Yesterday, the daily newspaper’s editorial board went after four Escambia County commissioners–Jeff Bergosh, Lumon May, Robert Bender and Steven Barry–for not agreeing to pay Commissioner Doug Underhill’s legal fees regarding a case over his Facebook comments that he won – “Escambia County residents deserve more from their commissioners.”
They gave a valid argument for paying the fees, but then they accused the quartet of having to find bogeymen to attack. And then came this paragraph:
Meanwhile, administrators have come and gone. Department heads have left. Staffers have moved on to escape the toxic work environment. At some point, there’s nobody left to blame other than the small gaggle of commissioners who always seem to be surrounded by the drama.
I’ve talked with several of employees that have left county government since 2018. Their complaints haven’t been about Bergosh, May, Bender or Barry. The one mentioned is the commissioner the News Journal defended. The former county employees talked about angry phone calls, some mentioned bullying, but none would go on the record out of fear of retaliation.
I can’t count how many people have talked about how civil and kind Commissioner Robert Bender has been. If there is “toxic political culture,” the magnified glass needs to pointed in a different direction – and not necessarily only at the board.