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Tuesday September 2nd 2014

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Commissioners at the Rodeo

After losing his job following a brief and controversial stint with the Escambia County Equestrian Center, Forrest Gibbs is suing three county commissioners. The officials, he contends, interfered with his job and caused his firing.

While the Escambia County Commission did not fire Gibbs, they did have discussions about whether or not Commissioner Wilson Robertson had overstepped any bounds when pushing for Gibbs to get the job. Following those discussions, County Administrator Randy Oliver fired Gibbs and restarted the hiring process.

“I think it should be pretty clear for the court system to see what happened,” said Commissioner Grover Robinson.

Robinson, as well as commissioners Kevin White and Marie Young, are named in the lawsuit. Commissioner Gene Valentino was not present when the board took up the matter and is not named in the suit.

Also not named in the suit is Commissioner Robertson, a family friend of Gibbs’. While none of the commissioners voted on removing Gibbs, they did discuss such, with Robertson suggesting a redo of the entire process.

Oliver told the board he understood the jest of their conversations and said he would put the position back out on the market—a move that, by definition, required firing Gibbs.
Gibbs is suing for about $15,000. At the same time, he is also on the list of candidates currently in the running for the Equestrian Center position.

“That’s going to be a hard thing for the county to evaluate,” Robinson said of the seeming disconnect.

Assistant County Administrator Larry Newsom sees it differently. The matters are different issues.

“I would say they’re separate,” Newsom said. “Nobody’s black-balled for filing a suit.”