1. Trouble logging in? Send a message with your username & email address for help.
    Dismiss Notice

Grand Jury Report on Walton Planning Department

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by graytonbeachguy, Sep 24, 2015.

  1. graytonbeachguy

    graytonbeachguy Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2008
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    64
    The Grand Jury for Walton County issued a Report this afternoon regarding, among other issues, the Walton County Planning Department, Recreation Fees, a Clerk's Audit of the Planning Department and the actions of County Administrator Larry Jones and Commissioner Cindy Meadows.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. graytonbeachguy

    graytonbeachguy Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2008
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    64
  3. Misty

    Misty Banned

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    Messages:
    2,787
    Likes Received:
    468
  4. graytonbeachguy

    graytonbeachguy Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2008
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    64
    Misty said, "Let's hope the Commissioners do the right thing and go after the money that was not collected."

    I agree that they need to try to collect the money, but the developer (in fact, we have found out from the Grand Jury Report that it happened with two developments) is probably bankrupt. The property that was assessed at $12M in 2005 is probably worth much, much less today.
     
  5. Misty

    Misty Banned

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    Messages:
    2,787
    Likes Received:
    468

    That sucks!
     
  6. Sun Chaser

    Sun Chaser Beach Lover

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2015
    Messages:
    158
    Likes Received:
    39
    Nice to know who really runs the Planning Department..
     
  7. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    2,635
    Likes Received:
    643
    That went a lot of different places...Lot of recommendations, but State Attorney Eddins make it sounds like it was an order in the sound bite he on WJHG. Just my opinion
     
  8. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2008
    Messages:
    722
    Likes Received:
    557
    Location:
    Glendale
    Grand jury suggest reprimand for county administrator, commissioner

    The fact that the county did not collect almost 1 million dollars in fees that could have been used to improve infrastructure is unacceptable. The fact that it took almost 10 years and a Grand Jury to figure that out is a terrible disservice to the citizens of Walton County committed by our leadership. The reprimands should have went much farther than one commissioner and the county administrator in my opinion.
     
  9. Walton Girl

    Walton Girl Beach Crab

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2015
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    2
    What about the county employees that were fired or laid off due to a lack of funds when the economy went south. Not sure of the time frame but could those jobs have been saved with the uncollected $800,000? The Planning Department employees are not the only ones being pushed through the wringer by the County Commissioners, it is all departments. This must stop or Walton County will not have any employees. These people work hard and should be treated with respect and allowed to do their jobs without fear of commissioners back lash. When experienced employees leave so does the knowledge and history.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • List
  10. Misty

    Misty Banned

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    Messages:
    2,787
    Likes Received:
    468
    If I'm reading all this correctly Meadows and Jones have basically admitted their guilt in interfering with Laird's ability to perform his job and his termination. His wrongful termination suit is looking like a win win for him and a huge loss to the County on top of the money the County can't recover that was never collected.

    And the cost keeps rising!
     
  11. ShallowsNole

    ShallowsNole Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2005
    Messages:
    4,189
    Likes Received:
    701
    Location:
    Pt Washington
    How do you reprimand an elected official? Isn't that a function of the governor's office?
     
  12. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2008
    Messages:
    722
    Likes Received:
    557
    Location:
    Glendale
    The voters are supposed to handle elected officials. ;)
     
  13. Misty

    Misty Banned

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    Messages:
    2,787
    Likes Received:
    468
    True...but we didn't get to vote for Larry Jones as County Admin. That decision was made against the majority of what the Citizens felt was best for the County.

    Ethics complaints might be warranted.
     
  14. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    May 10, 2008
    Messages:
    1,053
    Likes Received:
    540
    Location:
    Santa Rosa Beach
    A big issue in the report is the recommendation that the State Auditor General conduct:

    1. A Operational Audit
    2. A Forensic Audit

    Will the Commission follow the "recommendation" made by the Grand Jury ?
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  15. graytonbeachguy

    graytonbeachguy Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2008
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    64
    ShallowsNole wrote: How do you reprimand an elected official? Isn't that a function of the governor's office?

    You know, I wondered the same thing. My research showed that when county commissioners are reprimanded in Florida, it is in a county that has a Commission on Ethics, an entity we don't have. I guess the Walton County Commission could pass a resolution condemning Meadows.

    Since Larry Jones is an employee, I think a reprimand is one of the "progressive disciplinary procedures" the Report says he and Meadows should have utilized in dealing with the Planning Department employee that they summarily fired.

    Does anyone know the identity of the woman consultant (the report uses feminine pronouns in describing her) that was getting $8,000/month and acting like the Planning Director? It apparently would have been in 2009 or 2010. Is this the woman who has already been indicted on perjury charges?
     
