On Sunday, the Pensacola News Journal published an article on a taped conversation between former County Administrator George Touart and County Commissioner Gene Valentino. Valentino was making the call with the State Attorney’s office listening in because he believed that Touart was trying to trade the Bauer Road property intended for a sports complex for his retirement package. The PNJ had the recording on its website, but not a transcript. We had an intern transcribe for your reading pleasure:
It is now Sept. 15, 2007. Controlled phone call. Mr. Gene Valentino will be making the phone call. This call will be to George Touart. Approximately 7:45 p.m.
GV: Is this the one and only George Touart?
GT: Hey kiddo, at least I didnât make the paper by myself today.
GV: No I was joining you today. Now you know where Iâve been for the last few days. This court case was a federal court case frankly and Iâve got a about 20 minutes to chat. Iâm on my way to the Outback and I wanted to catch up with you. You called earlier this morning. I was over at the kick off for the soccer field.
GT: Oh yeah great. Yeah I saw a bunch of people over there. We went to Winn-Dixie today.
GT: Is there any chance youâre getting that money back chief?
GV: I hope so. It looks like the court case is um . . . The beauty is that the London folks who have been deceiving me on the transaction weâve convinced judge Rogers to domesticate the case here in the federal system of Escambia county. The beauty is that I donât have to spend a lot of money litigating it in London. So yeah, how about that for a news story? Youâre not alone George.
GT: Boy Iâll tell you if I lost $50,000 I think Iâd go jump off a bridge. Lord almighty, now I know why youâve been kinda nervous lately. Jesus Christ.
GV: Anyways, you called me and I wanted to get back to you. I got the message that Grover . . .
GT: Yeah um, I was gonna tell you that Grover had an emergency surgery on Friday, he had a gallbladder attack. Iâm trying to call the hospital room 201 at Baptist. Iâve tried to call 3 or 4 times a day and they must had the phone turned off so I left a message on the home phone but Iâm not going to bother him because obviously heâs in some pain or something today.
GV: I was there last night. I stopped in to see him last night.
GT: Oh, did you?
GV: Yeah when I got your message then ironically within an hour or two Bob McLaughlin called me and mentioned room 201 and I had just finished my court case Friday afternoon and Judy Odom, my former secretary had dinner over at McGuireâs and then I decided to go straight over to the hospital.
GT: Well howâs he doing? What happened?
GV: Heâs been under a lot of stress George, just like all of us.
GT: But I mean, did he have a gall bladder attack.
GV: Yeah, it was a serious gallbladder attack. Two days earlier Kevin White is throwing up in a parking lot going into a TPO meeting with me. Groverâs got this thing, and frankly weâve all been under a little bit of stress here.
GT: Gene, it is absolutely criminal what the newspaper has done to us. Especially me and my family. This started out as nothing. I mean, it started out with you giving me a slap on my hands and letting me continue on as a county administrator and look whatâs happened because of the press.
GV: Well thatâs right George.
GT: Itâs unbelievable. Itâs unbelievable.
GV: I know youâre busy and I donât want to bother you. It goes back to those three offers that were made, and I talked to you last Thursday or Friday or whatever. Um Gene, Iâm not going to go after number three. Thereâs just no use, thatâs putting everybody in a bad position. If yâall just let me pay my own way and get out of here.
GT: We tried to call Janet and she never would call my attorney back. And them her secretary e-mailed it over at like 4:00 on Friday so obviously we didnât even have a lot of time to look at it. But number tow is the settlement that I paid my way. Of course the newspaper didnât get that straight either, but I take the money out of my retirement plan and paid $38,000 for the next 90 days and yâall do pay for the matching and Iâll go on down the road.
Gene, Iâve never been railroaded like this in my entire life. Itâs just phenomenal how this started out. Iâve done nothing that everybody else hasnât already done. Iâve done nothing wrong, thereâs no ethics violation, I know you know that. This started out as a hand slap, and what Iâm disappointed about is Janet, and Gene I hate to tell you this, but she bald-faced lied to yâall.
Mike Whitehead asked Janet point blank Thursday afternoon âDid you or did you not make George an offer before the board meeting on September 06 to cause him to retire instead of us voting to suspend him one week?â She told him no. She said that they were working on an agreement but they did not do that.
Gene, I gave Mike a copy of it. He went through the roof when he saw it. Janet not only negotiated it, she said she had three votes and not only that; she said told mike there were no e-mails and she sent three e-mails to Mike Patterson on the morning on the 6th. She told Mike there were no e-mails and the whole nine yards. Well, Iâm going to be honest with you. I gave Mike a copy of it Friday and he was livid, she bald-faced lied to him.
GV: Mike Whitehead or Mike Patterson?
GT: Mike Whitehead . Mike Patterson had it all. And when Mike told me that I said, Mike sheâs lying to you, Iâve got the copies of not only the agreement of the entitlement settlement offer to George Touart but Iâve got the e-mails that went back and forth because my attorney didnât like the money part.
But there were a couple of things she couldnât do. Like one of them was that I can never come back to work for the county. Well she canât do that by state laws because I wasnât fired. So we had to take that out.
So my point is, there were three e-mails back and forth on the 6th, trying to get ready for that night. The last e-mail, and, Gene, youâre not going to believe this, but the last e-mail said that itâs not necessary. That George should retire tonight. Heâs got 21 days to sign the agreement and the terms and conditions will remain the same and we can negotiate the things like coming back to work for the county. And she said that George, thereâs three votes to support what Iâm offering you if youâll go ahead and retire tonight
Gene, when I wrote the resignation, she knew about it. I wrote the retirement and obviously you know the rest. You even stopped me on the way down the hall and said, George are you sure you want to do this? Because Iâll still vote for the one week suspension.
GV: Wait a minute, when did I? Refresh my memory.
GT: You told me, George, Iâm still wanting to vote for the one-week suspension. Are you sure you want to do this? And I said Gene, Iâm ready to go. Iâll retire in April. And if you remember, I said the press is never going to leave this alone, this is crazy. You read a statement that evidently Janet wrote for you. But Janet bald faced lied about it.
GV: Hereâs what I donât get. Yeah, all I wanted to do was slap you on the hands. I didnât want to kill you, I just wanted to spank you.
GT: And Gene, thatâs all I deserved. I donât deserve whatâs happening here, thatâs all I deserved. I have done nothing wrong. This has gone crazy.
GV: You should see the number of calls weâre getting, George. I get 150 calls a day, and e-mails. The next step what youâre talking about was right in the middle. I got a ball field at Bower Road thatâs now inextricably linked to the citizens. Now what Iâve got . . . Hereâs my problem. I wanted you to just enjoy a retirement. But Mike Whitehead, got off on the former county administrator. He was just connecting a whole bad situation. I mean, that situation has nothing to do with the four corners of your agreement. Why did he do that?
GT: I donât know, you see, he knew Barry Evans. Cause he was there when Berry Evans was there. And he just could stand Barry Evans.
GV: I was down at the soccer field in Perdido that I mentioned earlier, and theyâre screaming at me âWhenâs Bauer coming back?â
GT: Well Gene, you know, hereâs the choices yâall got. You can either fire me, and thereâs no grounds to fire me so that will end up in a very nasty lawsuit. And Janet breached a contract, she walked the halls. And Janet could possibly get disbarred over this, thatâs how serious my lawyer thinks this is. But Iâm not going there. The other things is, number two, let me pay my own way out. Janet told me she gave all yâall copies of this on Friday. But thereâs an agreement, number two.
GV: I have that; Iâve been looking it over this weekend.
GT: And number three is the one about 200 something thousand dollars that Mike Patterson proposed and Iâll never get that. If you wonât let me out of here with number two Iâll get on down the road. Iâll help you get the ballpark because thatâs the most important thing to these people out here and I understand that.
GV: Well how am I supposed to get the ballpark? It shouldnât be linked to your compensation.
GT: Itâs not. Itâs not linked to my compensation at all. But Iâve gotta get out of the way before you get the ballpark. You know the bottom line is Gene, thereâs nothing wrong with the damn ballpark. In fact, Iâm the one who went to Neil Nash asking him to do the damn thing in the first place. Gene, Iâm telling you thereâs nothing in this damn thing for me and you know that. Gene, you yourself have bought up two or three pieces of property since youâve been in office. Youâve told me this guyâs a good guy, heâs got a piece of property, go look at it. You did nothing more than I did. The guy behind Perdido Bay, Graff, you did the same thing I did. You bought a piece of property to look at. Thatâs all we did with Neil Nash. Goddammit, there wasnât a penny in there for Neil or me and I swear to God thatâs the truth. This thing had been blown so out of proportion. I bet we cost Neil $300,000 and he didnât even want to sell the property; Iâm the one who talked him into doing it. And then my whole career gets ruined because of it.
GV: How do I get to the ballpark?
GT: The ballpark? If I can get to retirement and the whole thingâs done, Iâll go to Neal and get the ballpark. But we didnât have this conversation.
GV: I already asked Neil how weâre gonna do it. How are we gonna do it George?
GT: Because heâs gonna bring the ballpark back up. Gene thereâs nothing wrong with this ballpark. Thereâs nothing wrong with this deal.
GV: I want it desperately. You should have heard the kids this morning at the soccer field.
GT: Gene, itâs still the best deal. And I will tell you this, Gene. You noticed I havenât said a word. Iâve kept my mouth shut because my lawyer said to keep my mouth shut. When this is over with, Iâm going to unload on this damn newspaper; Iâm going to unload on some other things. The reason Kevinâs throwing up is because heâs got a guilty conscious. You canât believe how much Kevinâs lied about. And thatâs for me and Kevin to deal with later. You canât believe how heâs bald-faced lied about me. He puts in the damn newspaper how he didnât know about my business interest with RW Beck and all that crap. Believe me, he knew. And after all this is over with, youâll find out how he knew.
GV: All right, well Iâm pulling up in front of this Outback but Iâm going to give you a minute more. What about the others? Is Mike on board with option two?
GT: Yeah, Mike and Grover are fine. Theyâre not going to prove number three. I cannot get number three. Itâs out, itâs over with. My lawyer told me to pay my own way out and get on with life.
GV: Jesus George, thatâs what I recommended in the beginning.
GT: Iâm gonna probably sue the newspaper, between you and I. Iâm gonna probably sue the newspaper for about ten million bucks. But Iâll tell you Gene, there have been some commissioners who have bald-faced lied in this situation. Just flagrantly lied.
GV: I want you to know that if I vote for option two, itâs gonna cost me with the voters.
GT: How can it cost you, Gene? How can it cost you? Itâs the right thing to do. Thereâs only one side of the story being told. I canât talk. The newspaper is persecuting and I canât say a word. My lawyers are on top of this like white on rice and told me that if I open my mouth theyâre not gonna represent me. Gene, I have done nothing wrong. I almost wish they would do an investigation so we could get this bullshit over with. Thereâs nothing wrong with that property. Itâs the best piece of property. Mike and I talked about it yesterday. Heâs gonna support the property. Between you and me, Groverâs gonna support the property.
GV: By the way, itâs in his district. Everyone thinks itâs in mine.
GT: Mike and Grover are gonna support the property, Iâll just give you my word on that. And you didnât have this conversation with me.
GV: I understand.
GT: Theyâre gonna support the property. Keep in mind, Neil Nash is the one who talked Grover into running for office.
GV: Are you sure theyâre going to support it? Because Whitehead was out on option three.
GV: How do you know?
GT: Because I talked to Whitehead yesterday. Mike wanted option three. I said Mike, forget it. I just want to get on with life. I canât eat. I canât sleep.
GV: Well why would he stand alone George? The first time, I slapped you on the hands and I got shot down by my fellow commissioners, four to one. Then I try to bring it through to a mid point, Whiteheadâs going off with the idea that . . . heâs upstaging me on this thing. I offered number two in the first place. I stand alone George.
GT: Gene, he was gonna vote for the one week suspension. You never brought it up that night. You changed it because Janet has you a prepared statement to read. You never brought up the one week, he was gonna support it.
GV: I brought it up the week before. What are you talking about?
GT: It was on the agenda, Gene. Yâall changed it in the board meeting that night. You never brought it up. You read a prepared statement Janet had brought for you for me to retire because Janet had walked the halls and had three votes for my agreement.
GV: All right, Iâm sorry. How do you know the other commissioners are gonna go for this? Are you sure? Because Whitehead lied to me.
GT: Because I asked Mike to do it yesterday. I said Mike, donât fall on your shorts. You donât have to vote to get me money. Let me out of here. It will cost me $38,000 more dollars out of my damn retirement. Iâm paying it my own self. The only thing youâre paying for is the matching funds. It goes back to what you wanted to approve the other day. Iâm backing up and taking up what you asked to be approved the other day, option two.
GV: How are you gonna get Grover to support this thing? Heâs in the hospital.
GT: Did he have surgery?
GV: Yeah, I think he had the surgery this morning around ten or eleven o clock.
GT: Was it the kind they just poke the wholes in your stomach?
GV: The doctor was leaning toward taking it out because of the severity of it.
GT: Okay, I donât know. If Groverâs not there Tuesday morning, the meeting will have to be tabled again because if Groverâs not there it will be tabled until the next meeting. And I told Kevin on Friday that you donât want to make this a nighttime meeting. Because a nighttime meeting, there would be so many people there for both sides, youâll be there for 5 hours listening to people talk.
GV: Well, what time does this start? Is this an evening one or a morning one. Iâm getting so confused with this schedule now.
GT: Morning. If Grover can be there, itâs scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.
GV: George, Iâm worried about Bower Road failing. Thatâs whatâs got me really concerned now. You have no idea, I came back from a meeting this morning with this constituents. They are really . . .They want to know about Bower Road, thatâs all I can tell you.
GT: But, Gene, I want you to stop and think about something. I want you to go back to the day when someone made a option about me and Neal Nash. There was nothing to it then, thereâs nothing to it now. I bought a boat from him three damn years ago. I bought him out in the first 6 months, two and a half years ago. I had a presale condominium that I got bought out of. I have no business with Neal Nash whatsoever. He was a friend, just like people who have come to you for property are friends. And I got absolutely destroyed. They have tried to destroy my life. And all I want to do is retire. The other option is, put me back to work until April 2nd.
GV: All right.
GT: If you want to put me back to work, put me back to work until April 2nd, and Iâll retire.
GT: I will do this, I will talk to Neal on Monday. I will tell him that it is my choice and I will ask him to still support the property.
GV: Is that a deal then?
GT: Iâll do it.
GT: And Iâll get Neal to call you, so you know I did it.
GV: Okay, then Iâll go with two as the option if you can make this happen.
GT: And Grover and Mike in that meeting both said that they wanted to go around the world and look at other properties but that they gonna probably end up with that property because itâs the beast piece of property and you know it.
GV: George, Iâve looked around at all the properties. I canât find anything thatâs better than this one. This is good.
GT: Gene, Iâve been looking for 6 years but let me tell you something. Now you listen to what I have to say then Iâm going to let you go because I know youâre sitting there at the steakhouse.
GV: Yeah, Iâve gotta get going. The battery will probably go dead any minute, but go ahead.
GT: One second. I want you to think about something. The only thing that will vindicate me is yâall buying that property. Because that will prove to people that there was nothing wrong with the property in the first place. And I will talk to Neil on Monday and Iâll get Neil to call you.
GV: Jeeze, I donât want to read about this in the newspaper either, you know.
GT: I canât promise that, but I can promise this: weâre looking at suing their ass for ten million dollars. You remember that and Iâll get Neal to call you on Monday.
GV: All right, weâll letâs keep this quiet George, huh?
GT: I ainât talked to you. I donât know what youâre talking about.
GV: Okay, well my career is at stake here. I didnât take this damn job for the frickin money. Iâm trying to do a good thing here for the citizens. Itâs amazing how you have to compromise yourself just to get to first base with things in this town.
