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E-mails between TIA's Louis Miller and his wife, a Tampa development official, examined

TAMPA — Mayor Pam Iorio has asked the city attorney to look into e-mails that former Tampa International Airport executive director Louis Miller sent to a home account he shares with his wife, who is a top city development official.

Iorio said the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority's general counsel, Gigi Rechel, brought to her attention four e-mails involving zoning issues.

Cyndy Miller, Louis Miller's wife, is director of the city's Growth Management and Development Department, which oversees zoning matters.

"I've looked at the four e-mails, and I don't see anything in there that raises a concern," Iorio said Tuesday. Nonetheless, to be sure there was no impropriety, she asked City Attorney Chip Fletcher to review them.

He said his review should be completed within a few days.

Fletcher agreed with Iorio that, on their face, there was nothing inappropriate about the e-mails.

Two, sent in May and September 2006, consist of correspondence between the airport staff, city staff and a land-use attorney regarding height restrictions on a proposed downtown building.

One, sent in June 2006, is an e-mail from an Aviation Authority staff member summarizing a meeting she had with the city zoning staff.

And the fourth, sent in June 2009, is an e-mail between Aviation Authority staff members about a request the McKibbon Hotel Group made to the city to convert office space into medical office space.

"Nothing jumps out," Fletcher said. "The airport has a commenting role on land-use decisions around the airport. So the fact that there was communication between city and airport staff is not problematic. It's appropriate."

The question, he said, is whether Cyndy Miller took any improper action following the e-mails.

"I have nothing at this point to indicate that's the case," Fletcher said. "My experience with Cyndy has been that she is meticulous about avoiding issues involving the airport.

Louis Miller said he regularly sent e-mails home from his office so that he could work after hours.

The e-mails were "just for me to see and read at home," he said. "I'd do it weekly."

Cyndy Miller said she doesn't recall reading the e-mails.

"They are projects that were being worked on, and I might have seen them since they were sent home," she said. "I could very well have opened them up."

But she said she never discussed them with her husband and wouldn't have taken any action as a result of reading them. The two sometimes talked about work, she said.

"As husband and wife, he could have very well said, my staff had a great meeting with your staff," she said.

But those conversations never changed what she did at work.

"It stays at home," she said. "I don't put pressure on my staff to give anything other than professional opinion."

Cyndy Miller said she has very little involvement in the nitty gritty of rezoning requests.

Her staff reviews them, analyzes their consistency with city codes and makes a recommendation to the Tampa City Council, which makes the final decision.

Cyndy Miller said she's usually aware when projects such as the McKibbon hotel request and the downtown condo tower are headed to the council, but she doesn't sign off on the analysis or testify before the council.

The airport, like any business or resident who lives near a parcel slated for development, is notified of rezoning requests and offered an opportunity to comment on projects.

Airport officials also need to approve heights of new buildings under construction in the city.

A St. Petersburg Times story detailed how Louis Miller and his deputy planning director decided who got permits for new buildings, cranes and other structures that exceed federal height limits around the county's four airports, even though state law calls for airports to have a board of adjustment rule on the projects.

In the wake of that report and other questions from Aviation Authority board members about his management of the airport, Louis Miller resigned Feb. 24 after nearly 14 years on the job, saying he wanted to pursue other career opportunities. He will work through April 23 advising interim executive director John Wheat.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

E-mails between TIA's Louis Miller and his wife, a Tampa development official, examined 03/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 11:54pm]
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