Grand Jury Report on Walton Planning Department

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

  1. Patriot Games

    Patriot Games Beach Lover

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    We've got to post those here. Way to go Dr. Riley and Mr. Miller, both have impeccable reputations and are knowledgeable about what's going on in Walton government.
     
  2. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

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    By popular demand here are the letters from Mr. Miller and Dr. Riley:

    Is that all there is?”

    A Walton County Grand Jury recently issued a report that indicted former Walton County Planning Department head, Ms. Pat Blackshear, on two counts of perjury for lying to the Grand Jury. This was the result of a seven month investigation by the State's Attorney and the Walton County Sheriff's Office.

    The Grand Jury report pointed out some abuses that have taken place over time in the Planning Department. Two such instances point to a failure to collect about $800,000 in recreational plat fees from developers. In the case of Lakeside in 2006, a 5% fee of $614,250 was billed as $614.50. Supposedly that error was discovered in 2008 by Ms. Melissa Ward and reported to the head of the Planning Department, Pat Blackshear, who has denied seeing the memo. How is it possible such an error, once reported, was overlooked by the County Attorney, the County Administrator, the County Financial Director, the County Clerk, the Property Appraiser, or the Board of County Commissioners? In the second instance, the plat fee for a project named Endless Summer was supposed to have been $205,560, but was billed as $20,560. Again, no one in the County picked up on it. If you believe these, and possibly other similar omissions, were clerical errors, there's a strong possibility you also believe in the Tooth Fairie.

    There was a hit song in the sixties titled, "Is that all there is?" You have to wonder how a seven month investigation only yielded a felony charge for lying to a Grand Jury, and two reprimands. Hard to believe the investigation has not found more instances of wrong doing or feckless behavior.

    The Grand Jury did make solid recommendations to improve procedures for monitoring the payment of plat fees and letters of credit, however, it is up to the Board of County Commissioners to ensure that happens. The BCC has made promises in the past, but has shown little inclination to tackle such changes.

    The Grand Jury may have gotten lost in the woods when it turned to reprimanding County Administrator Larry Jones and Commissioner Cindy Meadows for allegedly interfering with the hiring of one employee and the firing of another. Even if they are guilty as charged, scolding a Commissioner and the County Administrator for overstepping their job responsibilities hardly rises to the same level of criminality or gross financial negligence. "Is that all there is?"

    Art Miller
    Miramar Beach
     
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  3. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

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    Here is Dr. Riley's letter:

    Having read the Grand Jury report and the associated press conference, I’m astounded at the attention given to the alleged “meddling” into the day to day operations of County administrative matters by County Administrator Larry Jones and Commissioner Meadows. I’m even more astounded that the Grand Jury was involved in a matter tangential to its focus. I’m also aware of the fundamental unfairness of Grand Jury proceedings. The Grand Jury gets to hear just what the Prosecutor wants them to hear, and his targets are not afforded opportunity for rebuttal. The State Attorney’s office should reveal who actually wrote the report. One suspects it was no layman, and I smell an agenda.

    To hear Mr. Eddins speak, one would think something truly sinister must be afoot with the one hiring and one firing mentioned that apparently constitute meddling “in day to day county operations” that seems so important to Mr. Eddins. There’s $800,000 missing, and neither Jones nor Meadows took it. Who did? Or as a prosecutor might say “Cui bono?”. Show me the money!

    Absent that, show me how a Commissioner making inquiries in the best interests of a constituent is meddling. That is what politicians do every day, aka constituent service. Reprimand them all, I say! How dare they!

    Absent that, show me that Commissioner Meadows interviewed, hired, or set the salary for the Planning employee whose hiring was allegedly related to her supposedly reprehensible "meddling". She did not interview, hire or set the salary of that employee. Who did? Why is that ignored in the report and the press conference? Surely there are records of those facts. A public call for a reprimand without full disclosure is indefensible political character assassination.

    The report and press conference did mention that over $800,000 in taxpayer money went missing years ago. Perhaps I missed the part where that was considered a big deal. Perhaps I also missed the part that mentioned how this could have occurred and how nobody knew nuttin’ about nuttin'. Now that sounds like Grand Jury material that should have been headlined by both the report and public pronouncements. Instead, we have the sound of silence. Why?

    Numerous references to improper and vague procedures and rules and regs were made. Similarly with respect to the improper access and influence developers have to Planning employees, with obvious large financial implications. Some good suggestions came forth about county policy, but short shrift was given to the rich and powerful using undue access and influence. Somehow less important than Cindy’s alleged misdeeds? Hmmm!

