Jeremy's Notebook

Hiccup in Escambia’s Administrator Search

July 11, 2013

Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson lit the fuse this morning, then got a safe distance away before the fireworks began. It was a move Commissioner Wilson Robertson described as “ridiculous” and “just about ludicrous.” Chairman Gene Valentino deemed it an “eleventh-hour stunt” and “a slap in the face to the process.”

Robinson—not in attendance during this morning’s agenda review session—recommended that the commission re-open the pool for applications for the county administrator position, and suggested utilizing the Florida Association of Counties in the search process.

The county has been searching for a permanent administrator following the firing of former administrator Randy Oliver and the hiring of Interim Administrator George Touart last fall. A search committee is due to deliver the commission a handful of potential candidates for the job next week.

“It just don’t make sense,” Robertson said of Robinson’s recommendation. “I want this thing resolved. I don’t want to put this thing off. I don’t want to start another search.”

None of Robinson’s fellow commissioners had an appetite for reopening the pool, or going through FAC. Commissioner Lumon May said the move “caught me by surprise.” Commissioner Steven Barry noted he hadn’t heard of the option “until about ten minutes ago” and wanted to “keep the process moving forward.”

“If at the end of that process,” Barry said, “if a majority of our board was not happy with the final applicants, then perhaps we could go this route.”

When questioned by commissioners, Human Resources Director Tom Turner conceded that the current pool of applicants—which the committee has already whittled down from 42 to 10—is “somewhat shallow.”

“Florida is having a difficult time, in general, recruiting people to these positions,” Turner said.

Chairman Valentino said he didn’t think FAC “should be meddling in the county administrator search process” and noted that he considered the county’s pool of applicants to be “marginal, at best” prior to Touart applying for the permanent position.

The interim administrator applied for the position just before the pool was closed. Earlier this week, the search committee included Touart in its narrowed field of ten.

The commission requested that a further narrowed list of final candidates—the top seven—be placed before it during next week’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

Commissioner Robertson also said he believed that Escambia County had a lot of issues on its plate, making for an inopportune time to search for a permanent administrator.

“This is the worst time we could be looking for an administrator,” he said. “I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen it this bad when we’re trying to find an administrator.”

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  • jeeperman July 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    tsk tsk
    rules are for the peasants.

  • Roger July 12, 2013 at 11:42 am

    More info from the code of ethics-looks like the board should adhere to it’s code of ethics and either censure or remove Touart for this blatant violation-

    Escambia County Code of Ethics Policy

    17. Disclosure of Criminal Records Required. Any person applying for appointment to a County
    board or committee or for employment with Escambia County will disclose any criminal
    convictions and the failure to do so may result in dismissal from any such volunteer, board or
    committee member, or from employment of the County.

    19. Enforcement and Penalty. Pursuant to Subsection 112.317(3)(b), Florida Statutes, the Board of
    County Commissioners finds that an efficient and effective method for the determination of
    violations of the ethical standards set forth in this Policy is through local enforcement as
    provided herein. This Policy may be enforced in any manner allowed, authorized, or otherwise
    provided by law or ordinance, including Section 125.01, Florida Statutes.
    a. For appointed public officers, who are members of County boards and committees, the
    Board of County Commissioners may censure or remove that person for a policy violation
    and prohibit him or her from being reappointed to a County board or committee for up to a
    period of five (5) years or may refer the matter to the State Commission on Ethics for
    b. For County employees, such employees may be subject to employment sanctions for a
    policy violation, including but not limited to, reduction in pay, reprimand, suspension, or
    termination in accordance with the personnel procedures which are currently established
    allowing for County classified or unclassified employees to be disciplined or the referral
    of the matter to the State Commission on Ethics for investigation.

  • Roger July 12, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Good question Denise!

    The following link is for the Escambia County Code of Ethics Policy adopted by the County commission on 11/200/2008. Among other interesting tidbits, it states the following under “standards of conduct” section c subsection 3a “withholding of information(required disclosure)”:

    “No public appointed officers or employees shall withhold any information when the
    officer or employee knows, or reasonably should know, that a failure to disclose may
    impair the proper decision making of any County boards, authorities, agencies or committees.”

    Is falsifying and intentionally omitting criminal conviction informaton on an application for such an important position not a ethics violation?

  • jeeperman July 12, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Nov. 1st, 2012:
    Escambia County Vice Chairman Gene Valentino described re-hiring Touart as a way to keep the county “moving forward in a positive way”, The county commission then named the former county administrator as interim administrator.

    “It’s a patch on the tire,” Valentino said. “It should not be construed in any way as some larger term scheme.”

  • Steve C July 12, 2013 at 9:42 am

    George Touart’s job interview for the position of County Administrator:

  • denise July 12, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Thank you for posting that Roger – now why hasn’t he already been disqualified by the committee ?

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