State ethics complaint accuses Henning of not disclosing property transactions

Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning on Newsmakers 3-4-12.

Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning on Newsmakers 3-4-12.

Naples resident Gina Downs

Photo by DAVID ALBERS

Naples resident Gina Downs

"What I hope the message this will send to anyone is to do your due diligence...," Gina Downs said. "I'm not going to tell (the Ethics Commission) what to do, it's up to them. But I hope it's an eye-opener to any elected official."

— A Collier County resident says she's submitted a complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics that targets Collier Commissioner Tom Henning.

Gina Downs, a longtime Collier County resident and former commission candidate, says she sent the complaint form — as well as a binder filled with detailed information — by FedEx to the state agency on March 28. While Downs' name is the only one listed on the complaint, longtime resident John Barlow also worked on the complaint and backed the decision to submit it to the state's Ethics Commission.

An Ethics Commission official wouldn't confirm whether the agency received the complaint, but said Henning will receive a certified letter if a complaint has been filed.

Henning said late this week he hasn't received such a letter.

The complaint — a copy of which Downs and Barlow provided to the Daily News — addresses potential discrepancies on financial disclosure forms Henning has filed since becoming a county commissioner. The state requires elected officials to fill out the financial report annually.

The pair assert Henning didn't disclose all of his property and income, and that the forms include mathematical errors. Specifically the complaint alleges:

■ In June 2005, Henning purchased property at 15013 Summit Place Circle, Golden Gate Estates. He then sold the property to Tuscany Preserve Development in 2006, making a $71,000 profit. Neither the property nor the gain were included on the corresponding year's financial disclosure form;

■ In March 2003, Henning sold property at 1680 40th Terrace SW, Golden Gate, to Deonaire Interprises Inc. The profit of the sale was $286,500. The profit before or after improvements wasn't listed on the 2003 form, but there is an asset listed on the form in the amount of $292,000 and an income of $16,400;

Eric Staats/Staff- 
An overgrown half-acre lot in a low-income neighborhood on 18th Street North in Immokalee is at the center of a vote that doomed the Immokalee Area Master Plan. Commissioner Tom Henning, a beneficiary of a trust that owns the lot, said he had a conflict of interest and abstained from a vote by county commissioners. That left the plan one vote short of the four-vote supermajority it needed to pass.

Eric Staats/Staff- An overgrown half-acre lot in a low-income neighborhood on 18th Street North in Immokalee is at the center of a vote that doomed the Immokalee Area Master Plan. Commissioner Tom Henning, a beneficiary of a trust that owns the lot, said he had a conflict of interest and abstained from a vote by county commissioners. That left the plan one vote short of the four-vote supermajority it needed to pass.

■ In 2007, Henning purchased a property at 1233 18th St. N. in Immokalee, which was put in a trust in June 2010. The asset was listed in the 2008 financial disclosure, but was not listed on the 2009 or 2010 form. Henning abstained from a 2011 vote on the Immokalee Master Plan, which sets goals for the community's growth and development, because of his interest in the property — but no form was filed declaring what the business association was which led Henning to abstain;

■ In March 2005, Henning purchased property at 12268 First St. in Fort Myers as a rental property. The rental income was listed on the financial disclosure form from 2005 through 2009, but wasn't listed in 2010;

■ In March 1996, Henning purchased property at 2151 42nd St. SW, Golden Gate, and sold it in 2002. The $40,500 profit wasn't listed on the 2002 form;

■ In October 2006, Henning purchased a parcel, which has no site address on the Collier County Property Appraiser's website. The property was deeded to the Rogers Trust in 2010 and wasn't listed on the financial disclosure forms.

The complaint also contends Henning made mathematical errors totaling $439,629 since 2000.

Henning declined to comment on the specifics of the complaint, but did say he plans to seek damages and attorney costs from Downs if the complaint is filed.

Bruce Anderson, an associate professor of political science at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, said elected officials absolutely must disclose capital gains made through the sale of property and what property they could receive through a trust.

"It exposes a conflict of interest," he said. "If I get money from a trust that comes from a factory that makes widgets, and the county needs widgets and I throw my votes behind the factory and no one knows I am part of a trust, that is a conflict."

Disclosure forms, Anderson said, make elected officials less likely to vote on something that would financially benefit them. And while Anderson said Henning deserves credit for announcing a potential conflict with the Immokalee property, the possibility of discrepancies on Henning's disclosure forms does raise some concerns.

