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Pasco fills county planning board vacancy after Kevin Ryman resignation

Geologist Chris Poole of Land O’ Lakes is chosen from among 14 applicants.

DADE CITY — Pasco County picked Chris Poole, a geologist and founder of a geo-environmental consulting firm, to join the Pasco Planning Commission.

Poole, of Land O’ Lakes, fills the vacancy created by the September resignation of Kevin Ryman of Zephyrhills, who departed the board at the request of then-Pasco Commission Chairman Ron Oakley. Ryman left the office hours after the Tampa Bay Times published a story detailing a Pasco County Sheriff’s Office investigation of Ryman’s affair with the Pasco School District’s purchasing director and an allegation of bid-rigging on a $1.5 million school roofing job.

A detective’s investigative report said there was enough evidence to arrest Ryman, but the Statewide Prosecutor’s Office declined to file charges, citing the simultaneous civil lawsuits facing Ryman. The suits are from Ryman’s former business partners, one of whom surfaced the bid-rigging allegation last year. The Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney’s Office also said it would not charge former school purchasing director Nicole Westmoreland. She resigned after the Sheriff’s Office completed its 8-month investigation.

Westmoreland denied wrongdoing. Ryman, in his resignation letter to Oakley, said he was stepping down “due to unfounded accusations.’’

Without public comment, county commissioners approved Poole’s appointment Tuesday morning during their meeting in Dade City. Poole was picked from a field of 14 applicants that included: former Planning Commission member Calvin Branche; civic activist Kelly Ann Miller, who is vice chairman of the Pasco County Construction Board; and Kelly Smith of Wesley Chapel, who ran unsuccessfully for seats on the county commission and state Legislature.

The county restructured the seven-member Planning Commission a year ago to replace both the former 10-member Planning Commission and the county’s Development Review Committee of top county administrators.

The volunteer Planning Commission meets twice monthly to make non-binding recommendations to the elected county commissioners on zoning and land-use issues, but has the authority to issue rulings on requests for variances and so-called special exceptions.

Poole, in an interview before his appointment, said he hoped to guide responsible growth that would be both pragmatic and protective of the environment.

Poole founded PACSCON GeoEnvironmental Inc. in 2016. His firm specializes as a management consultant on “environmentally impaired property, including industrial, commercial and brownfield sites,’’ according to his profile on Linkedin.com.

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