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Ethics panel says Largo commissioner did nothing wrong

Largo City Commissioner Rodney Woods was not found to have acted in self-interest in planning the King memorial.

Largo City Commissioner Rodney Woods was not found to have acted in self-interest in planning the King memorial.

The Florida Commission on Ethics has dismissed a complaint filed against Commissioner Rodney Woods by one of his biggest critics.

Curtis Holmes filed the complaint in January, claiming Woods misused his office because he tried to raise money for a memorial to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while framing it as a city project.

Holmes said the project was a private venture with no participation from the city whatsoever.

But in a report filed Wednesday, the ethics commission said Holmes' complaint was legally insufficient because it was clear the city had an interest in the project. The report also said materials Holmes submitted along with his complaint contradict his allegations.

"I always knew this was a frivolous charge that Curtis Holmes was making," Woods said. "What I'm working on is much bigger than me and the city of Largo."

Last year, the city earmarked $15,000 in public funds to help pay for the project.

The complaint said Woods violated the provisions in the Florida Statutes that say no public officer "shall corruptly use" his position to secure a special privilege or benefit for himself or others.

But the commission met Feb. 29 and found nothing in the complaint suggesting Woods or anyone would obtain any personal benefit as a result of Woods' efforts.

"To the contrary, the complaint itself indicates that the creation of the memorial was part of the platform on which the respondent was elected," the commission said in a report signed by ethics commission chair Albert P. Massey III.

Furthermore, the report stated that the violation also requires a corrupt intent.

"While the complaint contends that memorial is a strictly private affair, minutes of City Commission meetings and workshops indicate otherwise," the report said.

The ethics commission cited minutes from an October 2007 city work session that said it was the consensus of the City Commission to pursue a memorial in Largo Central Park using the design prepared by staff.

The ethics commission also found that materials accompanying Holmes' complaint said Commissioner Andy Guyette had encouraged contributions and the city manager had said the city would build the memorial if fundraising was successful.

The ethics commission closed its report saying, "It is clear that the city has an interest in the project and has in fact retained a degree of control over it."

Holmes ran unsuccessfully for City Commission last year and clashed repeatedly with Woods before filing the complaint. He did not return a call for comment Friday.

Ethics panel says Largo commissioner did nothing wrong 03/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:30am]
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