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Businesses file ethics complaint against city leaders

Posted at 6:21 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 18:21:50-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For the last four years, The Southwest Florida Enterprise Center has been home to K and C Welding and Ornament Inc. But, now they have to look for a new place to go.

The center, owned by the City of Fort Myers, rents space to new businesses for four years at a time. Once his lease expired, Luis Echavarria, who owns K & C, attended the December 2nd Community Redevelopment Agency meeting, hoping to get an extension.

However, last month he received an eviction notice to move out by March 31st. James Muwakkil, President of the Lee County NAACP also attended the meeting and recalled what he heard CRA Chairman Fred Burson say.

“’We would extend the leases two more years, and Mr. Love when you come back to the next CRA meeting next month, bring the leases to be signed,’” he said.

Thursday Muwakkil filed an ethics complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics, because he says that part is not mentioned in the meeting minutes.

Fox 4 went though the video of that December 2nd meeting and here’s what Burson said:

“Mr. Love, if you’ll get that to Mr. Edwards, we’ll get the extensions written in a proper manner.”

While the possibility of an extension was brought up, Burson says he never mentioned extending contracts for two years.

“I don’t have the authority to do that by myself. And if that were to be done, it would’ve had to be voted on by the commission to do it,” he said. “That vote doesn’t exist, and that comment doesn’t exist. So, it’s just without merit.”

Echavarria’s wife Celeste Reyes Fox 4 on the phone, the city should at least consider that times are still tough for a lot of business owners.

“We’re in the middle right now of a pandemic. The pandemic isn’t just for a week. It’s been here for a year,” she said.

The five business owners whose leases have expired must be out by Wednesday March 31st.