I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What is the Status of Inmate Health as of 9-21-2017?

At the workshop earlier today, several issues were discussed pertaining to our health facilities in the County Jail.

We heard from Director of the Jail Medical Clinic Dr. Paul Henning, and we also heard from Corrections Director Tamrya Jarvis.  The discussion settled around exactly what our inmate health picture looked like, a snapshot if you will.  We have heard about lots of inmates needing dialysis treatments, we have heard about patients on expensive AIDS medicines, etc.

This very informative update, below, was provided by Corrections Financial Manager Whitney Lucas.

"As of today, at 2:30pm, there were 24 HIV patients and 2 dialysis patients incarcerated at the Escambia County Jail.  To date there have been 304 dialysis treatments provided to 8 incarcerated individuals since October 2016.  These treatments come with a price tag of $650/each plus transportation costs.  Dr. Henning was asked to provide the number of patients receiving chronic care within the facility at this time.  In the month of July 2017 there were 118 scheduled routine/follow-up appointments.  August 2017 saw an increase in these visits resulting in 206 appointments.  It is important to understand that these figures do not represent the total number of patients held at the facility with chronic ailments as there are some who may not have been scheduled for their follow-up/routine visit during that two month period.  The utilization/cost of EpiPens was also discussed this morning.  According to our records we are currently remitting $278.73 for a 2 pack of these."

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

When is it Appropriate for the Taxpayers to Pay Legal Bills for a Commissioner?

Should the taxpayers pay for the legal defense of a County Commissioner?

I've been sued three times in my life.  Each and every time it sucked.

I was sued by a drunk-driver's insurance company 4 years after the drunk-driver totaled my VW rabbit in 1985 on Navy Blvd.  State Farm paid for my representation and settled the claim in 1989.

I was sued in 2002 over an alleged ADA violation in a retail space I rented in San Diego California.  I paid more than $30K out of my pocket to correct the facility deficiencies and to settle the suit.  Lloyd's of  London, my commercial liability insurance carrier at the time, initially refused to provide defense or coverage -- so I hired a lawyer to sue them for bad faith and they begrudgingly sent some money to help defend what was a frivolous lawsuit.  It sucked. It sucked badly.

I was sued by an individual from Polk County Florida in my official capacity as a school board member over our Board's refusal to comply with what turned out to be an unlawful public records request made of the Escambia County School District in 2009.  In this instance, as a sitting school board member, the suit was brought against me for something I did in my official capacity as an elected official---and therefore the school district provided a legal defense.  We were victorious in this matter.

I list these three items because the circumstances of a lawsuit dictate who pays for legal defense.

Doug Underhill, the sitting Commissioner for Escambia County in District 2, is seeking taxpayer funding of his legal defense for a current suit that is being brought against him and another individual for an incident that was not a part of an official act.  The revelation of the private chat occurred after Doug was a commissioner, however the chat occurred before Doug was a commissioner.  This is a sticky wicket for sure--and I understand the request for coverage but before coverage is provided, there are some serious questions that must be asked, because to pay for these fees, if in contravention to statutes, puts commissioners at risk of making an illegal expenditure.

I have done significant reading and research on this issue, and I do not feel we can legally justify paying Commissioner Underhill’s legal fees in connection with the lawsuit by Gene Valentino—because the action that brought the litigation was not done in connection with any official duty by Doug ( he was not elected to the position when the action at issue occurred) and I don’t believe a legitimate case can be made that the taxpayers via the BCC paying for Doug’s defense serves any legitimate public purpose.  Both prongs must be met for a public official to be provided with legal defense paid from public monies.

 111.07 Fl Statutes, AGOs  91-59 and 2013-15 as well as Thornber vCity of Fort Walton Beach speak to this topic.

Even though Doug has stated at a previous meeting (July 26th) that he would be paying for his own legal representation in this matter.....


......I get it that he is able to change his mind.  But just because he has changed his mind doesn't change the fact that we have to be smart and we can't violate law.

I’ll be suggesting that the board move very cautiously should we even entertain the idea of saying yes to paying Commissioner Underhill's legal fees.  I’ll suggest that we first seek an opinion from the comptroller-as she has potential liability under Ch 129 (129.09)-so we should ask for her opinion on whether or not she feels this is indeed an appropriate expenditure;  I will want her on board before action is taken. 
A Clerk of the Court has liability under 129.09 for paying an illegal charge.

