Newly elected Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry might run into state law in trying to fulfill his campaign promise not to vote on any issue relating to Pine Avenue Restoration LLC.
Prior to his election, Aubry, an architect, had performed work for PAR and was paid for his services.
Aubry said he would recuse himself from voting on a PAR issue if one comes to the commission, but would seek legal advice from city attorney Jim Dye at the public meeting about his duty as an elected official to cast a vote when required by statute.
Florida laws appear to require that Aubry cast a vote on some matters related to PAR, and does not allow voluntary recusal.
Florida statute 286.012 on the voting requirements of elected officials at meetings of governmental bodies states that “no member” may abstain from voting on a matter unless there “is, or appears to be, a possible conflict of interest” under other state laws requiring financial disclosure.
If that’s the case, the voting member “shall comply with the disclosure requirements” and recusal is in order.
But if an official has already been paid for work on a project, and stands to gain nothing in the future by any decision he or she might make on the issue regarding a former employer, they have to cast a vote, according to the statute.
The statute would appear to require that Aubry refrain from any future work for PAR because he is likely to vote on future PAR projects.
The Aubry-PAR situation is similar to that of Commissioner Chuck Webb in 2009, when the commission had to vote on a matter involving the Fiske marina property at the end of South Bay Boulevard.
Prior to the vote, Webb disclosed that before his election as a commissioner in 2008, he was the attorney for the Fiskes against the city’s code enforcement board. He said he was paid for his legal work and resigned as the Fiskes’ legal counsel upon his election.
Webb said then that he would recuse himself from voting, but Dye said that if (Webb) no longer had any financial interest with the Fiskes or represented the Fiskes, he had to cast a vote.
Webb voted to approve a measure that grandfathered the Fiske property some rights as a non-conforming marina use. The vote was unanimous.
Aubry was clear that he would seek legal counsel prior to any vote regarding PAR.
“When any issue involving PAR comes before the commission, I will ask Dye for legal advice and disclose any involvement I had with that project,” he said.
“I will follow Dye’s advice on whether to vote or recuse myself,” he added.
Aubry’s wife Janet has an interior design business and also has been paid for work on some completed PAR projects. She said she would not do any further work on PAR projects that come before the commission with her husband sitting as a commissioner.
A situation similar already has occurred in Anna Maria.
Commissioner Dale Woodland owns a pool-cleaning business and has done work for PAR at its properties. His company also has performed work for Mike and Lizzie Vann Thrasher, developers of the Anna Maria Historic Green Village on Pine Avenue.