  16. Patriot Games

    Patriot Games Beach Lover

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2014
    Messages:
    230
    Likes Received:
    67
    How is it not the County Administrator and the Commissioners job to watch over daily operations?????? Read the laird suit, it's posted here. Meadows got involved because laird was hostile and retaliated to a citizen for complaining to the commissioner. If she didn't, who would have spoke for the citizen? The commissioners job is to oversee all aspects of the county's operations. They are the checks and balances elected by us to set things straight. If laird lashed out at a citizen and Larry Jones fired him after Meadows made him aware of it, Jones did the right thing, What does this jury want, uninvolved leadership? I want my commissioner to hold all the county employee's accountable for their actions. God knows nobody else was doing it, The 20 letters of credit expiring fell on the employee's actions and had the commissioners been more involved in all the developments they were approving, they might have realized what was going on. I think half of this grand jury was a PR stunt by the state attorney's office. Laird didn't even get fired until 5 months into the investigation.
     
  17. graytonbeachguy

    graytonbeachguy Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2008
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    64
    Nice try, Patriot Games, but as the Grand Jury pointed out, Larry Jones and Cindy Meadows deliberately bypassed the department director and failed to follow the County's disciplinary procedures. If there was actual misconduct by Laird in his treatment of a constituent, Meadows had no business being involved and Larry Jones should have followed the procedure established by the Commission for disciplining an employee. It certainly doesn't sound like Meadows was just passing along a complaint from a citizen. Trying to characterize Jones' and Meadows' conduct in that manner is intellectually dishonest and unsupported by the facts.
     
  18. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2008
    Messages:
    722
    Likes Received:
    557
    Location:
    Glendale
    There is a fine line between setting policy and supervising operations and managing employees. A commissioner has little legal power outside of a board meeting and it takes 3 to do something. The County Administrator and division directors are supposed to manage employees and insure that board policies and dictates are followed. We all know that realistically the commissioners all delve into operations but doing so can bite them in the can. We also know that any commissioner who does not get involved on behalf of their constituents will not be a commissioner very long. Years ago the commissioners had supervisory duties over their district road crews and employees operating in their district but that was formally changed about 20 years ago. It would probably be less hypocritical to go back to that system rather than how we operate today.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • List
  19. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Messages:
    7,197
    Likes Received:
    3,738
    Location:
    SoWal
    As reported on WZEP AM 1460

    In a scathing rebuke of Walton County District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows and County Administrator Larry Jones, State Attorney William Eddins presented the findings of a Walton County Grand Jury report unsealed yesterday by the Honorable Judge Kelvin Wells.

    At an afternoon press conference at the Walton County Sheriff's Office Headquarters, Eddins congratulated the members of the Grand Jury for their hard work. Flanked by Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson, Jr., Eddins revealed a poor and dysfunctional Planning Department staffed with employees suffering low morale, frustration and high turnover.

    The States Attorney also discovered an additional $200,000.00 error in missing fees in what the grand jury called an "egregious" finding.

    Most disturbing and of particular concern are the actions of County Administrator Larry Jones and District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows. Eddins said evidence indicates that both Jones and Meadows became directly involved in the hiring and firing of Planning Department employees. The ordinary chain of command was not followed and supervisors were given little or no input in the decision making process.

    In one case, an applicant with a connection to Commissioner Meadows was hired for a position with little input from the department supervisor. Despite having no experience in the position, the employee was hired at a higher salary than others who were already working in the identical position.


    The charges stem from the arrest of former Walton County Planning director Patsy Blackshear earlier this month for lying to the State Attorney during an official investigation and then lying to the Walton County Grand Jury regarding the failure to collect $600,000 in recreation fees from developers. She faces a judge on October 20th.

    The error was discovered by Walton County Planning Department employee Hal Laird, a 10 year county employee. Once Laird brought the discrepancy to the attention of superiors, he began to have difficulties at work and Meadows insisted he be fired. She ordered County Administrator Larry Jones to terminate him on July 21st without following the county's progressive disciplinary procedures. Laird filed a lawsuit in federal court early this week under the "Whistleblower Act" charging Meadows, Jones and the Commission for violating his First Amendment rights and wrongful termination.

    Attorney Eddins also noted that the Grand Jury found that had the County Commission followed the recommendations of an outside consultant's report done a decade ago, many of these problems could have been avoided.

    Numerous other problems were discovered including poor management, direction and supervision of department employees and management of the county's comprehensive and land use plans which have resulted in the loss of millions of dollars.

    However, it was the meddling by County Commissioners in the day to day operations that drew the ire of Grand Jurors and investigators. Witnesses testified that the role of the Commission is to set policy and establish a budget. Despite these limitations, evidence indicates that a particular Commissioner is very involved in directing day to day operations of County government.

    I asked Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson, Jr. if his office has been pressured or if any of the County Commissioners have tried to interfere in the way he operates his agency. The no-nonsense Sheriff had a very clear message. "Absolutely not. They would be met with nothing but a stiff rebuke from this office. I think most of those folks have better judgement that to attempt to approach me in that capacity."

    State Attorney Eddins called on Commissioners to heed the findings of the Grand Jury and implement the recommended changes.

    Commissioner Cindy Meadows and County Administrator Larry Jones were unavailable for comment at press time.
     
  20. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    2,635
    Likes Received:
    643
    Danny, I am certainly not interested in returning to the days where the Commissioners oversee employees. They hire a staff who are to see day to day operations. If a Commissioner doesn't like the way something is going, then there is a process for them to follow.
     

Share This Page