Controversy arose after the Ocoee Planning and Zoning Committee held a meeting pertaining to the sale of 10 acres to school developers to build Renaissance Charter School at Crown Point.
The charter school board was interested originally in developing at another location near A.D. Mims Road. However, because of voiced opposition citing concerns of traffic congestions, the city decided not to place it there. The school then reached out to Planning and Zoning Commissioner Milton West, displaying interest in the property he owned by West Road.
Ocoee resident Michelle Greco filed an official complaint with Florida’s Commission on Ethics against West. Her complaint held four allegations, three of which the ethics commission dismissed as not being legally sufficient, and one of which was determined to have probable cause.
The allegation deemed as having probable cause concerned a potential conflict of interest because West owned four of the 10 acres. As is standard procedure in such situations, West publicly declared his personal interest in the property and abstained from voting on any motions pertaining to the property.
“All our board can do is make a recommendation to the City Commission; we have no power to make it happen,” West said. “And when it came up in discussion, I discussed it as well. The lady that filed the grievance thing doesn’t know Florida law, obviously.”
Greco also charged West of being overly forceful in how he spoke to her and addressed other commissioners.
“During the meeting, he was all but bullying the members of the commission along with getting hostile with citizens of Ocoee who opposed the sale of this property,” Greco wrote in the formal complaint. “Member West called to myself (Michelle Greco) across the chamber and said, ‘You are out of order,’ in regards to a comment that was made aloud.”
West maintains he did not bully anyone and was simply concerned there might not be enough time to build the school if the recommendation was not given to the City Commission soon.
“I wouldn’t dare bully my fellow commissioners,” West said. “The only thing I said is, you know, if you don’t have a problem with the school, you need to make a decision soon because they’re trying to get the kids in there. This was like March. February or March, and they need to get the kids in there by August, which means they’re really going to have to make the building fast."
The Planning and Zoning Committee did not make any recommendations for the property to the City Commission. However, Ocoee City Commissioners approved the sale eventually.
City Commissioners also approved up to $15,000 to support West with his legal fees. A blueberry farmer by day, West has volunteered on the Planning and Zoning commission for 16 years, but neither he nor other members of the committee are financially compensated for their service.
West firmly believes if he had violated any standard procedures, the city would not be spending money to defend him, and that if he had indeed done anything illegal, the city attorney present at the meeting would have told him and stopped him.
“I’m just a little upset with the lady because there was no need for it,” West said. “There was a big demand for the school. ... The public schools are crowded, and they’re behind in their building program and everything, and the charter school helps out.”
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected].