Through a public record request, we received copies of the lawsuits against county code enforcement and the Sheriff Ron McNesby. There are common threads. Both cases involved Saufley Landfill, construction debris haulers, Charlie Walker and Sotirios Thagouras.
Case: Carl R. Gilbert, II and Sharon Gilbert vs. Sheriff McNesby, Charlie Walker (Code Enforcement Supervisor), Sotirios Thagouras (Code Enforcement Officer).
In 2005, Carl Gilbert relocated his business, Southland Site Contractors, to Longleaf Drive. He got an occupational license and opened for business. Under County Ordinance 82-131, businesses aren’t required to get solid waste permits if they don’t haul residential garbage.
On Dec. 15, 2005, Thagouras visited Gilbert and told him that he was investigating a possible zoning and licensing violation. Five days later, Thagouras issues a cease and desist order – claiming zoning violation and not having a solid waste permit.
Gilberts apply for solid waste permit – even though they weren’t required to do so – and are given permission to operate while the permit is being processed – a three-month period. When Southland Site Contractors goes to dump construction debris at Saufley Landfill, they are refused because, according to the suit, Thagouras had told the landfill operators that Gilbert was operating illegally.
On Jan. 6, 2006, Gilberts ask Comm. Mike Whitehead for help. Whitehead checks with county attorney and tells the Gilberts that Thagouras lacks authority to prevent the dumping of debris at the private landfill.
On Jan. 7, 2006, trucks are refused again. On Jan.9, Gilbert is told Thagouras has given permission for six loads to be dumped. On Jan. 10, Thagouras shows up at the offices of Southland with a deputy and several code enforcement officers and arrests Gilbert in front of his children. Gilbert had been asked by Thagouras to be at the office for a meeting to discuss issues with the county.
Gilbert is arrested for obstruction of right of way, violation of franchise haulers agreement, zoning violation and setback violation. Thagouras further gets another warrant for Gilbert’s arrest on Feb. 10 alleging the same facts. Gilbert is arrested again on Feb. 28.
At March 8, 2006, Charlie Walker, Thagouras’s boss, admits, according to the suit, that there is no setback violation, not zoning violation and that Southland did have a pending permit. However, after the meeting, Walker didn’t notify the state attorney to drop those charges.
On June 6, 2006, Southland’s solid waste permit is approved.
On June 8, 2006 Gilbert is found not guilty of all charges by Escambia County Judge Thomas Johnson.
On June 9, 2006 Thagouras applies for a third arrest warrant of Gilbert on the same facts as before.
On July 24, 2006 Gilbert is arrested for a third time at his home in Santa Rosa County in front of his children. According to the suit, Thagouras had informed the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office that Gilbert was dangerous. Gilbert was arrested by the Santa Rosa County SWAT team.
On Oct. 30, 2006 State Attorney announced dismissal of the prosecution of the arrest warrant because Gilbert had already been found to be not guilty of the same charges.
CASE Robert K. Mandel and Sharon Mandel vs. Sheriff McNesby, Charlie Walker, Sotirios Thagouras and another code enforcement officer Steve Littlejohn
Sharon Mandel owns A Prestige Services, LLC, also known as R-C Express, which rents containers for non-household debris collection in Escambia County.
Feb 2006, R-C Express gets occupational license, but informed by Walker that they also need a Solid Waste permit. Tax collector tells that the only permit required is the occupational license. Mandel gets an application for Solid Waste permit to be on the safe side.
April 18, 2006 Thagouras obtains arrest warrant for Robert Mandel, even though he is not an owner of the business.
April 21, 2006 Thagouras asks Mandel to meet him at the R-C Express offices. Thagouras and Littlejohn issue him a notice of violation. Mandel gives them a completed application for the Solid Waste permit.
May 2, 2006 Mandel is arrested.
Feb. 21, 2007 State Attorney dismissed the case.