"The problem is, even if he is as honest as the day is long, you can never really know if he is benefiting from anything because he is not disclosing everything," Anderson said. "It raises questions."

Henning said recently he thinks the complaint is an election ploy. Both Downs and Barlow have contributed to the campaign of Bill McDaniel, Henning's challenger in the August Republican primary. Downs ran in 2010 for the District 2 commission seat now held by Georgia Hiller.

Bill McDaniel, GOP candidate, Dist. 3 Collier Co. Commission on NewsMakers 7-24-11

Bill McDaniel, GOP candidate, Dist. 3 Collier Co. Commission on NewsMakers 7-24-11

"It's disheartening Bill McDaniel is using the same tactics that we see in national campaigns instead of focusing on serving the people," Henning said.

McDaniel said the complaint was nothing but a rumor to him until contacted by reporters.

"I am not behind it," he said. "Yes, Ms. Downs and Mr. Barlow are supporters of mine. But this wasn't me and it wasn't my campaign."

Both Downs and Barlow said there were no political motivations to file the complaint in advance of the August primary. Instead, both said the complaint is a genuine look into what they think is wrongdoing by a public official.

"It was a happenstance of an investigation, rather than a targeted one," Barlow said. "You have to draw your own conclusion. I have consistently contributed to local candidates I feel represent the best thing (for Collier County)."

Downs said she didn't know how the Ethics Commission will handle the complaint, but does hope it sends a message to Henning and other elected officials.

"What I hope the message this will send to anyone is to do your due diligence. The first time I was faced with (a financial disclosure form) as a candidate I was sweating bullets. We don't have that many assets, but we were calling our accountants ... to make sure everything was right," Downs said. "I'm not going to tell (the Ethics Commission) what to do, it's up to them. But I hope it's an eye-opener to any elected official."

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 59

rasputin writes:

He's a republican, so everything is ok. As a matter of fact, the whole state of Florida is republican, so why not get rid of the ethics commission. It's just more government regulation that gets in our way.

genericuser writes:

I always thought it was both lame and fishy when Henning refused to vote on the Immokalee Plan because he had property out there.
Glad to see someone went to the trouble to find out.
Why didn't the newspaper dig into this back when the Immokalee Plan was up?

buffettfan writes:

So, the grease monkey turned commissioner is dirty?
No surprise there.
The man is too dumb to get out of his own way.

marriedtwice writes:

Don't you just love the way Hennning says he's going to sue and that this is a political hatchet job by his competition???
He never said the charges are not true.
He never said he stood behind his financial disclosures as accurate.
He never said he is truthful.
No, he tried to point the finger of guilt away from himnself and instead wants to shoot the messenger.
If McDaniel knew anything about this and these people gave McDaniel money for his campaign, it does NOT change the facts.
The facts are that Henning lied and did it in a BIG way.
Hope the ethics committee does something BIG about this.
I have my doubts. Slimy politicians usually protect fellow slimy politicians.

wonderful (Inactive) writes:

Sounds like hemping to me, eh?

Dig deeper amongst the ommisioners and you will find Stadium Naples 2012 at the interchange, eh?

I'm gonna open an oil change rental store!

lovemycat writes:

That's why we need term limits,.
If these guys aren't dirty when they get voted in, they become dirty in due time.
Henning gives me the creeps and always has.
His grammar is worse than an eighth grader. Apparently he didn't learn to add in school either.
Now he's become a professional liar and cheat. Doesn't take much brains for that.
Only a cocky idiot would make over 400 THOUSAND dollars in mathematical errors and think they would get away with it.
If he didn't report all those properties and sales on his forms, what else did he omit?
Wonder what uncle sam would have to say about all this ... he probably lied to them too and didn't pay taxes.
Guess he'll have to threaten to sue uncle sam too.

Hootneye writes:

I guess this knucklhead did not learn a thing from the crooks involved in the infamous Stadium Naples scandal.......maybe you'll be sharing some of the same disgraceful shame that John Norris,Tim Constatine, Neil Dorill and the like at one time durng thier sorry arse lives......how soon folks forget about the past that cost the taxpayers hundred of thousands of taxpayer dollars in waste.....have another hot tottie Tommy boy, as you'll certainly be holding hands with Vinny the "Elephant Boy" and Victor the washed up wannabe cop when election day comes and goes.....where all losers like you belong, that being out on the street.....

