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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Villager files ethics complaint against Sumter County commissioner over recent vote

Villager files ethics complaint against Sumter County commissioner over recent vote

A complaint has been filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics against appointed Sumter County Commissioner Roberta Ulrich over her votes at a May 24 county meeting.

The complaint, filed by Villager Gilbert Windsor, alleges that Ulrich, who is running for her office this year, committed a violation by voting on three measures related to a proposed distribution center along State Road 44 near the Florida Turnpike.

A land use plan amendment, zoning change and special use permit for the center were approved unanimously. They were requested by GOP political activist Carlos Beruff, whose associated companies donated $5,000 in April to Ulrich’s campaign.

Ulrich, who did not abstain from those votes, wrote Wednesday in an email that she had no conflict of interest.

“The first I learned of an assertion that a campaign donor was a petitioner seeking action from the commission was from a Villages-News.com article,” she wrote. “I have an obligation to vote unless I have a conflict of interest that requires me to abstain. I did not have a conflict of interest that required me to abstain and was therefore obliged to vote.”

Beruff, owner of Medallion Home Gulf Coast of Sarasota, was listed as the property owner on the land use amendment application for the distribution center.

In April, Medallion Home Gulf Coast and three other companies sharing the same address donated $5,000 to Ulrich’s campaign, about 58 percent of the $8,570 she raised that month. Other companies were B Squared Engineering, Land Experts Inc. and Trans United Development Corp.

All list a Sarasota address of 1651 Whitfield Ave., Suite 200, which is the same address Beruff listed on the land use amendment application.

Windsor, who also raised the conflict issue during the meeting’s public forum, said in his complaint that Ulrich did not file CE Form 8B, a form for public officials who are presented with a conflict of interest.

“Ulrich’s failure to make the required disclosure of her campaign’s donors before her votes was in direct conflict of the intent of Florida Statute 112,” Windsor’s complaint letter stated.

Ulrich raised $5,670 in May and her $1,000 donors were FMK Restaurant Group, Mike Scott Plumbing and Joseph M. McMahon of New York, who is retired.

Beruff, a major donor to former Gov. Rick Scott’s campaigns, was appointed by Scott in 2017 to head the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, on which Villages Vice President Gary Lester also served.

Two years ago, Beruff had his own run-in with the Florida Commission on Ethics. The commission found probable cause that he violated Florida statutes by failure to disclose financial interests when he was a member of the board that runs the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Beruff challenged that decision.



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