    It was stated that the County lost no money from its sloppy failures in tracking letters of credit. That flies in the face of what has been stated by county employees in public meetings. Perhaps those instances occurred after the time the prosecutor elected to present to the Grand Jury. Strange that such time limitations might apply there and not to the incidents occasioning the suggested reprimands. Life is just full of little inconsistencies, isn’t it.

    And yet the emphasis is on Mr. Jones and Commissioner Meadows with only unsubstantiated allegations of a peripheral nature to what should have been the focus of the investigation? Something stinks badly. Could it be that politics has reared its ugly head in this report? Surely not. After all, the State Attorney’s office is apolitical. And I’m Santa Claus.

    Don Riley, M.D.
     
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  4. John G

    John G Beach Fanatic

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    Its great to see other community members realizing that this process was all a fraud.

    A fraud perpetrated on the community by two fraudsters - Mike Adkinson and Bill Eddins.

    Perhaps its time to "investigate" them...
     
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  5. Misty

    Misty Banned

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    You can't find what you aren't actively looking for! The fact that almost a MILLION DOLLARS was NEVER COLLECTED from a developer and was NEVER LOOKED AT AS A CRIME by the STATE ATTORNEY speaks VOLUMES!!

    It matters little that the developer may now be bankrupt as someone suggested. The BCC has an obligation to the taxpayers of this County to (at the very least) slap a few liens on anything (cars, houses or real property ) the developer may own. The developer wasn't bankrupt when he walked away from the planning department knowing that someone had just made an almost million dollar mistake in his favor! In fact, at that point, he had riches beyond his wildest dreams and some UNBELIEVABLE LUCK!

    If feckless behavior is the indicator of a lack of character and irresponsible behavior, the citizens of Walton County have received a double whammy thanks to Mr. Eddins, Mike Adkinson, C. Jones & company including, developers and power-brokers known to associate, one of whom has already done federal jail time and still others who have falsely reported campaign contributions in the not so distant past.
     
  6. lazin&drinkin

    lazin&drinkin Beach Lover

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    Should this go further and higher in law enforcement circles, and it should, on wonders if this might become a federal criminal case. to wit,

    "Misprision of felony" is still an offense under United States federal law after being codified in 1909 under 18 U.S.C. § 4

    Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

    This offense, however, requires active concealment of a known felony rather than merely failing to report it.[7]

    If one knows that one is a target of an Federal investigation, it is illegal under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to erase one's browser history intentionally. Khairullozhan Matanov was prosecuted for erasing computer records about his friends, Dhzokar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev; he pleaded guilty to a lesser included offense in 2015.[8][9]

    The Federal misprision of felony statute is usually only used in prosecutions against defendants who have a special duty to report a crime, such as a government official.[10]

    Misfeasance or malfeasance are considerations in the alternative at the state level, I believe. Justice was not served well by the Grand Jury report as released. My criticism is reserved for the State Attorney's Office if this is indeed all there is to come from the public time and money invested in this so-called investigation. The Grand Jury itself is not the subject of my doubts as I know it can only consider that presented to them by the State Attorney, and it is entirely his captive creature, producing just the results he may want. That the State Attorney explicitly did not ever look at this as a criminal matter defies credulity. The amounts in question are much too large to just write off as simple clerical errors. Too many checks and balances should have one into play, This reeks of cover-up and misdirection. One might wonder about the other cases apparently dismissed by the State Attorney as part of his "investigation".

    We can only hope that higher authorities, including some with FBI attached to their paychecks, will be going where the State Attorney did not tread in this report. Justice has not been served yet. To date, it appears to have been mocked as part of a political agenda. Whose remains to be seen.
     
  7. Bob Wells

    Bob Wells Beach Fanatic

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    Seems it wasn't that long ago that supposedly a federal investigation was occurring within Walton County Government, curious whatever happened with that?
     
  8. Misty

    Misty Banned

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    I'm not sure who you are referencing in regard to the FBI comment but (if) your comment is directed at Imfeld who came to this county as a "former" FBI Special Agent and a Certified CPA in charge of how County money was spent, one has to ask themselves why his only actions to date have only been to contact Carr Riggs & Ingram (the Counties) accounting firm who has been paid the big bucks since Moses was a kid, to find and report susceptibility to occupational fraud and help incorporate policies to improve collections and increases cash flow? Where were the policies? If the accounting firm tried to incorporate those polices why weren't the followed?

    The county has had the same collection procedures and/or software for years even though according to the Grand Jury report the County brought in EXPERTS including Dr. Beeman who made numerous recommendations to improve County operations. I'm also sure that Dr. Beeman's expert opinions didn't come CHEAP! The taxpayers paid a substantial amount of money for those recommendations to be ignored!!