Pastalover writes:

Oh, to be a fly on the wall!
I can just see it now ... Henning contacts Hiller. Between the two of them, they start to ask their remaining followers to get on this board to defend Tommy boy.
Next, look for Pelican Bay kool aid drinkers to write letters to the editor to defend Tommy boy. Maybe even host another fund raiser or two for friends-of-Hiller.
After that, ramp up the mud slinging against Downs and Barlow and McDaniels. Let the accusations run wild. Get down and dirty.
Soon to follow will be the usual denouncing of the Naples Daily News for running this story. Egads ... something with facts that we can actually verify(!)
Blast the facts ... full speed ahead with the smear campaign. Arm the torpedoes! Call out the Henning Hiller henchmen ... sorry ... henchpersons.
This ought to make for some good press for a few weeks. Maybe Henning will threaten to sue scores of folks before it's all over.
Henning and Hiller wallowing in hate-filled accusations, doing what they do best. Man, this ought to make them happy. Brings out the best in both of 'em.
Hold on to your hats boys and girls, this won't be for the faint of heart. Guard your children. Turn up your profanity screen.
Henning and Hiller will beat the drum to organize a smear campaign of colossal proportion --- handled by a third party, of course.
Stay tuned .........................

intense writes:

Tom Foolery Henning caught in some tomfoolery.
Imagine that.

feduptoo writes:

I remember Gina Downs when she was fighting the sale of Alligator Alley. She came loaded with a boatload of facts and let the facts speak for themself.
I suspect she is right on target with this also.
I don't know and I don't care what her motivation was in this case.
Right is right and wrong is wrong.
It looks like Henning lied and cheated and has done so for a number of years.
I'm grateful for people like Downs and Barlow who are willing to put the time and effort into finding out the facts.
There is only one thing to say ---
Thank You!!!

Hootneye writes:

in response to Pastalover:

Oh, to be a fly on the wall!
I can just see it now ... Henning contacts Hiller. Between the two of them, they start to ask their remaining followers to get on this board to defend Tommy boy.
Next, look for Pelican Bay kool aid drinkers to write letters to the editor to defend Tommy boy. Maybe even host another fund raiser or two for friends-of-Hiller.
After that, ramp up the mud slinging against Downs and Barlow and McDaniels. Let the accusations run wild. Get down and dirty.
Soon to follow will be the usual denouncing of the Naples Daily News for running this story. Egads ... something with facts that we can actually verify(!)
Blast the facts ... full speed ahead with the smear campaign. Arm the torpedoes! Call out the Henning Hiller henchmen ... sorry ... henchpersons.
This ought to make for some good press for a few weeks. Maybe Henning will threaten to sue scores of folks before it's all over.
Henning and Hiller wallowing in hate-filled accusations, doing what they do best. Man, this ought to make them happy. Brings out the best in both of 'em.
Hold on to your hats boys and girls, this won't be for the faint of heart. Guard your children. Turn up your profanity screen.
Henning and Hiller will beat the drum to organize a smear campaign of colossal proportion --- handled by a third party, of course.
Stay tuned .........................

Ole Tommy boy better get his grease monkey clothes out of storage, cleaned and pressed, get a good coat of WD-40 on those old tools of his this all to be ready to go back to making a living screwing people on over priced auto repairs......this will be sooner than you think, when he's shown the one way out of the CC Comm Chambers on election day.......your career dissapation light as a CC Comm is growing dimmer as every day passes.....now you will know full well how Norris, Constantine and Dorrill felt on thier way out the door as well......that would be a cold and clammy feeling, maybe Vinny the Elephant boy can line you up working on his fleet of limo's and a side job taking care of his herd of pachyderms.........

youngandhot writes:

It looks like sleeze-bag Henning just got sleezier. I didn't really think that was possible. But it sure looks like it is/was.

staghorn writes:

never trust a republican©

BigOrangeKitty writes:

I don't trust Gina Downs. Period. Don't forget that she wanted the taxpayers to pay for Jackson Labs!

ratdog2009 writes:

Is anyone really shocked at Mr. Henning's failure to be forthright with his required financial disclosure forms? Is anyone truly surprised?

Oh, and hey NDN, how did Gina Downs and John Barlow scoop your ace reporting staff on this one? This is a pretty impressive bit of news...maybe you can come up with a story as to how you didn't come up with this story.

brown writes:

Where's Timmy Constantine? My aunt would golf with him (free) at Quail West...

Challenged writes:

Just a typical day in Naples

GadsdenGirl writes:

Where are all the CCSO loving, Dem/Obama hating, 0 IQ sheeple making s----- comments? Guess this article had too many irrefutable FACTS.

