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Ethics report: no payment to Yakes

Two complaints questioned the mayor's ties with a company under city contract.

By NICK JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Published October 14, 2007


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GULFPORT- Mayor Michael Yakes received the results of an investigation into ethics complaints against him last week.

The investigation resulted from two complaints against the mayor for his involvement in a company that was awarded a city contract.

The report found that Yakes had not received any payment for his work as the vice president and treasurer of Florida Education Youth Training Corp. Inc., a company that had been given a three-year mowing contract worth about $300,000.

A hearing before the Florida Commission on Ethics has been set for Nov. 30, to review the findings of the investigation.

Yakes said that he was happy with the initial results and had nothing to hide.

"After being in office for 20 years, do you think that I would do something so obvious and attainable, to bring in a wrongdoing?" Yakes said.

Yakes disclosed his involvement with the company during a council meeting in May 2005, and city attorney Timothy Driscoll advised him that there was no conflict if he wasn't receiving any payment.

The complaints, filed in March and July, may have been a sign of things to come in Gulfport's political arena.

One complaint came from Clark Scherer Jr., who lost to Yakes in this year's mayoral election; the other, from Rick Gilbert, who said he plans to run for City Council in January.

Gilbert said he thought the mayor had received some sort of compensation for his work with FEYTC.

"It's a matter of how you receive your compensation, but of course," Gilbert said. "They've just done a great job of hiding it."

More recently, council members John Phillips and Michelle King were accused of passing notes during a City Council meeting.

Since the accusation involved a violation of the Sunshine Law, it resulted in an investigation by the Gulfport Police Department that will be forwarded to the state attorney upon completion.

Two items were entered into the public record after the point of order was called during the meeting.

Both were sheets from the councilors' agendas, that had handwritten changes or notations, but the councilors denied anything had been passed.

"There was never anything passed, period," King said.

She added that she had never experienced anything like that before in Gulfport, and that the national political climate probably had some influence on the recent happenings.

"I think there's a lot of discontent throughout the whole system, not just Gulfport," King said.

Bob Newcomb, who called the point of order, said that he had nothing against the councilors in question. "I just wanted them to stop doing what I thought was the wrong thing," he said.

Yakes said the recent accusations have come from people who don't understand how things work in Gulfport.

"Somebody is judging me that doesn't even know me," Yakes said. "That's what bothers me and that's what hurts me."

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

[Last modified October 13, 2007, 22:09:03]


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