Newly minted candidate and Orange County Planning and Zoning Chair (District 1) Betsy VanderLey is off to a rough start.
By Jacob Engels
Let me start by saying that I like Betsy VanderLey, and worked with her during my time as Chairman of the Florida Federation of TeenAge Republicans when she was managing former State Representative Kurt Kelly’s failed campaign for congress against current U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster.
That being said…I am extremely disappointed in what I have heard regarding her recent campaign kick-off and fundraising strategy reception. VanderLey, a longtime political hand and director of business development for DRMP, Inc., is a well-known acolyte of outgoing District 1 Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd. Both live in Oakland, a small town outside of Winter Garden.
VanderLey managed Boyd’s previous campaigns for county commission, and he has honored her on the record during official county business in front of the county commission.
Her campaign kick-off, was hosted at the offices of the RC Stevens Construction Company, which previously employed VanderLey…no big deal in it of itself. However, the attendees of the campaign fundraiser and kick-off is what had me doing a double take.
According to a source, whom I trust immensely, several individuals with business before the Planning and Zoning Board that VanderLey chairs were actively involved in the planning and execution of the event. A fellow Planning and Zoning Board member was also in attendance, a particularly frightening revelation…as members of the board are forbidden to discuss county business off the record and away from the public. It’s not like Sunshine Law violations have been a subject of the state attorney lately…
This campaign finance strategy meeting for VanderLey was chaired by Scott Boyd, President of Boyd Development Corporation, the largest land holder and developer in Horizon West. Joe Tramell of Tramell Webb Partners and Tim Keating of RC Stevens also actively organized this VanderLey campaign strategy meeting. Jose Cantero, a fellow board member with VanderLey on the Orange County Planning and Zoning Commission was also there.
Cantero is the legal counsel for Cantero Holdings, LLC, which owns land in Horizon West. Horizon West is also closely associated with outgoing Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd – VanderLey’s former client.
The Horizon West project has multiple items that already have or will appear before the Planning and Zoning Board, which VanderLey leads. In a recent interview with the West Orange Times and at several political events, VanderLey has prominently featured Horizon West in her stump speech. Coincidence…could be, but probably not.
It’s certainly a potential conflict of interest to have people with business before the board attending and helping to plan your campaign kick-off and fundraising strategy reception. To have them writing checks one day, and then the next asking the county for approvals on ordinances and variances?
And that does not even address the fact that placing all these people in the same room potentially facilitated a conversation about projects currently being reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board…which is a Sunshine Law violation, no doubt.
Now, I may be wrong. Maybe all of these people…including VanderLey, managed to spend the whole duration of the event focusing specifically on her campaign. But the simple fact that these people were in involved in planning, executing and urging of others to donate to VanderLey’s campaign is questionable and a brazen move that begs an investigation into whether or not they discussed county business off the record at a private event.
For a lady who has run numerous political campaigns, and sat on multiple public boards and committees, this is pretty sloppy. But I guess VanderLey feels comfortable in her chances of getting elected.
She has her political rabbi Commissioner Scott Boyd helping her fundraise and make connections, and in return I’m told he has retained her as his campaign manager for his campaign for Orange County Property Appraiser – probably off the books.
Are the citizens of District 1 ready to elect and partake in the anointing of an outgoing commissioner’s hand-picked replacement? A candidate who has potentially overseen and effectively organized a situation where a Sunshine Law violation could have occurred?
I guess we will just have to wait and see if anyone else will stand up to the status quo in West Orange County.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org