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.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What does 286.011(8) Fl Statutes Say? What Does it Mean?

ECSO demands raises, we gave raises.  ECSO wants more revenue, we offer a potential plan for more revenue and it is rejected and we are mocked.  We are attacked, our olive branches are being broken and given back, and now we are accused of violating the state open meeting law.  Incredible..
Our meeting on 10-23-2017 was legitimate, it was vetted six ways from Sunday by a team of lawyers, and still we are being accused of violating state statutes by the ECSO.  Here, below, is the relevant statute that was followed.   We followed the law, we vetted the meeting by calling the SAO before the meeting was held, so why are we now being attacked by the ECSO when they know the meeting comports with statute?

Read the relevant statute for yourself, below:

"(8) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1), any board or commission of any state agency or authority or any agency or authority of any county, municipal corporation, or political subdivision, and the chief administrative or executive officer of the governmental entity, may meet in private with the entity’s attorney to discuss pending litigation [emphasis added] to which the entity is presently a party before a court or administrative agency[emphasis added], provided that the following conditions are met:
(a) The entity’s attorney shall advise the entity at a public meeting that he or she desires advice concerning the litigation.
(b) The subject matter of the meeting shall be confined to settlement negotiations or strategy sessions related to litigation expenditures.
(c) The entire session shall be recorded by a certified court reporter. The reporter shall record the times of commencement and termination of the session, all discussion and proceedings, the names of all persons present at any time, and the names of all persons speaking. No portion of the session shall be off the record. The court reporter’s notes shall be fully transcribed and filed with the entity’s clerk within a reasonable time after the meeting.
(d) The entity shall give reasonable public notice of the time and date of the attorney-client session and the names of persons who will be attending the session. The session shall commence at an open meeting at which the persons chairing the meeting shall announce the commencement and estimated length of the attorney-client session and the names of the persons attending. At the conclusion of the attorney-client session, the meeting shall be reopened, and the person chairing the meeting shall announce the termination of the session.
(e) The transcript shall be made part of the public record upon conclusion of the litigation."

On WCOA this Morning

The topics for discussion include the budget, the budget appeal by ECSO, my thoughts on assuming the chairmanship of the BCC, and the recent allegation that the BCC violated the open meeting law.

Interesting interview can be heard here.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Two Important Triumph Projects Moving Forward with Strong BCC Support!

Doubling-Down on a Big Lie....But Why?

"When one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it." Joseph Goebbels 1-12-1941

It came to my attention very recently that a member of the ECSO complained loudly to a person I know that "We went 6 years without raises"  Disturbingly, this person also singled me out for criticism.  "He [Jeff Bergosh] doesn't want us to get raises!"

Here are the multiple problems with these assertions, which are straight-up  LIEs.

#1.  This individual knows, or should have known, that despite being attacked all summer long with insults and ad hominem attacks by the ECSO---the BCC still came to the table and funded a 3% raise for all ECSO employees for this year.  This makes the 6th straight year the BCC has funded the ECSO with 3% raises.

#2.  Upon a look at this individual's W-2 earnings from the ECSO, the last three years income picture for this person looks like this:


$40,420.66  (total compensation paid excluding side work which is accounted for via 1099 form that is provided by any private company that pays off-duty wages)


$45,665.39  (total compensation paid excluding side work which is accounted for via 1099 form that is provided by any private company that pays off-duty wages)


$49,884.67   (total compensation paid excluding side work which is accounted for via 1099 form that is provided by any private company that pays off-duty wages)

So, in looking at the total compensation paid to this individual, it is clear that year over year from 2014 to 2015 his total compensation increased by roughly 12.5%, and between 2015 and 2016 his compensation increased another 9% year over year.  (I don't know if that increase was due to overtime, a pay raise, a merit raise, and educational raise, and assignment pay increase, or shift differential pay increase, or uniform allowance increases,  or leave that was bought back--I have no way of knowing these things.  I also do not know how much more this individual earned working side jobs as an off-duty deputy making $25 dollars per hour.) But his total compensation is increasing.

And the second big lie is saying "We went 6 years without raises!"  What six years is my question?
ECSO Personnel have been funded for raises in 14 of the last 18 years, and 7 out of the last 8 years,  according to this chart provided by.....ECSO.  I wonder why people continue to lie about this, what is the purpose of that....knowing it will be easily debunked

Answer: there are not six years that ECSO was not funded for a raise in the last 18 years.  That lie is debunked by Tab 13 of the ECSO's own appeal of the budget this year---indicating that over the last 18 years, ECSO has been funded for some sort of a raise every year except 4 years during the recession.  So the big lie that is being repeated (That ECSO went 6,7,or 8 years without raises) is nothing more than that.  A big lie.  But why lie about something that is very easily and completely debunked already?

Drilling a Dry Hole Part II

Because the ECSO has now, through their attorney Gerald Champagne, filed a criminal complaint against the Board of County Commissioners, I feel compelled to speak up about this ridiculous, rubbish-filled, nonsensical complaint.

The relevant portion of the complaint, as ridiculous as it reads, does allege serious misconduct –and it should be addressed, and is being addressed, in a very serious manner…. The relevant excerpt reads as follows:

"On Behalf of Sheriff Morgan, we respectfully request that you initiate an investigation into this meeting on the basis that it was wrongfully closed to the public in violation of Section 286.011 (8), Florida Statutes (2017)."

