AgentAgents/BrokersFloridaReal Estate

Tampa Realtors association board members resign amid conflict of interest investigation

Greater Tampa Realtors launched a probe into a real estate purchase made by CEO Jason Outman after organization president Jay Quigley represented Outman in the deal

The Greater Tampa Realtors’ Executive Committee is in turmoil, as two board members have resigned from their posts after a conflict-of-interest investigation into the trade organization’s president and CEO.

According to an email sent on Tuesday by the Florida-based realtors association to its more than 15,000 members, GTR’s president Jay Quigley, an agent at Florida Executive Realty, represented GTR’s current CEO Jason Outman in the purchase of a five-bedroom, five-bathroom home in a gated community in Valrico, Florida, for $765,000 with a 2.5% buyer broker commission.

The board told members that it held a special meeting to discuss whether Quigley had violated the organization’s conflict of interest policy.

The email states that the GTR board “made its decision” on the potential violation, but the decision “will remain confidential … in compliance with the National Association of Realtors’ Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual.”

“We understand the concerns that may have arisen because of this situation, and we want to assure you that our primary goals are to comply with our Fiduciary Duties, safeguarding the interests of GTR’s members and upholding the reputation of GTR,” the email reads.

“To accomplish these goals the GTR Board will conduct a comprehensive review of our governance and mechanisms to identify areas for improvement. Moreover, we will continuously stress that any potential, perceived or actual conflict must be disclosed promptly and addressed appropriately pursuant to GTR’s Policies and Procedures.”

Outman’s hiring was approved at the February 2023 board meeting, but his appointment to the post was not announced until March 22, which coincidentally was the same day Outman went under contract on the home he eventually purchased. The sale of the property closed on April 24, 2023.

In her May 21 resignation letter, Anne Newkirk, GTR’s former vice president and Executive Committee member, cited the conflict-of-interest investigation as her reason for resignation, stating that she agreed with the board’s “verdict but not sentencing. It felt very lenient for a matter this serious and sets a bad precedent for holding our leaders accountable.”

“President Jay made a unilateral decision to represent CEO Jason and received a financial gain, showing self-interest, not in the interest of the organization,” Newkirk wrote in her resignation letter to the Executive Committee. “This is an egregious violation of our code of ethics, and it deeply troubles me as to how this situation was allowed to unfold. Would President Jay have been given the opportunity to represent CEO had he not held his current position? Very unlikely. I am very disappointed and CAN NOT stand alongside a leader who would appear incompetent of his duties and/or totally self-serving. In my opinion, this behavior is unacceptable and should have held a minimum of temporary suspension. … [A]s executives leading this prestigious organization, we cannot allow such self-serving behavior to go unchecked with a mere slap on the hand.”

Kimberly Aguilar, an agent at LPT Realty, was the second agent to resign, leaving her role as a director on the GTR board.

Unlike Newkirk, Aguilar does not mention Quigley or Outman in her resignation letter, but instead refers to her feeling that the board “is no longer moving in a positive direction” for GTR’s members.

“I feel like the actions and issues we have been dealing with as of late are unproductive and embarrassing, and I need to turn my focus to my family, business and community,” Aguilar wrote.

According to Inman News, which first reported on the resignations, GTR director Johnny Loewy is also considering resigning.

GTR’s Executive Committee, which consists of its president, president-elect, vice president, treasurer, and secretary, used to be voted in by members, but now the board of directors (a 17 member board with 16 voting members) appoints the positions.

In a post on Facebook, Vincent Arcuri, an agent at LPT Realty and GTR member, decried this policy change in the wake of the conflict of interest investigation.

“This is the EXACT REASON I have an issue with the Executive Team (President, Vice President etc) being appointed by the Board, rather than ELECTED by the membership,” Arcuri’s Facebook post reads.

“This is the FIRST group that was ‘appointed’ and look at the direction we are headed. … From where I sit, those people are supposed to be representing the 16,000 members of GTR and it looks to me like they are representing themselves. To me, this early morning e-mail is the broom they are using to sweep this under the rug.”

According to an emailed statement from GTR, the organization in 2020 broached the idea of changing its bylaws to loosen its requirements for a member to run for president while moving to its current voting system.

“The new Bylaws, adopted in November 2020, eliminated requirements to serve as a Director on GTR’s Board of Directors. With the new Bylaws, any active GTR member in good standing with the Association would be eligible to run for a Director position. The entire membership was given the opportunity to vote for the directors they would like to serve as leaders. With the new structure, all active GTR members can vote for the Directors who submit to serve as a leader within the organization,” the statement read. “Once those elected to the Director position have served on the Board for one year, they would be eligible to serve as an Officer within the organization. The change to the Bylaws was made so the elections of officers would take place by the current Board of Directors because these are the people who are working closely with the candidates throughout the year and are able to identify emerging leaders.”

While GTR declined to provide more information on the investigation, its verdict, or a copy of its conflict of interest policy, it did state that the GTR board “relied on its Policy Manual updated in May 2023 to determine whether a conflict of interest existed the duty to disclose a conflict of interest, and the procedure to follow when there has been a violation of GTR’s conflict of interest policy.”

Outman, Quigley, Aguilar, and Newkirk had not returned a request for comment at the time of publication.