Just1 writes:

Downs? That phony. You guys should have picked someone believable.

naples-is-a-sewer writes:

My word !! Isn't that a shame !!

GiftedOne writes:

His life will be ruined, but he won't see jail time...See samir cabrera....

Beachglow writes:

Have you ever met a politician that was clean? I haven't.

common_tator writes:

Kudos to Downs and Barlow for having the moral courage to take this on. Hennings' cozy relationship with several prominent developers (signature, vineyards, waterways, saturnia, etc), his obvious willingness to make friends where the campaign money is (look at his reports), his cavalier attitude to the citizenry, and his visibly arrogant public behavior to staff have stuck in a lot of people's teeth for a long time. It takes guts to take on a bully with his own pulpit. Nick Hale did it with Stadium Naples and Barlow and Downs are doing it with Henning. If he had a cash at his disposal, there was plenty of property in Lee and Charlotte county to flip. This smells of the same insider information that got a lowly county staffer rightfully and promptly canned during the Mudd administration. Politics? Bah! Sounds like a clear sense of what makes clean government and a willingness to to grab a broom and mop!

Sick writes:

Should I go with the dyed eggs or shrink wrap ones?

I like the colors but also like watching the shrink wrap in action.

I already have my map of where I am going to hide them. I have been working on it with an engineer for 2 weeks.

furball writes:

Gina Downs is sour grapes, wouldn't you be if you looked like that? She got the ugly stick.

common_tator writes:

One more thought... Did anyone else wonder why Henning bought land in Immokalee while the master plan was under development?

Banker26 writes:

Henning ia a moron. Ask anyone that's ever spent any time around him.

Sane_in_Florida (Inactive) writes:

in response to feduptoo:

I remember Gina Downs when she was fighting the sale of Alligator Alley. She came loaded with a boatload of facts and let the facts speak for themself.
I suspect she is right on target with this also.
I don't know and I don't care what her motivation was in this case.
Right is right and wrong is wrong.
It looks like Henning lied and cheated and has done so for a number of years.
I'm grateful for people like Downs and Barlow who are willing to put the time and effort into finding out the facts.
There is only one thing to say ---
Thank You!!!

Right! If they did this on their own accord with no compensation for doing so, they spent a heck of a lot of their own personal time digging up this information and the public owes them at least a thank you.

wonderful (Inactive) writes:

in response to brown:

Where's Timmy Constantine? My aunt would golf with him (free) at Quail West...

I think he is over at the new club in town with his new tiger clubs! They throw themselves after every shot. Also comes with an instructional book of foul language.

Look for them in a pro shop near you!

Come in a brown wrapper!

GITMO some!

Sick writes:

in response to wonderful:

I think he is over at the new club in town with his new tiger clubs! They throw themselves after every shot. Also comes with an instructional book of foul language.

Look for them in a pro shop near you!

Come in a brown wrapper!

GITMO some!

You ate all your easter eggs already eh?

Good job E'se

northnaples34110 writes:

tator, that County staffer that was fired/resigned popped back up again at the City of Naples. Do a google search.

forliberty writes:

in response to rasputin:

He's a republican, so everything is ok. As a matter of fact, the whole state of Florida is republican, so why not get rid of the ethics commission. It's just more government regulation that gets in our way.

"...the whole state of Florida is republican..." Better check your facts: http://election.dos.state.fl.us/voter...

forliberty writes:

So, what's Henning's voting record look like? Does he vote with the people or with special interest?

ratdog2009 writes:

in response to forliberty:

So, what's Henning's voting record look like? Does he vote with the people or with special interest?

Henning abstains from key votes in his own interest.

wentfishn writes:

in response to Beachglow:

Have you ever met a politician that was clean? I haven't.

Yup, that sums it all up in one sentence !

bsdetector writes:

Hey, hey! No need to be insulting to eighth graders and morons. No member of either group would likely to hammer the language to this extent: "I seen a court DEE-cision on the stip-a-LAY-shuns in the state statues."

intense writes:

Oh ratdoggy dog,
Perhaps you should stay tuned.
Me thinks the pot is about to boil over.
The door has only opened a crack.