If we have indeed violated the open meeting law (which Eric knows we didn’t, by the way)—there are potential criminal sanctions that could be imposed.  (A former Escambia CountyCommissioner and a former Escambia County School Board member each spent time in jail for violating the Florida Open Meeting and Public Records Laws).  So yes, when someone alleges something like this----This is an attack, an allegation I take very seriously.

But if we committed a crime by holding this meeting—why go to the SAO a month later? This makes no sense at all.  So I asked Eric Haines this very question on a Facebook back and forth he initiated with me after his office filed the complaint and the news broke on Rick’s Blog early Saturday…(I was aware of the complaint but had no intention of blogging about it unless it became media fodder, which it did on Saturday…..and thus my subsequent  Facebook post and blog post)

Eric Haines“…. I’m of the belief that your rationale is insufficient for a shade meeting…”

Me:  “You are being inefficient here Eric. You are a Florida Certified Law Enforcement Officer and so here's what you know: if you believe a crime has been committed (and apparently, you do judging from your vituperative objection to our legitimate shade meeting), and if you have probable cause that leads you to believe that a crime has been committed--you do not need to wait, Eric. You do not need to send an email a month after the fact to the SAO. You can draft a warrant to arrest all five (5) of us and take that warrant to a judge and see what happens; see if you would find ANY judge that, based upon this fact pattern, would countenance this ridiculous rubbish claim you are making. Good

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Drilling a Dry Hole......NOT a Humdinger

Suggesting our Executive Session from 10-23-2017 was somehow inappropriate is akin to someone drilling a dry hole

The Sheriff's Office, through their Attorney Gerald Champaign, has requested an investigation of the BCC's Legally appropriate (FL Stat. 286.011[8] )Shade Meeting from October 23rd 2017. The email from Champaign dated 11/17/2017 initiating the request that the SAO investigate the BCC also singles out (then) chairman Doug Underhill: From the November 17th email, when I was vice chair and Doug Underhill was Chair "We also observe the current chairman [Underhill] has publicly stated that it is his opinion that it's proper to conduct a "shade" meeting when the subject of the meeting is "potential litigation"... Problem is, I don't believe I ever heard then chairman Underhill ever say that; in fact it is my recollection that he opposed this appropriate meeting--even though he participated in this meeting before abruptly leaving the meeting after it had commenced. More importantly, a team of attorneys with the county vetted the legality of this meeting thoroughly before the meeting took place, and I am also told that the SAO staff was consulted before this meeting took place and that no issues were indicated at that time, before the October 23rd Meeting. So no, this is not a "HumDinger"---this is more of the same...Aggressive, strong-arm and scorched earth tactics to achieve budgetary ends. Even in the face of now multiple olive branches being passed from the BCC to the ECSO. Disappointing but there is no smoking gun here. No "there" there, if you will. Nope, not a "HumDinger" this is someone's futile effort at (to coin a term I have seen the Sheriff himself utilize) "drilling a dry hole."

Friday, December 1, 2017

I'm NOT Proposing a Tax Rate Increase on Escambia County Property Owners

....Because I have said over and over for eleven years running now that I will not vote to raise year over year property tax rates on Escambia County property owners. I never have, and I never will. I stand by that.  I also will not vote to impose new taxes that will only affect local residents.

So with this said--how in the world can we generate new revenue to offset tourism related public safety expenses in our beach and tourist areas so general fund revenues can be saved to increase Deputy Sheriff pay?

We can do what Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay Counties are already doing.  Add a fifth cent to the Bed Tax.  I was astonished and dismayed to hear one of my peers flat-out reject this idea last night at the meeting, instead recommending a significant increase to the county-wide sheriff's MSTU (which would increase property tax rates on already over taxed Escambia County Property Owners).  This I would not support.  I would much rather put this burden on out-of-town visitors who come here.

Adding a fifth cent to the fees that out-of-town residents pay when they stay in Hotels, Motels, Condominiums, and R.V. Parks in Escambia County (Bed Tax) is a legitimate way to raise revenue---without impacting local taxpayers.  Right now the current levy of 4 cents generates right at $2.5 Million yearly per cent, for a total of $10 Million per year.  Adding the fifth cent would increase total collection to $12.5 Million per year--of which only $1.25 Million could be utilized to offset public safety expenditures if enabling legislation is passed in Tallahassee.  So the TDT fund would increase by over a million dollars yearly--even as a small portion of it was utilized, legitimately, to offset costs of the ECSO and County Public Safety for Tourism-related expenditures at our beaches.

So, as a part of a larger initiative to help address pay scale issues and to move us from an adversarial stance with ECSO to a more cooperative posture--I have put forth the Blue Penny Plan.  It is simple-here's how it works:  No increases to Escambia County Property Owners, Agree on a 5-7 year MOU/MOA between BCC and ECSO, Agree on a yearly base amount of funding (with built in yearly increases that match BCC revenue increases on a percentage of budget basis), agree to a BCC match of up to $350,000.00 for any LET funds the sheriff will utilize to offset his SRO costs each year (up to $350,000.00--which frees up $700,000.00 potentially in ECSO general fund dollars) and rebate 50% of ECSO unexpended funds returned to BCC at end of each FY (required by statute) during the term of the MOU/MOA.  This, combined, generates $1.35 Million per year to address pay scale issues, retention, and other financial needs of the ECSO--over an above the base level allocation and yearly adjustments yearly--- which can be used to fund additional pay raises as well.

This is why a small fraction of this fifth cent is a legitimate funding source to utilize in attempts to assist County Law Enforcement with their pay scale deficiencies.

This is how we can do it while not raising taxes on Escambia County property owners.

This is what I support.