Details of a second instance where Betsy VanderLey violated Sunshine Laws emerge, along with an ethics complaint filed with the state department of ethics.
By Jacob Engels
A few weeks ago, we reported on a potential violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law by Betsy VanderLey, the Chair of the Orange Planning and Zoning Commission (District 1) and current candidate for Orange County Commission in District 1 – who is vying for the seat held by Scott Boyd, who is now running for Orange County Property Appraiser.
Now, Orange County resident Nicole Varma Thompson has filed a complaint with the state department of ethics, based on the information detailed in our first report. Thompson filed the complaint on behalf of the Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment (FIRE), a civic engagement and leadership development non-profit that works on government accountability. The group held a free open government training in late February, giving local citizens the tools to “keep their government accountable”. A spokeperson said the training usuailly costs up to $50, but they decided to provide the service gratis – hoping to help citizens hold public officials accountable.
You can see the complaint below.
WFTV reported the ethics complaint and the potnential sunshine law violations during their Tuesday night broadcast.
The East Orlando Post has also learned that at a committee meeting at the West Orange Chamber of Commerce (WOCC), VanderLey and another Planning and Zoning Board Member violated Sunshine Laws yet again. The WOCC’s Economic and Government Affairs Committee (EGAC) held their monthly meeting on the morning of January 23rd of 2015, where VanderLey was chairing her first EGAC meeting since being appointed to the position.
VanderLey allowed Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) Board member Pam Gould to give EGAC members an update on the controversial West Orange Relief High School. Discussions then ensued on Orange County District 1 land use matters regarding the two sites being considered for the relief high school in Horizon West. It may not seem odd for an update like this to be given and 99% of the time that would be the case, but this time was different.
In addition to VanderLey, fellow Orange County Planning and Zoning Board member Jose Cantero, whose company owns land in Horizon West was also in attendance – meaning that both VanderLey and Cantero were knowingly present for a discussion on an Orange County District 1 land use matter, that has and will appear before the Planning and Zoning Board, away from the public eye – a clear violation of sunshine laws that forbid board members from discussing these matters in private.
Several sources familiar with the meeting confirmed that this update did in fact happen, telling us that the WOCC keeps meetings minutes that document what was discussed and who was there.
When we called WOCC President Stina D’Uva, she refused to comment or provide the meeting minutes.
To add insult to injury, Ms. VanderLey did not even follow the resign to run rules for Orange County Planning and Zoning board members. According to the Orange County Ordinance –
Sec. 30-34. – Planning and zoning commission—Establishment, composition, etc. … (c) “Resign to run” rule; removal from office. (1) On or before the date that a member of the planning and zoning commission either appoints a campaign treasurer or designates a primary campaign depository as required by F.S. § 106.021 or any successor legislation, regardless of the office for which the member intends to run, such member shall submit his or her written resignation to the county chairman, and such resignation shall be irrevocable and shall take effect upon appointment of a successor or sixty (60) days after submission of the resignation to the county chairman, whichever occurs sooner.
VanderLey submitted her resignation from the Orange County Planning and Zoning Board last Friday (February 27th)…nearly a month after forming a campaign, a direct violation of the law. Here is a copy of VanderLey’s resignation letter to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs below.
Interesting to note her resignation occurred just two days after the East Orlando Post broke the story of the first Sunshine Law violation at her campaign finance strategy meeting.
It’s time for the state attorney to investigate Betsy VanderLey for multiple violations of sunshine law.
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