Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole denies he violated Florida’s Sunshine Law at a recent Downtown Milton Redevelopment Advisory Board meeting.
“I found out it isn’t a violation, so I’m not going to worry about it,” he said.
It appears likely that someone else with knowledge of what happened at the Jan. 15 meeting has called for an investigation.
Greg Marcille, chief assistant state attorney for the First Judicial Circuit, confirmed he has been contacted by someone alleging a Sunshine Law violation in the county.
“This person said they would provide us with additional information. We have not received it at this time,” Marcille said Wednesday.
He said the original contact was made late last week. He declined to reveal who made contact or which official was named as possibly violating the law.
Cole, though, confirms that Jim Messick, another member of the Redevelopment Advisory Board, “decided to throw me under the bus” by saying at the public meeting that he had seen two members speaking about an issue before the board.
It is a violation of the Sunshine Law for two members of a public board to speak outside of a called meeting about matters that could come before the board.
Cole said another member of the board, who is yet to be identified, approached him before the meeting and asked if he intended to nominate a particular person for a vacant board seat.
Cole said he answered yes.
“She didn’t ask me to, she asked me if I was,” Cole said. “She asked a question and I responded yes or no.”
The nominee being discussed has been identified as Kim McCarthy.
Cole said when Messick spoke of seeing a possible Sunshine Law violation “I stepped up to the plate immediately” and confirmed what had happened.
He said he later spoke to the Santa Rosa County attorney and had been assured he did nothing illegal.
“It’s a whole lot of nothing,” he said.
Cole said he would welcome a State Attorney’s office investigation.
“I welcome them or the Ethics Commission to come look at it,” he said. “Let’s get it reviewed and be done with it.”
This isn’t the first time the veteran commissioner has been investigated for alleged Sunshine Law violations.
County resident Jerry Couey filed a complaint against Cole after uncovering a series of emails from May 2006 between Cole and former commissioner Gordon Goodin.
The emails involved a discussion about Escambia County’s decision to withdraw its members from the Regional Transportation Authority.
A State Attorney’s office report from October 2009 called the email exchange between Goodin and Cole “troubling” but said it did “not rise to the level of a violation of the Sunshine Law.”