Gilley’s Gauntlet

Escambia Administrator’s Contract Up For Discussion
By Jeremy Morrison

When Escambia County Administrator Janice Gilley returns to work from her trip out of town, she will be returning to a sh#$ storm of sorts. Though things have been heating up for a while within the county’s governmental complex, the temperature appeared to jump ever higher during the June 3 Escambia County Board of County Commissioners meeting, when the foundation for a possible administrative exit was laid.

Or, maybe no, maybe it’s just routine stuff …

“All I’m asking my colleagues to do is to support putting the contract on as a discussion at the June 17 board meeting and take up the item then,” explained District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry, adding that he had “no intent of a lengthy discussion about it” at the time, “especially with Madame Administrator not here tonight.”

Barry’s fellow commissioners appeared fine with putting Gilley’s contract on the table for discussion—“never a bad time to talk about these things amongst ourselves,” reckoned District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill—and eventually voted unanimously to place the item of the board’s June 17 agenda. The administrator is currently working her second year of a three years contract.

Chairman Robert Bender alluded to the administrator’s regular annual review, loosely tethering the coming discussion to it: “I think we’re coming up on that time, I know I was asked about that review not too long ago.”

District 3 Commissioner Lumon May pointed out that the administrator did not receive a public review in 2020 but rather sat for one-on-ones with the commissioners, but it was during the public comment period that hints of possible context were dropped.

“You guys flip administrators so frequently it’s ridiculous,” Jacqueline Rogers told the commissioners. “Who’s going to want to come to work for us?”

However, Gilley is only the second administrator hired during Barry’s tenure on the board. George Touart was brought on as an interim to help him become vested in the state retirement system after the board fired Randy Oliver before Barry and May took office. His contract was month-to-month, and Touart died while the board was conducting a search for the position.

Larry Newsom served as the interim for a few months before Jack Brown was hired in 2014. Due to his wife’s sudden illness, Brown resigned abruptly in the fall of 2018. Amy Lovoy and Matt Coughlin served as interims briefly before Gilley was hired in 2019. Both Lovey and Coughlin left the county for jobs with the city.

Scorecard:
Two Administrators: Brown and Gilley
Four Interims during two job searches: Touart, Newsom, Lovoy and Coughlin

Brown and Gilley are the only two administrators that worked under Underhill. Bender and Bergosh have served only with Gilley at the helm. All three commissioners had to deal with interims Lovey (six months) and Coughlin (two months).

Rogers—who operates the Escambia Citizen Watch Facebook page—said she had “serious disagreements” with Gilley over various issues but suggested commissioners hold off discussing sending the administrator packing until her three-year contract was up.

Rogers tried to connect Commissioner Barry’s request for a discussion on Gilley’s contract—a late add-on to the agenda—to other Escambia County drama, the battle between the administrator and county attorney over whether the IP address of an anonymous email is a public record. Read ‘Gilley jumps the shark.’

“It sure does look like it was retaliatory, like it was added later, you know, today to the agenda because she’s trying to protect a public citizen,” Rogers said, asserting that Gilley’s position that the county could not reveal the IP address of the original anonymous requester — a point on which County Attorney Alison Rogers differs — had triggered her contract discussion.

Note: The public citizen to which Rogers referred had used a service to hide his/her true IP address (and identity) from the county – which leaves open whether the person had any expectation of anonymity.

On June 17, commissioners will be discussing both Gilley’s contract and the disagreement between the county attorney and administrator. Stay tuned.

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2 thoughts on “Gilley’s Gauntlet

  1. Mr. Lewis, thanks for bringing up the FACA search. My take was a bit different: it didn’t to me seem to be what criteria were used, but that the process had resulted in some blatant political choices on the part of the search team (with some home town hitters clearly behind a couple of them), and in one case a finalist who was practically run out of town on his last job.

    Which should not be surprised. I was floored to learn not just that FACA had an entity that conducted these pay to play searches, but that it was even legal to begin with. How that is not a conflict of interest, well, I’ll just add that to things I will never understand. In addition, it is well known that FACA lobbies hard for non-chartered counties to flip charter, since it vests the administrator with a sometimes mayoral-type power. The ensuing process and results aside, I certainly hope that FACA isn’t brought in again at any time to run a search of this nature in Escambia. Searches need to be orchestrated by professional entities completely cleared by independence reviews, not by the lobbying agency for the very position for which they are recommending candidacy.

  2. During the tortuous agenda item on April 11, 2019, Commissioner Bergosh said what I think many in Escambia County do think of the BOCC, “There is a leadership vacuum in this county.” He, of course, was not referring to himself or to the other commissioners. They all think that they individually and collectively do a spectacular job. Ironically, there are two hallmarks of BOCC meetings. First, the two phrases most often heard are “my district” and “your district.” You never hear them refer to “our county.” Second, the commissioners spend an inordinate amount of time, in almost a sickly manner, praising each other for their leadership. When one praises one, the other then returns the favor before the television camera, “And Commissioner [insert name], thank you for your leadership too.” The only thing missing from BOCC meetings is – “leadership.” State law, that the commissioners seem to have deliberately ignored in 2019, directs, “The county administrator shall be qualified by administrative and executive experience and ability to serve as the chief administrator of the county.” At the request of the BOCC, the Florida Association of Counties’ independent selection committee whittled down 120 candidates to a top-ranked three with two alternates one of whom dropped out prior to the April 11 meeting. Two commissioners (May, Barry) were upset that the selection committee only used the objective job search criteria approved by the BOCC and did not meet with them privately to get their additional guidance and direction. Three commissioners (Bergosh, Barry, Bender) insisted on adding three additional candidates for the purposes of “inclusion” and “diversity.” We don’t know if the three add-ons (on of whom lived in Santa Rosa County) were among the original 120 applicants or were added as straight special political nominations. We do know that none of the three add-ons (to include Janice Gilley) were well qualified for the job. In Gilley’s case, her own write up on the county website [Internet Search: Escambia County Administrator] is the best evidence I have found that she had no prior executive leadership or management experience. I also reviewed News Journal references to Gilley going back to 1999. She is a political staff person, political appointee type and government relations/liaison type. She is well-qualified for all sorts of positions but county administrator is not one of them. During the meeting, there was extensive discussion about whether a candidate who had “small county” experience was up to the job of running a “medium county” (1700 employees) government. Instead, the BOCC picked someone with no county leadership experience, i.e. a pure political appointee who would not seem qualified to be the Interim Town Manager in the Town of Century. Commissioner Barry is the one who most wanted Gilley to be the county administrator, or nominated her because someone pressured him to do so, so it is hardly fair for him to now question the performance of the person he thought more qualified than all of the 120 (or 123) people considered for the job. Commissioner Underhill, who gushed effusively at Barry’s mention of Gilley as an add-on nominee, must have had a crystal ball with him because he got it right, “We’re all going to suffer the consequences of this decision.” Here the link to the agenda item on April 11, 2019 when they messed things up – https://escambiacountyfl.new.swagit.com/videos/04112019-876#0

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