    There were ALLOT of County Commissioners who ignored the experts including Larry Jones and whoever was a sitting Commissioner when that money went missing and it continued until the Grand Jury report was released. That's a problem!

    I personally think that Dr. Don and Miller were far too kind in their assessment of Larry Jones' actions in the overall scheme of things and IMHO he is as guilty of ignoring expert advice as any other sitting Commissioner from that time period until now.


    Who ya gonna call? Do you think the Gov. will intervene or Pam Bondi? If you believe that I'm going to become a real estate agent and sell swamp land in Idaho because what your comments suggest is that the Gov. and the State Attorney General actually do something decent for the taxpayers in this State which, begs the question...When has that EVER happened?
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
  9. Misty

    Misty Banned

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    The last time I heard hints the Feds were here it involved Suzanne Harris which involved the same power-brokers I have alluded to here.

    Federal Investigation In Walton County ?
     
  10. John G

    John G Beach Fanatic

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    It seems this term "Misprison of a Felony" has been heard or seen somewhere before...

    Maybe on an old post or perhaps on that "other" site (which no longer exists)...

    Either way, I like your thinking lazin.
     
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  11. Misty

    Misty Banned

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    Judges here would only recuse themselves from a local effort to have this thoroughly investigated. Moving it to another County, it could actually disappear altogether as other cases have done with the players involved.

    Bringing in the feds is almost like an act of Congress.
     
  12. Patriot Games

    Patriot Games Beach Lover

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    I wonder why Mrs. Harris wasn't called in front of the grand jury. She seems to know what the county is doing wrong.
     
  13. Matt J

    Matt J SWGB

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    They went through enough, being forced to listen to that voice violates the Geneva Treaty.
     
  14. Suzanne Harris

    Suzanne Harris Beach Fanatic

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    Or could be they did not want to know what all Scott told me.
     
  15. Misty

    Misty Banned

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    I don't think the Grand Jury would have ignored what all Scott told you...I think... had the Grand Jury not been a personal witch hunt perpetrated by Bill Eddins or that if he was really willing to get to the bottom of all the dirty politics that have transpired in this County, the Grand Jury would have heard MUCH MUCH more than the directives they were given.
     
  16. BeachSteelers

    BeachSteelers Beach Fanatic

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    Greatest thread ever, so dang informative I wish it'd never end. And no way can I believe that only 1 accounting error has occurred. Bet a whole bunch of these parcels have "Special Tax Rates" and just a little loose change can affect the keyboard strokes. No sane or lawful person catches that mistake and then fails to act on it unless it benefits them directly and more than once. Smells more like SOP and if the info in these previous pages are to be believed, then only the FEDS can right the ship. The inside network has it covered, they got a majority on BOCC, inside people in planning and code and WCSO, Media and a tax funded legal Team. Even the New England Patriots are jealous and taking notes of the cheating in this County.
     
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  17. Misty

    Misty Banned

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    Today is the day!
    Tuesday, October 13th at the South Walton Annex Boardroom the County will take up the issue of the Grand Jury report.


    Rumor has it this is going to be the "hottest" BCC meeting in the history of Walton County!
     
  18. Matt J

    Matt J SWGB

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  19. Misty

    Misty Banned

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    Waiting on more info regarding the bomb Hudson dropped tonight...that's going to be interesting.

    The jest of the meeting was the BCC didn't see it as their job to reprimand Meadows and Larry, they agreed to address the findings of the GJ in regard to improving the planning dept and looks like they are not opposed to the Auditor General coming in. Chapman sorta kinda voiced his opinion that the GJ report was a "witch hunt" without using those specific terms and C. Jones actually attended the meeting albeit she sat there with her mouth closed for the most part looking like the proverbial child caught with her hands in the cookie jar. It wasn't even brought up that she had done the same thing in regard to Catalano being hired (opportunity lost to point the finger in the direction it deserved to be pointed in) and your friend (lol) had a few choice outbursts for Imfeld.

    Meadows held her composure and the meeting didn't denigrate anyone too unfairly.
     
  20. Danny Glidewell

    Danny Glidewell Beach Fanatic

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    I thought Imfeld did a good job as chair to explain and outline what they are going to do and it is definitely a positive development that they are going to finally try and fix the LDC and the comp Plan. Meadows showed a lot of class and Chapman and Commander explained reality to everyone. We elect commissioners and when we have a problem we want action not "call staff." Some of those who complain the most about "commissioner interference" are the ones who call them the most demanding some sort of action. I thought I would fall out of my chair when Chapman said you could get a grand jury to indict a monkey, but he is absolutely right. Everyone skirted all around saying the GJ was a witchhunt and C Jones tried to defend it to no effect. And no one wanted to get into the DFS payments.
     

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