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Officials relucant to go on record about Commissioner's dual roles

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FLA   One day after one of the largest rally of it's kind in years in Sarasota County, protesters remain clear that Commissioner Christine Robinson shouldn't also be Executive Director of the Argus Foundation.

"It's illegal. You can't be a lobbyist as well as a public official at the same time. That's what she's doing, so we're saying step down from one or the other, you choose," said one of the rally organizers, Cathy Antunes.

But Commissioner Robinson says that's not going to happen.

"I don't have any plans to resign. What I do outside my commission work only helps my commission work," Robinson said.

And as for the major protest the day before...Robinson says she knows the people involved.

"They were against expanding spring training in Sarasota County, they were against our economic recovery. I disagree with their position and I respect their right to disagree with me,," she said.

Among those at the rally on Wednesday, the Mayor of North Port Rhonda DiFranco. But when asked Thursday why she drove 45 minutes to attend the anti-Robinson rally, the Mayor remained neutral.

"I was on a fact-searching mission more as a taxpayer and a voter of my own," Mayor Di Franco said.

Speaking of voters, the head of the Sarasota County Republican Party Joe Gruters who usually is quick to go on camera, refused to address this issue.

An internal memo by County attorney Stephen DeMarsh concluded Robinson's dual roles are not illegal according to the county charter--but we wanted to ask him if the dual roles are unethical. He wasn't available to talk to us on Wednesday, and he wasn't willing to talk to us on Thursday when we approached him in the parking lot. He closed his door without answering a question.

We asked County Administrator Thomas Harmer if he'd comment on Robinson's dual role--he said he wasn't prepared to and referred us to the communications department where we began and drove off. The communications spokesman refused an interview...referring us instead... to the county attorney.