Stop talking in code

Escambia County’s two top administrators have resigned. Each gave us cryptic reasons for their departures:

ACTING COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR AMY LOVOY: “I find it difficult to continue performing my duties in a place where allegations of any variety can be made and reputations ruined before an individual is allowed to answer for the charges against them.”

ASSISTANT COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR MATT COUGHLIN: “Regrettably, today in Escambia County there is neither the ability or willingness to rise to the occasion and lead together. Rather, those with the capability to help reverse this downward progression have resorted to tribalism. Its effects are pervasive and wide ranging. Unfortunately, along the way, our mission has become a failure and our citizens have become the casualty.”

The taxpayers deserve details. Who is making the allegations that made it difficult for Lovoy to perform her duties? Who has “resorted to tribalism” and made it impossible to lead together?

District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh appears to be pointing the finger at District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill. The two have a history–Underhill backed Bergosh’s opponent in 2016 election and Bergosh promoted Alan McMillan against Underhill last year.

Despite the county having a policy restricting commissioners’ use of social media so as to not create Sunshine Law violations, both Bergosh and Underhill are prolific posters on Facebook. Bergosh has his own blog.

It was on his blog that Bergosh last week proposed a non-interference ordinance that would codify the county’s policy that prohibits commissioners from interfering with the county’s day-to-day operations. He has insinuated that proposal is aimed at Underhill and would make it possible for the BCC to fine him or the governor remove him from office if he broke the law.

The week before her resignation, Commissioner Underhill did criticize Lovoy several times on his Facebook page:

TUESDAY, APRIL 9: “Citizens have a right to know the first responders are qualified. First Responders have a right to the pride of being unquestionably qualified. I have called upon the County Administrator to immediately have all EMS staff re-qualified by an outside provider. The five-meter-target is restoration of faith in the services we provide. Should have been done at the first evidence of impropriety.”

THURSDAY, APRIL 11, 8 a.m.: “I’m hearing today that Fire Chief Rusty Nail has been told to stay home until his June 1 departure. Unacceptable! This professional was hired to reform the department in the wake of a nasty sexual harrassment case. This smacks of whistleblower retribution and should not be tolerated.”

1:19 p.m. – “When you read the report of the sexual harassment investigation last year in Public Safety, you will see a pattern of management failures. Specifically, an unwillingness to take decisive action, incorrectly assuming the matter could be contained at a lower level, and an unwillingness to let the sun shine in and let the chips fall where they may. We appear to be following the same pattern now, and I cannot tolerate that. There needs to be a full requalification of our entire EMS staff and a full investigation BY AN OUTSIDE AGENCY of the allegations of falsifying records and hiding evidence.”

FRIDAY, APRIL 12: “I am disheartened to see that Interim County Administrator Lavoy (sic) has squandered an opportunity to throw open the shades on Public Safety. Bringing in a former employee to “get to the bottom of this” sends exactly the wrong message to our community We cannot move forward by looking back. We need an investigation and a good old fashion house-cleaning.”

If Lovoy and Coughlin blame Underhill for their resignations, then they should give us specific accounts of his actions. The same for county staff whom Bergosh says have been ordered around by Underhill -they, too, must come forward and go on the record.

If no one comes forward with details, then the non-interference ordinance will be useless. You can’t fine or remove someone from office based on innuendo.