Estero Island Taxpayer Association (EITA) Executive Director Beverley Milligan has announced that she is resigning from the organization, effective March 15, 2019.
Milligan’s resignation may be related to a community backlash concerning the EITA’s participation in forming and funding a Political Action Committee (PAC), The Friends of Fort Myers Beach, that took an active role in the run-up to the March 5 Town of Fort Myers Beach election for two Council seats. The Friends of Fort Myers Beach PAC mailed out several flyers opposing Council member Dennis Boback’s re-election in the race against former Mayor Ray Murphy, former Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros, and first time candidate and current Bay Oak Recreational Center Advisory Board (BORCAB) member Dan Allers. The Friends of FMB has not endorsed any of the other candidates. Milligan serves as Executive Director of the Friends of FMB PAC and EITA.
“I founded and have run the (EITA) for 2-1/2 years,” Milligan wrote in her resignation statement. “During that time, I also found my true passion is rebuilding the Woman’s Club facility – an island treasure, and in developing our second tourism destination, the Heart of The Island – both very large historic preservation projects. These two important activities will take all of my focus.
“Further, EITA was created to engage all taxpayers on the island, to educate and inform them on issues affecting our community,” she wrote. “Somewhere along the line, some felt EITA had a negative influence, even contributing to a divisiveness in our community. With the election just around the corner, I believe the timing is right to send a message to all taxpayers that working together on positive issues is my personal goal and if resigning from EITA plays some small part in the healing, I am happy to do so.”
At their February meeting, the EITA hosted a Meet The Candidates forum for the four Council candidates. Some had already questioned whether the EITA should sponsor such an event due to its PAC, but Milligan responded, “I challenge anyone who was at the EITA Candidate forum to say the EITA displayed any favoritism for or antagonism against any of the four candidates.”
PAC & 501c4
In a February 15 story in the Island Sand Paper (“EITA and The Friends of FMB PAC”) Milligan said “the biggest difference between the two is the EITA is a 501c4 organization that is a not-for-profit group to promote social welfare and cannot become involved in any political activities. A PAC privately raises money to influence elections and legislation. In our case, we renamed the PAC ‘The Friends of Fort Myers Beach’ to distinguish between the two. The EITA formed three years ago to provide our citizens with facts concerning a multitude of community issues, and the speakers we invite are experts on those topics who speak factually on them so the community is better informed about the issues. That will always be the role of the EITA, and we will never take any local political positions. The Friends of FMB, on the other hand, can take political positions and express information in a political format.”
A steering committee in 2016 developed the EITA mission as “recognition, participation, and representation of all property taxpayers and businesses who have a physical presence on Estero Island at the town, county, state, and federal levels to ensure an equitable voice in government policy decisions as they affect Estero Island.” “The EITA formed,” Milligan recalled, “to be a larger voice for the entire community, to bring everyone together, because if you just look at Fort Myers Beach voters, that is only about 5,000 people, but if you look at the taxpaying community, that number can be as high as 40,000 and that is a much larger voice, so it is important that every one of those people has a say in the issues that affect Fort Myers Beach, as most of those 40,000 people can’t do that at the municipal level.”
In her resignation letter, Milligan reiterated the “philosophies that frame EITA’s position on issues affecting its constituency. They are:
- All taxpayers and businesses are invested in Estero Island
- All taxpayers should have representation at the town level
- Protect our natural resources
- Promote Economic Growth
- Less is more in government, user friendly is important
- Estero Island infrastructure must undergo revitalization
- Island beautification especially downtown area is needed”
By Gary Mooney