GLADES COUNTY—Glades County Commissioner Donna Storter Long reports that her negotiated response to the Commission on Ethics Advocate has been accepted for settlement of the complaint filed against her last September.
The settlement is expected to be on the agenda for the July 26 meeting of the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Commissioner Storter Long admits she made a mistake when she failed to abstain from voting on a matter that indirectly involved the firm her son works for.
On Sept. 12, 2013 the commissioner was accused of an ethics violation after she ranked and voted to negotiate with an architect firm for the design of Glades County’s Emergency Operations Center building. The architect firm she ranked as number one “may have been negotiating a contract with an engineering firm at which my son is an employee and is president,” she explained.
At the time, she stated, she did not fully understand the language of Florida Statutes 112.3143 (3)(a), “No county, municipal, or other local public officer shall vote in an official capacity upon any measure which would inure to his or her special private gain or loss; which he or she knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of any principal by whom he or she is retained or to the parent organization or subsidiary of a corporate principal by which he or she is retained, other than an agency as defined in s. 112.312(2); or which he or she knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of a relative or business associate of the public officer. Such public officer shall, prior to the vote being taken, publicly state to the assembly the nature of the officer’s interest in the matter from which he or she is abstaining from voting and, within 15 days after the vote occurs, disclose the nature of his or her interest as a public record in a memorandum filed with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting, who shall incorporate the memorandum in the minutes.”
“I have only a high school diploma so my vocabulary at that time did not include the word ‘inure,’ and I did not know my action would ‘inure’ to the benefit of my son. I was ranking/voting an architect, not any engineering firm,” she explained.
“When I was informed on Sept. 20 that I should have declared a conflict of interest, I contacted County Attorney Richard Pringle and he approved my suggestion that I rescind my vote. I also sent an email to my constituents on Sept. 21, 2012 admitting that I had ignorantly made a mistake when I ranked and voted. At the next commissioners’ meeting which was Sept. 24, 2012, I publicly admitted my mistake and moved to rescind my prior rank and vote, and the Board of County Commissioners accepted and approved my rescission,” she continued.
“My ignorance does not negate the fact that I had a voting conflict,” she stated.
As part of the investigation conducted by the Florida Commission on Ethics, Commissioner Storter Long provided copies of documents showing that she had abstained from voting every time her son’s company made presentations before the commission.
“This matter has been very humiliating for me, but also very educational. I don’t consider myself more ‘ethical’ thanI was before this matter, because I always have and will adhere to strong moral values and ethics; however, I certainly am more ethically aware of possibilities that can or may present conflicts in my public actions in local government,” she added.