Touart’s pick to run his county jail has a history

We posted this in October 2005 when George Touart promoted Gordon Pike to head Corrections:

Eight years ago, an Escambia County grand jury recommended the discipline and removal of Gordon Pike for misconduct and his role in keeping such abysmal financial records that an audit couldn’t be performed of the Community Corrections Department.

Now, Pike is taking over the helm of the county department that oversees people on misdemeanor probation and collects their fees, fines and restitution.

Herman Welch, the former director, and his second-in-command Pike, the criminal justice manager, were suspended without pay for six weeks and Pike was demoted when problems first surfaced in November 1996.

A local grand jury report completed in February 1997 recommended their removal, after finding misuse of funds and financial records in disarray, with thousands of dollars owed to the county stuffed in probation officers’ desk drawers. It also found Welch and Pike spent their work days socializing outside the office and golfing. The grand jury reported Welch and Pike tried to obstruct an audit of financial records and threatened employees, who cooperated with the investigation.

The grand jury wrote about finances at the time: “It could not be determined, however, if any losses were the result of theft or simply the lack of business practices in the division—we could not find one set of reasonably accurate written records on payments, payroll, or leave.”

Welch, who worked for the county for 27 years, retired after the investigation. But Pike appealed to the Civil Service Board, which overturned both punishments, and decided they weren’t justified. Pike remained the No. 2 person in the department.

Fast forward to 2013: JCI consultants reported several issues with Gordon Pike’s leadership and his Pre-trial services…Remember that is the report the county staff hid from the public. The same report that said the county jail need more staff.

Despite his past troubles, Escambia County Administrator George Touart has Pike poised to take over, after Joe Ward recently retired. Ward took over the Community Corrections Department amid its troubles and was credited for turning the probation department around.

Pike’s new appointment has some courthouse observers worried that the department will return to its old troubled ways. You can bet judges and local attorneys will be keeping a close eye on this one.