One point about PNJ 1/31 editorial

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.



2 thoughts on “One point about PNJ 1/31 editorial

  1. Douglas Underhill has created the toxic environment. A collective eye roll occurs every time he comes in now.

  2. It’s no wonder that PNJ/Downtown would “encourage” (ahem) the BOCC to continue to let Doug run amok, while the City reaps the benefits of the constant brain drain and bloodletting of County staff that is at least partial result–and sometimes direct result–of Doug’s corrosive impact on everything around him, and his constant bullying and meddling with County staff.

    His verbal abuse was already in play before he was ever sworn into his seat–thundering about on the Fourth Floor and throwing his weight around on the need to kill the 4-laning of not just PK Drive but also Sorrento (the later a lack of funding he perpetually self-victimizes over online). His scorched-earth staff policy quickly grew to one of the worst status quos at the County for any staff member who has the misfortune of having to assist with something, anything, in his district or any of the other district business he invades for his special interest.

    His favorite two threats to levy at staff are “I’ll make you famous” and “all I need is two more.” He particularly enjoyed employing that last with the previous County Administrator.

    Here’s a list of some of the good people we have lost (either through resignation or termination) due to Doug’s toxicity and anger management issues being a contributing, if not the sole, factor:

    –2 IT directors
    –2 interim County administrators
    –Public Safety Director
    –Interim Budget Manager
    –Storm water Manager
    –Special Projects Manager
    –County Blue Collar advocate
    –2 positions in the County Attorney’s office

    Make no mistake, all of the remaining existing directors and managers know that crossing Doug means putting your job on the line, which is why he receives an inordinate amount of attention for his pet projects in comparison with the other commissioners.

    Worse still, although staff had high hopes that Ms. Gilley would be the “mama bear” she made herself out to be before she assumed her role, she has proved not only incapable of protecting staff from his worst, but ready and willing to aid and abet his every whim.

    This is why Commissioner Bergosh brought the non-interference ordinance, much to the scorn of the Underhill bootlicking set. Commissioner Barry assured Commissioner Bergosh at the time that, if Janice wasn’t able to get control of the abusive staff interference, he would be willing to entertain looking at an ordinance with some teeth in it.

    Whatever the solution–and censuring him should have been employed a long time ago–the path of appeasement that the PNJ preaches simply does not work with anyone with a truly sadistic bent. And the BOCC had better remain on the offensive with this guy, because we haven’t seen the worst of what his unbridled power trip can and will do, if given the opportunity.

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