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Hernando County official apologizes for pressuring colleagues over homeless shelter

BROOKSVILLE — Ron Caldi said he was only trying to keep his neighborhood safe, but his passion got in the way of his judgment.

For that, he apologized Monday to his fellow members of the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commission.

The former assistant county engineer said that from this point on, "I will conduct myself in a professional and businesslike manner."

Caldi had argued strongly against the planned expansion of Jericho Road Ministries homeless shelter last month when it came before the Planning and Zoning Commission. Jericho wanted to convert the existing women's shelter from six beds to a 48-bed men's shelter including men with substance abuse and criminal histories.

During that discussion, Caldi never mentioned he lived nearby.

The County Commission decided to grant an immediate appeal and that's when it got more complicated. Caldi's wife, Kate, ended up leading the opposition to the expansion at the County Commission meeting. And Caldi himself tried to contact individual commissioners to express his concern about the planned expansion.

The commission ultimately approved the expansion.

During that meeting, County Commissioner Jeff Stabins told Land Services director Ron Pianta that he should inform his planning commissioners that they should not be attempting to have what is known as "ex-parte communications" with the commissioners.

Land use decisions are quasi-judicial and a public board can make a decision based only on the evidence heard during the public meeting.

That rule applies to both the planning commission and the County Commission.

Jeff Kirk, assistant county attorney, said that a planning commissioner should not be engaging county commissioners in conversation about pending applications.

Pianta added that one of the pitfalls of a planning commissioner arguing his personal views on an application was that the planning commission had already acted as a board to decide on a recommendation and that decision should be respected by all.

By arguing a different point, "you are potentially undermining the process," Pianta said.

Hernando County official apologizes for pressuring colleagues over homeless shelter 12/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, December 13, 2010 10:04pm]
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