Marge writes:

How is Henning buying and selling all of those properties with just a Commissioners salary?

meeho42794 writes:

in response to northnaples34110:

tator, that County staffer that was fired/resigned popped back up again at the City of Naples. Do a google search.

give us a hint please

AndreTheGiant writes:

in response to marriedtwice:

Don't you just love the way Hennning says he's going to sue and that this is a political hatchet job by his competition???
He never said the charges are not true.
He never said he stood behind his financial disclosures as accurate.
He never said he is truthful.
No, he tried to point the finger of guilt away from himnself and instead wants to shoot the messenger.
If McDaniel knew anything about this and these people gave McDaniel money for his campaign, it does NOT change the facts.
The facts are that Henning lied and did it in a BIG way.
Hope the ethics committee does something BIG about this.
I have my doubts. Slimy politicians usually protect fellow slimy politicians.

This is true.

What is also true is by a commissioner threatening to sue a citizen because the citizen filed an ethics complaint, it dampens the vigor for other citizens to file similar complaints.

Do you REALLY want to live in a county where the politicians are so corrupt that you'll go bankrupt for rightfully exposing them? I don't.

The lawsuit threat crap needs to end, or it'll likely end with an expensive counter-suit at all of our expense.

ratdog2009 writes:

in response to intense:

Oh ratdoggy dog,
Perhaps you should stay tuned.
Me thinks the pot is about to boil over.
The door has only opened a crack.

I am panting with interest and promise to stay tuned. I too think this is just the opening bell...

bsdetector writes:

"The lawsuit threat crap needs to end, or it'll likely end with an expensive counter-suit at all of our expense."

That kind of threat is known by the term SLAPP suit -- Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Be intimidated by it and lose. Slap back even stronger at the thin-skinned bureaucrat and win.

Sick writes:

Oh who cares if a commissioner makes a few bucks on the side.

Big deal a whole 500 grand. It's not like he didn't take a risk.

You people are killing the American dream.

And you are doing it out jealousy. Jealous that he is smart and you are not.

Get a life already.

Now where is my vanilla bunny?

GenXer writes:

Complete. Total. Idiot.

swfl_ff writes:

in response to forliberty:

So, what's Henning's voting record look like? Does he vote with the people or with special interest?

Actually Henning tends to vote for the people. He was the only commissioner who stood against the long drawn out battle with Clerk of Courts Brock which the commissioners ultimately lost. He also stood against Jackson Labs and the installation of the of red light cameras.

I do find it interesting that it is Gina Downs who is pushing this. She is of course politically tied to Coyle, Colletta and Fiala. She also was a big supporter of Jackson labs which is why she ended up loosing the primary to Hiller. Of course most people know that she only switched to the Republican party so she could run for office as anyone knows a Democrat has NO chance of winning any election here in Collier County.

I also wonder just how tied she and this Barlow fellow are to McDaniels who is running against Henning. McDaniels is being backed by Colye and Colletta as they want Henning gone off the board. I guess that is payback for Henning and Hiller's support for Nance.

Those of us in District 3 are faced with either re-electing Henning or voting for McDaniels who is in bed with Coyle and Colletta. Talk about picking your poison.

Henning does have his drawbacks for sure and he may have goofed up here. If so then we do need to bring it out in the public. But I suspect most of this is just political payback. Ahh..politics, you got to love it.

Marge writes:

"Sick", you think Henning is smart? Have you ever spent any time around him? He acts like a zombie.

AndreTheGiant writes:

in response to bsdetector:

"The lawsuit threat crap needs to end, or it'll likely end with an expensive counter-suit at all of our expense."

That kind of threat is known by the term SLAPP suit -- Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Be intimidated by it and lose. Slap back even stronger at the thin-skinned bureaucrat and win.

Good point, bsdetector.

It may be worthwhile for Gina Downs to look into retaining a lawyer and explore the possibility of filing a pre-emptive lawsuit. An injunction would go a good ways to preventing a SLAPP lawsuit. Filing first would also set the stage for better conditions for a win (preparation, jurisdiction, etc).

Please note, though, that the previous text is not being offered as legal advice, nor an offer of legal services.

Sick writes:

in response to Marge:

"Sick", you think Henning is smart? Have you ever spent any time around him? He acts like a zombie.

Obviously he has you convinced.

He made coin! Did you?

northnaples34110 writes:

meeho-google 'collier county transportation director engineer fired' then cross reference to City of Naples staff

ParadiseSold writes:

in response to forliberty:

So, what's Henning's voting record look like? Does he vote with the people or with special interest?

Special interests all the way. He sided with the public on a parking garage at Vanderbilt Beach, but then once he started getting campaign contributions from Pelican Bay, Signature Communities, etc., that was the end of his interest in supporting the people of Collier County or tourism when it came to the public beach. A total sell out. Vote him out of office...

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