Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New Port Richey deputy mayor to recuse himself from ARI votes

NEW PORT RICHEY — Much to the dismay of Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe, state ethics officials have ruled that he should recuse himself from voting on zoning changes for Advanced Research Institute.

Marlowe owns an Internet service company that provides email services to numerous clients, including ARI, a clinical drug trial company that has been operating for months without the proper land use.

ARI pays Marlowe's firm about $50 a month for computer services — a tiny fraction of his client base. So he was surprised that the Florida Commission on Ethics considered ARI a client that could create a conflict of interest for him.

Marlowe said he would follow the commission's ruling, but worried that such a strict interpretation could prevent a public official from doing business with anyone.

"It puts good government on its head," he said. "It's to the point of being absurd."

The ruling, which the City Council learned about Tuesday evening, is the latest wrinkle in a case that has already sidelined council member Judy DeBella Thomas, who is the marketing and enrollment liaison for ARI.

The controversy over the business began in May, when city code enforcement cited ARI owner Susan Randall for operating at 6716 Congress St. without the proper zoning. The property — which used to hold the Harbinger House for troubled youths — is zoned for residential use, while the city found Randall needs a medical office designation.

City staff has been working with ARI's attorney to find a solution. The city has proposed amendments to help bring the business into compliance. City Council could vote on the matter as early as next month.

But the decision will rest with just three members: Mayor Bob Consalvo and council members Bill Phillips and Bob Langford.

Marlowe had asked the city attorney to seek the ethics commission's advice, since he does business with ARI.

An attorney for the commission, Betsy Daley, likened Marlowe's situation to a case in which commissioners found state law prohibited a member of a city board of adjustment from voting on variance petitions from persons who were clients of his engineering firm.

The same reasoning would apply to Marlowe because ARI, which stands to benefit from the zoning ordinance amendment, would be considered a customer or client of Marlowe's company, she wrote.

Marlowe said he will recuse himself from ARI votes, as will DeBella Thomas, who told the Times after the meeting she would continue to do so due to her employment there.

"I hope I don't have to stop going to my hairdresser, though," she said of the ethics ruling.

A hearing on ARI is scheduled today for the city's Land Development Review Board, according to Interim City Manager Susan Dillinger. After that, any recommendation made by the board would go before council for a vote.

New Port Richey deputy mayor to recuse himself from ARI votes 12/19/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 7:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. Ramadan having an economic impact on local charities, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Dodging the rain, a few families and customers gathered inside Petra Restaurant on Busch Boulevard. Around 8:30 p.m., the adham (or call to prayer) music begins, signaling Iftar, the end of the daily fast. Customers grabbed a plate to dig into the feast.

    Baha Abdullah, 35, the owner of the Sultan Market makes kataif, a common dessert that is eaten during the month long celebration of Ramadan in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Senate GOP leaders face tough job in selling health-care bill to their members


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders on Thursday moved swiftly to begin selling their health-care measure to substantially rewrite the Affordable Care Act to their wary members as they seek to garner enough support to pass the bill in an expected vote next week.

    U.S. Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill's chief author, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has said "Obamacare is collapsing around us, and the American people are desperately searching for relief." [AP]
  5. Rick Scott eyes Patronis as CFO, but it may not help him in Panhandle

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's expected pick of Jimmy Patronis as the state's next Chief Financial Officer would be a solid addition to the Republican Party ticket but may not do much to smooth some rough waters developing in the Panhandle over schools, area Republicans said this week.

    Former state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, left, is being considered by Gov. Rick Scott for the state's chief financial officer. Patronis, seen with Scott in 2011, is considered one of the governor's chief loyalists.