OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Arrington officially resigned as chair of the MetroPlan transportation board Wednesday morning amid harsh criticism from other board members over ethics concerns related to his new job.
Last month, staffers realized Arrington had accepted employment with Quest Corporation, a company that had just won a $110,000 planning contract from MetroPlan. As a safeguard, board member Fred Brummer wanted the entire Quest contract thrown out.
"The situation here may not have been anything wrong, but it sure looks that way," said Brummer, who is also an Orange County commissioner.
The basic concern was that Arrington is now being paid by Quest for his day job, while MetroPlan will pay Quest for its consulting work.
On Wednesday, officials confirmed Arrington was in talks for employment with Quest at the very same time that his MetroPlan board voted on the contract. And yet, neither Arrington nor Quest mentioned it.
"It was a definite disappointment. I mean, companies have to be open and above-board if they're involved, if they're trying to hire an elected official to do their lobbying, they need to upfront about it," said Brummer.
Despite those concerns, the remaining MetroPlan board voted 15-3 to go ahead with the Quest contract "as is."
During discussion, other members said they were satisfied that Quest will do the best work and that Arrington will not be involved.
MetroPlan's attorney said no laws were broken by Arrington. Quest told WFTV it saw no conflict, since it had not decided on hiring Arrington at the time of his vote on this contract.
But Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, also a board member, led a push to install new ethics guidelines by the board's next meeting.
"Everybody's asking the question, and we need to guard against that destruction of public trust. And we can do it simply," said Jacobs.
Jacobs believes elected officials should have to disclose whether they've had any relationship with a company over the past two years, before voting on a contract that would give that company business.
The rule is similar to what's already in place in Orange County.