SARASOTA - In a rare move, Sarasota County Commissioners do not re-appoint one of their own planning board members. It has some local neighborhood and government watchdog groups crying foul, saying the commission is now being packed with those who have ties to developers.
Local lawyer and president of Control Growth Now, Dan Lobeck, isn't pulling any punches. "We now have a good old boy network. The developers shoot the bullets and the politicians dance."
His latest example came this week when Marianne Reilly, who is considered a moderate on the planning commission, was not picked. "For decades they have almost always re-appointed a planning commissioner that wants to serve."
After eight years on the volunteer job, Reilly says she was shocked. "I was surprised and frankly blindsided when I was not re-appointed."
She now says there seems to be a pattern. "I have noticed over the last two years the appointing to the Planning Commission seemed to have more of a business interest in the development end of the community."
Another planning commissioner was termed out. Appointed is Sarasota builder Philip Kellogg and Nokomis real estate agent John Ask, who's name can be found on the property of major development sites.
"Now they have passed over her for two people who make their living in the development industry," says Lobeck.
He says seven of the nine planning commissioners have ties to development. He says Reilly didn't fit the mold, voting against a recent 1,800 home development.
Reilly says she's concerned with the current direction. "If they shut down some very important discussions regarding neighborhood compatibility and concurrency and that can have some very negative effects on how we move forward as a community."
Three commissioners did not support Reilly's re-appointment. Commissioner Nora Patterson tells ABC 7 she did not want to be a part of this story. Commissioner Charles Hines said he didn't want to legitimatize the feelings of just a few. Board Chairwoman Carolyn Mason saying everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Lobeck says he's followed local government for a long time. "What I am seeing right now I have never seen in my 30 years of observing the county commission. They seem so reliant upon the developers and the developers seem to be telling them what to do."
All three commissioners we talked suggested Reilly re-apply for the next open seat. Something she says she will not be doing.