GT: Gene, do you realize that the reason Iâm in trouble now is for trying to get a ballpark to help you? Over nothing. If you think about it, gene, Iâve done nothing wrong. Except try to get a damn ballpark that you asked me to help with. And I swear to God that it was above board transaction that these people have blown totally out of proportion. And Iâm the one taking the damn heat. Iâm the one theyâre calling a damn crook. And thatâs the reason Iâm suing the damn News Journal. Iâm going to clear my name now. I can promise you that. Gene, Iâve never done anything wrong thing in my life. Iâve never taken a dime I didnât earn. Iâve worked my ass off all my life. And donât you think this hasnât destroyed my life. Itâs got my whole family so upset they cant see straight.
GV: Well I canât see straight either George. Ok look, Iâm glad we talked. We have a deal.
GT: If itâs any consolation to you, my phone rings 25-30 times a day with supporters too so itâs both ways Gene. Iâll get Neil to call you Monday.
GV: All right.
GT: Iâll get Neil to call you Monday. Have a good weekend.
GV: We have a deal, Iâll go for option two.
GT: Thank you, Gene.
GV: Guarantee that park, Iâve got to get that park in.
GT: Youâll get a phone call Monday.
GV: Okay, buddy,
GT: Thank you, Gene.
GV: And by the way, we didnât have this conversation George.
GT: I ainât never talked to you tonight.
GV: Okay, buddy.
GT: But Iâll tell you this Gene, when this is over with Iâm going to sit down and tell you how Janet lied to yâall.
GV: Iâd also like to know a little bit more about Whitehead. George, I feel deceived by him. I feel played. I just want you to know that.
GT: I donât know why, because Iâve talked to him one time. I have stayed away from everybody, as you well know. I called Mike yesterday because he wanted to know if thereâs an agreement. I said Mike, thereâs definitely an agreement, and Iâm going to give it to Janet. Janet lied to him and Mike called me yesterday and asked me if I had a copy of the agreement. I went and got a copy of the agreement and I gave it to Mike yesterday and thatâs the gospel truth. But Mike is not happy with Janet.
GV: You know, sheâs rubbed me the wrong way too. You know my concern, stuff got to the press, I donât even know how it got there on this whole issue. I only wanted to spank you, I didnât want to to kill you.
GT: Gene, Janet caused me my career. Iâm just going to tell you. When this is all over with you and I will sit down and drink a coke and Iâll tell you the whole story but Janet caused me my career. And Iâm wondering now why.
GV: Okay, buddy.
GT: But Iâll be honest with you. Iâll lay it all out there. I just canât tell you some things because Iâm going to sue the newspaper but Iâll sit down with you when this is all over with and I promise you that youâll faint when you hear some of the things Janet did. Janet caused me my career.
GV: Well, speaking of careers, letâs keep this quiet. Itâs going to cause me my career too.
GT: Gene, you can have this job as long as you want it. I donât know why in the hell you want it. Itâs up to you whether you run for again.
GV: If this gets out, Iâm going to jail. You know this. This is serious.
GT: Why you going to jail? Thereâs absolutely nothing wrong with me calling you and telling you that Iâll take option number two. Iâm not doing anything on the park. Iâm going to get Neal Nash to call you about the park. Iâm not getting involved in the park. All Iâm asking you is to support number two and let me retire. Thereâs absolutely nothing wrong with me calling you to tell you Neal Nash will call you Monday about the park.
GV: Well, Iâm just nervous about everything going on right now, thatâs all. I mean, look at this. Youâve got Kevin throwing up in a parking lot at a TPO meeting, Grover is nervous about his gallbladder and Iâm a little nervous too.
GT: Is that why youâre nervous, Gene? Because I have been railroaded out of office and Kevin and everybody else is getting a guilty conscious about it because you know I did nothing wrong. I just put it where it is. I got railroaded out of office. And in your heart you know itâs the truth.
GV: And in my heart I was just trying to spank you, not kill you.
GT: You are an honorable person and we were getting to be very good friends and you know I got railroaded. Cause you feel bad about it.
GV: I do. Look, Iâm good with it. Um, this conversation didnât happened. Iâm glad to talk to Neil. Iâll count on the fact that we had a deal. And that is option two.
GT: Donât put conditions on it. Just let Neal call you Monday. All I ask is that you support number two and get me out of here.
GV: Okay brother. This battery is going dead.
GV: Bye bye.
END: 8:10 p.m.