Gerard is accusing Hooper of working under a conflict of interest while he was a state Representative in Tallahassee.
Hooper is a partner for the Consus Group that helps developers and property owners navigate the permitting process.
Gerard’s campaign notes Hooper was paid nearly $300,000 in consulting services with the Consus Group during his tenure in Tallahassee from 2006 to 2013. The bulk of that came in the first three years and his earnings fizzled to between $8,000 and $11,500 in the past three years, based on financial disclosure documents.
Hooper claims the company could be a conflict as a Pinellas County Commissioner, but wasn’t as a state legislator.
“I don’t think Tallahassee deals with zoning or local land planning issues,” Hooper said.
The Consus Group helps property owners and developers navigate regulations for things like zoning and permitting. Hooper says his works is almost exclusively in Clearwater.
Hooper also contends that the business wouldn’t be a conflict even as a county commissioner, but would resign from his position as a 50/50% partner to avoid the appearance of a conflict.
“I think [my opponent] is grasping at straws,” Hooper said.
The Gerard campaign worries there may have been more of a conflict of interest than Hooper says. Tom Alte, Gerard’s campaign manager, isn’t taking his word for it.
“There is no website,” Alte said. “We don’t really know anything about [Consus Group.]”
This early move by the Gerard campaign could be a sign of things to come in this race. Hooper says he already has something in the works that won’t look good for Gerard, Largo’s current mayor.
“She told me she hoped the race would be pleasant and I told her the ball’s in her court,” Hooper said. “I hope you catch spears as [well] as you throw them,” he added in a vague threat to Gerard.
The race between Hooper and Gerard will determine who replaces incumbent Norm Roche who Hooper defeated in the August 26 GOP primary. The race will be decided on the November 4 Election Day.