Additionally, I believe an Attorney General’s Opinion should be sought by the BCC asking about the legality of this expenditure specifically before the board takes any action; we have liability that includes potential removal from office for malfeasance under 129.08 if we “pay an illegal charge against the county.”  Doug wasn’t the commissioner at the time of the event, and the defense of what he is being sued for does not serve a public purpose so far as I can tell.  I don’t feel it is appropriate to pay his fees for that case, and moreover I think it could be illegal to do so.

A County Commissioner has liability under 129.08 for paying an illegal charge against the county.

On WCOA This Morning

I was a guest this morning on 1370 WCOA's Good Morning Pensacola Show.

Areas of discussion included:


-Beach Traffic/Parking

-OLFX/OLF8 Land Swap

-Upcoming Meetings/Events in District 1

You can listen to the interview here

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Beulah Interchange Meeting to be Postponed

Due to Hurricane Irma's impacts on Florida last week--the FDOT presentation to the BCC that had been scheduled for the Committee of the Whole Meeting on 9-14-2017 has been pushed to this week's Agenda Review Session at 9:00 AM.  This report from the FDOT was to be on the subject of the Beulah Interchange.

After the meeting this week, a subsequent, evening town-hall style meeting will be scheduled.  We had tentatively scheduled this town-hall for Monday, September 25th at Hillcrest Baptist Church--however this date will need to be changed and a new date will be announced soon for this evening meeting.

Once we have the date, we will post it on as well as other social media platforms.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

So Where Did Staff Find $3.75 Million?

Unlike this picture below--I can guarantee it was not lying around, sitting under a mattress somewhere.

There is no money "under the mattress" at the BCC

Staff has been put under significant pressure to find additional money for employee pay raises;  to their credit, they have proposed several ways to fund us with additional recurring revenue to help with our current budget crunch.  These sources are listed below.....

How Should the BCC Prioritize the $3.75 Million in Additional Recurring Revenue?

One of the most intriguing aspects of last night's meeting was the presentation on newly found, recurring revenue that can be injected into this year's budget.  We did not spend too much time deciding where it will go-however I believe it is all but a certainty that these funds will be used for pay raises.

But how should the BCC prioritize the $3.75 Million in additional recurring revenue that was presented to us last night?

I have my idea, and I am certain the other commissioners do as well.  the below slides list some of the ways this money could be split, in order to maximize the number of employees that can receive a raise.

I, for one, will not spend nearly the entire $3.75 Million on one group, all but assuring all others forego pay raises this year.  For me, this idea is a non-starter.

I will start with first responders (Firefighters, EMS, paramedics, dispatchers, Corrections Officers, Road Corrections Officers, and Sheriff's Deputies) and work my way outward to the rest of the employees of the BCC, the ECSO, the Supervisor of Elections office, and the Clerk's office.

If we do this right, everyone can receive at least a small pay increase;  this is the direction I am most likely to go.....The final decision on this money and how it will be spent will be made at the BCC's second and final public hearing on the budget, to be held on 9-26-2017 at 5:31PM.

what would some of these pay changes look like and cost?  see below...

....Below are some of the costs associated with implementing other pay rate/pay raise plans....

First Budget Hearing

Yesterday evening the Board of County Commissioners held our first of two required budget hearings.  The second and final hearing will occur on September 26th at 5:31 PM in the commission's chambers.

Last night's two-hour meeting was a mix of satisfaction and consternation for me...Satisfied that we did what we needed to do--consternation in that we did not settle the issue of where to allocate the $3.75Million dollars staff was able to identify and put on the table.  more about this later...but first, the meeting itself.

After hearing a lot of rhetoric about how we don't want to cut any items, can't cut, haven't cut "Squat"-- I put a bulls eye on one huge target--the $455K that we spend to partially fund Escambia Community Clinics.  This organization does great things for the medically vulnerable in the community, so my idea to slash $100K from their budget was not a reflection upon their worth or the way they do their work.  It was simply a function of the fact that ECC receives about 30% of all of the discretionary allotment pool for all of our outside agencies.  They employ 12 Medical Doctors (Starting pay $160,000 and several work at other hospitals as well), have multiple funding sources, and according to the director who spoke at the podium---they could have absorbed a cut this size.
So I said I would support cutting $100K from that group to get the ball rolling.  Nobody wanted to touch it. "If we can't even agree to cuts from this group, one of the largest outside organization recipients of funding--I doubt we will agree to cut anything"  I stated.  I was right.  I then suggested we reduce each group's allocation by 15%--again, nobody had an appetite to do this.  At our last workshop, we had all agreed to keep the funding levels where we left them, but I would have been willing to cut more.  People talked about cuts--but in reality only certain entities or groups were or