We just received the transcript of last night’s discussion of allegations made by County Attorney Alison Rogers that Commissioner Doug Underhill had verbally threatened here. The board voted, 4-1, to censure Underhill.
Alison Rogers: Board, you are my employer. And I have been very lucky for many years to have never felt the need to come to you with an employment problem or complaint. I have certainly had my share of very challenging conversations with my bosses. Some of them more challenging than others, but I have never felt the need to come to you with a complaint. However, unfortunately, last week I was threatened in a manner by Commissioner Underhill, which you, as your employer need to be made aware of.
On two occasions I was threatened that he is going to bash my reputation until the day I resign. And he has clearly exhibited the ability to do that and carry it out.
The most heartbreaking thing about this is that he’s mad at me for doing my job. He’s mad at me for requesting an advisory opinion from the Commission on Ethics, which is part of my job. I’ve even gotten one for him before. We only made the trip to Tallahassee at the specific request of the Executive Director and Assistant General Counsel to The Commission on Ethics. In part, because the question was more complex than normal, and also in part because there’s a brand new rule in the Florida Administrative Code that went into effect in December of 2020, and the commission had never analyzed and applied it yet.
I can assure you, I far would have preferred to have been here, getting my work done. If it had been any of the rest of the four of you who had asked me to get an advisory opinion, I would have done the same, including from Mr. Underhill.
This is not the way an employer should treat their employee. And I feel it is egregious enough that I wanted it memorialized. And I am not asking you to take any action, but I am asking you to accept this letter with the attachments into the record for tonight. I think that would be an appropriate thing for you to do.
Commissioner Bender: Commissioner Underhill.
Commissioner Underhill: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I will say that categorically the words quoted here did not ever escape my lips nor did they do it twice. I did say that the attorney’s conduct has brought shame on this board. And I did state that I think that by the time all of this is said and done, it will be very surprising if you do not escape consequences for those things. That is well within my duties and my responsibilities for the oversight of one of the two full-time employees that we have as commissioners. And it also, while certainly the verbiage has changed a little bit, when I said, she states here, knows that I have the votes to remain in my position. What I actually said was, obviously you are very safe in your position because the displeasure that I have with the attorney for her actions is not something that is mutually agreed upon by this board. And probably not something that I would even have a second on if I was to try to act on it.
So certainly, Madam attorney, nothing that I said was intended to be a threat. Nothing with I said was intended to be anything other than my oversight of your job, which is my duty, as I said up here. I continue to believe that the conduct of this matter with regard to the 401 alpha has in fact brought shame on this board, and has made it difficult for us to do our job. And your conduct, in particular, was outside of what you have done before. That is all that I said. And certainly there was nothing about bashing a reputation. And there was nothing about bashing your reputation until the day I resigned. Obviously you and I are going to disagree about that, but that is simply the facts as I know them to be.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Commissioner Bender: Thank you. Commissioner Barry.
Commissioner Barry : Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just want to say as another one of Madam Counselor’s employers, the quotes attributed to the colleague are very concerning. I mean, it’s very concerned that you would talk that way to one of… any of us would talk that way to any of our employees. So that’s concerning. And I want to thank Madam Counselor for distributing something that does memorialize it. That takes a lot of courage. And I want to acknowledge that. That does take a lot of courage. Been here a long time, none of this previously. So I want to thank her for doing that. I was not aware of the comments, of course, but I am now.
Commissioner Bergosh: Yeah. And I don’t want to weigh in on this. Madam Attorney, not one of us individually has the right to treat you that way. If it was me or if it was any one of us in particular that said anything like that to you, I would simply say, and I think I said this when we spoke, you should have shown that individual the door. This board is your employer, not individual members of the board. And if Doug said this to you, who’s way out of bounds by doing it. Now he’s saying he didn’t. I heard from another source that he did. And Doug, I mean, are you saying you didn’t threaten to wreck her reputation till she resigned? Is that what you’re saying here?
Commissioner Underhill: I’m absolutely saying that. Yes, commissioner.
Commissioner Bergosh: Okay, so you’re saying she put this in writing and lied?
Commissioner Underhill: Yes, Commissioner, that’s what I’m saying.
Commissioner Bergosh: I don’t believe you.
Commissioner Underhill: The words that are on this board [crosstalk 00:06:10].
Commissioner Bergosh: I don’t believe you, I believe her. I don’t believe you.
Commissioner Underhill: That’s certainly your prerogative. It would be interesting to find out if there was somebody else who heard it, because it wasn’t actually a first, it was only a phone call. I don’t have private meetings with the county attorney.
Commissioner Bergosh: Listen, Doug. You don’t have the right to say anything to her. This board is her boss. Not you. You don’t have that right. And this is very upsetting to me. As a matter of fact, it’s so upsetting to me, along with a lot of other crap I’m seeing online from you. I think it’s about time. I think it’s about time this board took some action. You run us down constantly. Your help from the office runs us down constantly. You’re a source of consternation on this board that’s unnecessary. And I’m just about fed up with it. I think it’s time for this board to take some action. Now we’re limited in what we can do, but when I hear the attorney’s voice cracking and she provides me with this and I’ve heard it from another source, that by the way I do trust, that’s a problem. That’s a problem. So I’m going to make a motion right now that you be publicly censured for this behavior. That’s my motion.
Commissioner Barry : Second.
Commissioner Bender: Any further discussion? Please vote.
Commissioner Bender: Sorry. [inaudible 00:07:48]. Motion passes four to one with Commissioner Underhill in dissent. Anything else for the good of the whole?
Commissioner Bergosh: No.
Commissioner Bender: We stand adjourned.
While the written transcript clears up any confusion over what was said in the meeting, the words don’t convene the emotions of the discussion. If you haven’t listened to the audio, please take a few minutes to do so.