FLORENCE — A Town Council member is using her position for “an unfair advantage” in real estate, a speaker alleged at Monday’s meeting.
“How is anyone supposed to compete or invest in this town if she has an unfair advantage and ‘vested interest’ as she always states in numerous council meetings?” Gabriel Rodriguez, husband of Councilwoman Kristen Rodriguez, asked the council. He asked why he is receiving marketing flyers in the mail from the referenced councilwoman.
“Granted, I know the flyer doesn’t directly state she is a council member, but she is a real estate agent who sits on numerous committees, knows what’s coming and going in regards to real estate, commercial properties and businesses.
“Why isn’t she recusing herself from any council decisions involving properties or projects that involve properties, land and grants?” Rodriguez continued. “In fact, the flyer I received clearly states ‘As a bonus (she) can tell you all about what’s going on in the town of Florence.”
Rodriguez said he did not mention Vice Mayor Michelle Cordes by name “out of respect,” but Cordes responded that Gabriel Rodriguez was wrong and asked the town attorney to prepare a legal opinion. “I do not benefit from my position on council in my real estate business,” Cordes said.
She said she had planned to read Rodriguez’s letter into the record and commended him for coming forward to do it himself. Cordes said she has never promoted a company she worked for and everyone knew when they elected her that she was a Realtor.
Cordes noted she recused herself from a vote that night on a piece of land she was involved in selling, although she legally didn’t have to. The rest of the council voted to split a lot on Campbell Road. Gabriel Rodriguez commented afterward that this was the first time Cordes recused herself in a decision, and “it was only after she received the letter and seeing me there.”
“I will continue to vote on real estate dealings, whether it be land, retail or residential,” Cordes said. “I will continue to work on grants, and give my opinion and my vote on grants. I am not going to back down.
“I have every legal right to send out a flyer advertising my business,” Cordes said. “Nowhere on the flyer does it say I’m a Town Council member, or the vice mayor. It states I know what is going on in Florence, as well as any other Realtor that lives in this town and markets this town. … That is my job to know what is going on here.”
She said when she speaks as a Realtor on the council, she’s trying to help the council make better, more-informed decisions. She said she’s even been looking for another Realtor to run for the council in her place because the council needs that knowledge.