Joseph Cranney , email@example.com; 239-213-6035Published 6:47 p.m. ET Jan. 17, 2017 | Updated 15 hours ago
The Naples City Council would require real estate development applicants to say exactly who owns and manages their projects under a revised ethics code the council will discuss Wednesday.
The two-page disclosure of interest form drafted by City Attorney Bob Pritt mandates a full list of principals and beneficiaries of projects considered by the council in which actual ownership is hidden behind a private corporate entity.
The disclosures suggested by Vice Mayor Linda Penniman are part of broad changes to the city’s ethics code that the council has been reviewing for nearly a year. The council briefly discussed the issue during Tuesday’s workshop but continued the item for a full hearing Wednesday.
Penniman asked for more disclosure in real estate development applications after reporting from the Naples Daily News on a potential conflict of interest involving Councilman Sam Saad and a real estate group that has retained his law firm.
Saad didn't fully disclose his business relationship with the group before he voted to approve a contract to sell one of its properties, the Daily News reported. And the city's code didn't require the group to disclose that its property manager, Matt Pikus, partners with Saad on real estate investments.
The city’s development applications, unlike the county’s, doesn’t require ownership disclosures before the council votes on zoning permits or other waivers. Instead, managers of limited liability companies are free to sign applications as the authorized agent for unknown beneficiaries.
Penniman said more disclosure is needed to publicly ensure that council members don’t have voting conflicts.
“It’s important for us to know who is presenting before us,” she said. “It enhances transparency.”
Pritt’s new disclosure form would require corporate applicants to list all the names and addresses of beneficiaries who own at least 5 percent of the entity, in addition to the names of each corporation director, managing member or general partner.
"So the people that own it and the people that run it," Pritt told the council Tuesday while introducing the changes.
Corporations would also be required to certify that there is no known conflict of interest between their owners and council members.
"It's extremely well-done," Penniman said. "I appreciate the thoroughness."
The form stipulates that a failure to provide accurate information would be a violation of the city’s ethics code and is grounds to revoke a permit.