Commissioners clash over alleged conflict of interest

Four members on the Indian River County Commission agreed the fifth member, Tim Zorc, has the appearance of a conflict of interest, if not an actual conflict, by asking the county to waive a business owner’s impact fees.

Zorc, who owns Terra Southern, LLC, placed an item on the Nov. 13 agenda requesting $8,000 in impact fees be waived for Kim Gilbert, owner of Oxford Academy Preschool at 1730 24th St.

Terra Southern is a private consulting business Zorc runs “to help establish credits and/or recovery of impact fees,” as stated on his business website.

Chairman Peter O’Bryan said, “I may be sympathetic to Ms. Gilbert, but at the same time I’m having some major heartburn with you bringing this forward.”

“This shrieks of conflict of interest,” he said. “I don’t know if Ms. Gilbert is a client or not, and it doesn’t matter, it borders on unethical action to have a consulting business like this that talks about government entitlements and impact fees, while you’re a sitting county commissioner.”

Zorc said he’s run the business since 1995, “but I don’t charge [for consulting] in the county,” only elsewhere in the state. “I happen to be good at this,” he said, claiming it’s an area of expertise he brings to the board, similar to Commissioner Joe Flescher’s law enforcement experience.

“None of us have private consulting gigs,” O’Bryan said. “And to me that’s where the conflict is. It’s a decision you have to make before running for office:  I’m either going to continue doing this or I’m going to step down from it because there could be a perceived conflict of interest.”

Commissioner Bob Solari said Zorc should have brought the potential conflict of interest to the county attorney before putting it on the agenda to get a determination.

He suggested the county attorney examine Zorc’s possible conflict of interest, bringing an opinion back to the board. He also suggested Community Development Director Stan Boling investigate Gilbert’s impact fee issues and bring an opinion back to the board.

The other board members agreed with Solari’s suggestions.  Attorney Dylan Reingold and Boling will bring information back at the Dec. 11 meeting.

“You’ve really created a perception of a falsehood that I’m personally offended by,” Zorc said to O’Bryan. “But that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it.”

 

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