Village Attorney Ligon Bundy said a law went into effect Jan. 1 regulating when board members can vote at quasi-judicial hearings. The law stipulates several situations in which members should be recused.Union Power officials moved to have new Village Council member Rick Croffut recused because he wrote a letter to the Union Observer in September about the substation. At the time, Croffut was a council candidate.
The new law requires a board member to be recused if he or she has a fixed opinion about the issue and cannot listen impartially to evidence at the hearing.
In the letter, Croffut questioned why the Wesley Chapel planning board didn’t ask Union Power to present more than one possible site for the substation.
Croffut argued on Monday that since the November election, he has attended a workshop about quasi-judicial hearings and, based on what he learned there, felt he did not have to recuse himself.
“If I did not think I could sit up here tonight and give an unbiased opinion, I would recuse myself,” he said.
The council voted 2-1 to allow Croffut to participate. Council member Jim Mullis cast the dissenting vote.
Mullis’ participation also was questioned because the owners of the property Union Power wants to buy for the substation are his first cousins.
The new law stipulates that a close familial business relationship could be a reason for a board member to be recused.
Mullis said he has had three conversations with his cousins about how the hearing would proceed, but he did not know the details of their deal with Union Power.
When Bill Sturges, an attorney representing residents of Stonegate subdivision, asked Mullis if he thought his cousins would like to get $630,000, the price they have agreed to sell the land for, he replied, “I don’t have any idea.
“Let’s cut to the chase” Mullis said. “I can be impartial.”
The council voted unanimously to allow Mullis to take part in the hearing.
Title: 2 COUNCIL MEMBERS’ INVOLVEMENT EXAMINED – PARTICIPATION BY CROFFUT AND MULLIS IN PUBLIC HEARING IS QUESTIONED
Author: MARTY MINCHIN, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, MARTY MINCHIN
Date: January 12, 2006