. It’s my job to represent “all” Pinellas residents, to include those with perceived-to-be minority positions, and even those I may not agree with.

    I’ll pass on the rhetoric, and I’ll stand by the public record that will show my votes to be consistant with the majority of Pinellas County residents and taxpayers.

    My best regards to you and yours

    1. Dave "Scooterman" Kovar / Ron Thompson

      Not necessary. I totally respect your actions (though I support the opposing viewpoint) as part of my love of country. I was holding you up as an example to prove the notion of “conflict of interest” as stated here to be inappropriate. Voting your conscience, voting for your constituency, voting the same on two interlocking boards (or even voting the opposite because of wording or position) is simply not a “conflict of interest”.

      Each elected representative must be trusted by the voters until they are up for reelection. The beauty of America is the “boss” (voters) get to rehire or fire the employee (representative) every few years. Only gross misconduct (theft, corruptions, abuse of power) merits removal before that time. I absolutely respect your actions, but was ridiculing the author’s position taken against Mayor Archie. Now its time to see what the voters think.

      1. Norm Roche

        Fair enough Mr. Thompson. But I would submit that voters must trust thier representatives even more during the election or re-election season. The “silly season” tends to make some candidates say whatever their consultants tell them to say in order to get elected. I personally place a high value on honesty, integrity, conviction, and thier record for honoring thier pledge to voters.

        In 2010 I pledged that although I am not the most politically correct person you may meet, may very well stick my foot in my mouth from time to time, and don’t expect you will agree with my every vote/position…I will tell you the truth, seek a reasonable compromise, and when compromise can’t be found will stand firm on my convictions. I pledged that I would apply a trust but verify approach to the people’s business, challenge the status quo, do my homework, do my due diligence, and ask the tough questions even if it makes some uncomfortable.

        I proud to state that the public record will show that I have indeed honored my pledge. As for conflicts of interest, I believe that I’m the only Commissioner to actually abstain from a vote in recent years. And to be sure, I followed the law in doing so. I stated my conflict during the meeting, abstained for the vote, and filed the appropriate form into the public record. The conflict I had was simply a matter of the integrity of the process versus the integrity of my vote with respect to awarding a government contract. Something wasn’t right, no one could answer my questions, and I did not want to validate what I believed to be a tainted process with a yes or no vote. That’s about all I can share about it because the award is being protested and I believe it will soon come back to bite us in the hind end.

  5. Allen Plunkett

    As a former professor of college ethics class, I feel it necessary to respond to the ethics issue that has befallen on our mayor, David Archie. Someone above has mentioned that a ‘ conflict ‘ of interest could be described as one who votes should not have a fiduciary interest in his or her decision. Mayor Archie certainly does not fit this characterization. As my representative as mayor and member of the MPO I applaud his decision to vote on this issue as a measure of good faith for the citizens of Tarpon. Do I support the Green Light issue? I don’t know yet, but at least he has put it on the table for me to study before I go off and vote yea/nay. If it benefits the citizens of Tarpon Springs I would endorse Mr. Archie’s position and if it doesn’t then I would vote to defeat it regardless of what it will do for the cities of other municipalities in Pinellas, Mr. Archie’s decision not withstanding. That is the ethical thing to do.

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