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Candidate quits seat on board of chamber

Eric Seidel, candidate for council seat 3, has resigned from the Chamber of Commerce board of directors in response to questions about the potential for conflict of interest.

Seidel, 42, president of Oldsmar-based eAutoclaims, said he had expected he would need to resign from the board and from another leadership position with the chamber if he won the council seat March 14. However, several long-time residents had expressed concern about the chamber's involvement with the city, Seidel said. So he resigned last week and announced his decision Wednesday.

"I didn't envision it would be an issue during the elections," Seidel said.

"I tend to believe and feel strongly it's much more of a partnership than a conflict, but I want to be sensitive to those concerns."

Councilwoman Janice Miller, Seidel's opponent for seat 3, declined to comment on the topic Wednesday.

An example of a potential conflict of interest, Seidel said, would be the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce's business assistance program, which is partly funded by the city, requiring a vote by the council.

The city and the chamber have a close partnership, said chamber president Jerry Custin, but the only time the city and the chamber deal with a direct exchange of funding is with the business assistance program.

And although Custin said he will be sad to lose Seidel, who he said added a lot to the chamber's strategic planning, Custin can understand why Seidel resigned.

"Even if there's a perception in somebody's mind that something could happen, then I think it's a good idea to further the distance," Custin said.

Seidel said he spent 10 to 15 hours a week on chamber-related work. For the past 2 1/2 years, Seidel has served as the chairman of the chamber's trustee council, composed of senior executives from companies belonging to the organization.

His focus now, he said, will be on meeting with homeowners' associations, having breakfast meetings with individual voters and other campaigning work.

"I'm putting 100 percent of my effort right now in my campaign."

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