Escambia County News Politics

Touart’s Return

November 1, 2012

George Touart is returning to county government. In a move Escambia County Vice Chairman Gene Valentino described as a way to keep the county “moving forward in a positive way,” the county commission 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.”

The Escambia County Commission recently fired former county administrator Randy Oliver. Persistent rumors of Touart’s return have been downplayed by commissioners. Valentino, who made the motion for Touart’s return, chalked the rumors up to “a lot of talk in the media.”

“This process is personal and I treat it that way,” he said. “I know what the media doesn’t know.”

Valentino said he had been contacted by several people expressing interest in the job, most recently Touart.  He said the former administrator, who left under an ethical cloud in 2007, would afford the county a “short term, seamless transition.”

Commissioner Kevin White finally seconded the motion.

“I guess I will second it for discussion,” he said, telling the board he also planned on applying for the position . “—seriously, I brought my resume.”

Since Oliver’s firing, Assistant Administrator Larry Newsom has been serving as acting county administrator. Commission Chairman Wilson Robertson has said he wanted to keep him in the top slot.

Valentino tonight said that he had spoken with Newsom.  He said the acting administrator relayed that the interim position would entail “just a little too much.”

“When I communicated with Larry,” said Commissioner Grover Robinson, “he commented he would be more than happy to take the responsibilities until we can get somebody.”

Robinson made an amendment to Valentino’s motion that Newsom serve as interim until a permanent candidate could be found. Commissioner Marie Young seconded.

“Larry, can I ask you a few questions,” Valentino turned to the acting administrator.

The commissioner asked Newsom to clarify his position. The acting administrator said that he had told Robinson he could continue in the position—“the answer was clearly yes”—but that ultimately he would serve “at the pleasure of the board.”

“Is there a preference?” Valentino asked.

“I’m at the pleasure of the board,” Newsom repeated.
Although Commissioner White voiced concerns about making such a decision when the board was about to seat two new members, he eventually warmed to idea—“it is an interesting idea, George”—as did Chairman Robertson.

Prior to voting on bringing Touart back as administrator, Valentino stressed that he wanted to take his time in choosing a permanent administrator.

“Frankly, I don’t have a clue if we can get the candidate we want in six months,” he said. “But I don’t want to be rushed. I want to get it right.”

By a 3-2 vote—with Robinson and Young dissenting—Touart will be coming back at a rate of $130,000. Plus, $500 monthly car allowance and “other benefits commensurate with county employment.”

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  • Cal Robinson November 4, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    I don’t know anything about Wilson Roberston’s opponent, but he’s still got my vote on Tuesday.

    I’m disgusted with Robertson behavior as a commissioner. He was better than Whitehead last election, but in the 4 years since he’s proven himself to be just as self-serving as his predessor.

  • RTDavis November 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    My first reaction to the Touart news was simple: “You have got to be kidding me!” But, being honest with myself, I knew this was no joke.

    I have been watching the local political shenanigans for a long time, and this latest chapter in the never-ending good old boy saga is no real surprise.

    Now, I have a confession: Though I still work in Escambia County, I gave up on living there quite a few years ago. The latest Touart chapter validates my decision to live elsewhere.

    To all who still live in Escambia county, you have my sympathy.

  • Bubbaz November 4, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    If you think this is a temporary gig you better think again

  • George Hawthorne November 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Here is a suggestion … Al Colby for county administrator.

  • jeeperman November 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Kinda funny tho…………….
    Morgan was likely feeling like he got Oliver fired over the Sheriff’s budget.
    Then the BOCC goes and hires McNesby’s hunting/good o boy buddy Touart.

  • Henry November 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    “How come the saint, known as Ernie Lee was not made county administrator ?.”

    Because Ernie Lee is 156 years old and having to put up with the yahoos on the BOCC and their special brand of BS would almost certainly be fatal.

  • escambiamom November 3, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Ernie Lee would have been a great choice! For permanent administrator. I have heard so many good things from people who worked for him.

    (I’d love for you to join our FB group, Jeeperman and Ames!)

  • Ames November 3, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Dunno-more pocket protector numbers nerd than sock puppet?

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