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.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Salary Compression Wasn't on the Radar......It Just Wasn't

Compression was not the issue the PBA's hand-selected candidate focused fact it wasn't even on her radar....

As I posted before, Salary Compression was not a big issue in my campaign for office. It wasn't mentioned at all in our rallies..and I stand by that. The issues for our district, the big issues, were storm-water, infrastructure, growth management, economic development, OLF 8, etc.

Here is the proof:

On August 27th, the PNJ did an article on each of the candidates in the race for District 1; by August, the PBA had selected their candidate to endorse in my race, and this candidate went on to finish in last place in the election.  But this candidate, the hand-selected candidate of the PBA, had the opportunity to broadcast the TOP PRIORITIES in the campaign, and guess what?  Like I have said, and I stand by what I said---Salary Compression was not one of this candidate's priorities.  In fact, I never heard this candidate mention it in any of our multiple forums and debates--It never came up.

And to say that because I answered a questionnaire where the back page question mentions compression in the context of pay PROVES that compression was the top priority in my campaign--to make that the connection is absolutely ridiculous.  

Of course I know what pay compression is, I dealt with it in 2007-20012 as a member of the school board.  What I said was the sheriff never mentioned it to me as his top priority, and in the campaign at all the rallies it was never mentioned at all, and the PBA's eventual candidate, the one they endorsed, hand-selected, and gave money to, never mentioned it or made it a campaign issue.  This is the fact, these are the facts.

Here was the PBA-endorsed, hand selected candidate's TOP PRIORITIES from the PNJ article:

"What are your three priorities in office?
1. Develop a strategic plan for Escambia County that includes input from ALL aspects of the community. The county does not have a strategic plan. Who would run a $400 million company without a plan? Without a plan we spend more time in costly and wasteful chaos management than in moving the community forward.
As your Escambia County District 1 commissioner, I will propose the development of a County Strategic Plan that takes the politics out of process, and moves our community forward efficiently and cost effectively on its highest priorities. And I will ensure that you have a voice in the preparation of that strategic plan.
2. Take a portion of the funds dedicated to economic development and reinvest them in local businesses. This would create instant job growth at a low cost of additional employee acquisition. Develop existing businesses; support those who have already invested in our community; and grow jobs locally with a lower cost of new employee acquisition. For years I have watched the county give the Chamber of Commerce’s related economic development groups $550,000 annually of your tax dollars to recruit new jobs with very little return on investment. Many promises and announcements, but few actual new jobs.
3. Create a Beulah Area Master Plan with full citizen participation for OLF-8 and the surrounding areas, including the Bluffs in District 5. OLF-8, the 640-acre site adjacent to Navy Federal, has the potential to be the most important economic driver in Escambia County for the next 20 years."

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Salary Compression" Suddenly Erupts Like a Volcano in Escambia County........

...But during the hotly contested political campaign for the BCC District 1 seat--the issue of Salary Compression NEVER came up

I just recently won the election to take this seat.  I’ve been a commissioner for less than one year.   I fought through a very tough campaign with some very formidable and well-funded opponents.  We talked a lot about infrastructure, we talked a lot about storm water, we talked about traffic, we talked economic development and quality of life, we talked about OLF 8. We talked about lots of different subjects with the residents of District 1.

We talked about all these things and then some—bit here’s the peculiar thing, though.

We never talked about salary compression—it wasn’t on anyone’s radar.

Suddenly the issue of pay compression is the most pressing issue in the entire county.  The Sheriff’s office is saying the situation is approaching critical mass, and they are losing journeymen officers to higher paying departments.  I’m told that this has been a problem for many, many years.  Now ECSO is havingtrouble staffing and they’re cutting back on services and curtailing patrols insome districts?!?

One of my opponents was actually endorsed by the PBA union and even this candidate never discussed pay compression at the ECSO.  This candidate talked about a Master Plan for Beulah, a Strategic Plan for the county, hiring a grant writer full time, and a few other things that were “out-there” as issues all the candidates recognized…but even this PBA-endorsed, hand-selected candidate of the Sheriff’s office didn’t have this issue on the radar.  None of us did because it wasn’t an issue during the campaign.

When I won my primary on August 30th, 2016---one of the first calls of congratulations I received was from Sheriff Morgan.  He didn't bring up pay compression then,  and from the time I won my general election in August of 2016 until the Summer--Sheriff Morgan never reached out to me with

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.....

So last night's compromise vote to extend a 3% salary increase to the Sheriff's office deputies, along with all the other county employees ( EMS, Fire, Corrections, Dispatch and everyone else) was met with anger by some.  No good deed goes unpunished I guess.....

About an hour after the meeting, I received the below text from Sheriff Morgan (highlighted on the bottom of the string.)

I have not responded.

But in the meantime, I certainly DO NOT want the sheriff to send me a "copy upon completion." 

What will he send me a copy of--the areas he is not longer going to patrol as frequently?  I don't want that list, because once I have it (if I receive it) it may possibly become a public record which I must release if I am asked (if it is not an exempted item). If it is released, it will go to the media, if it goes to the media, the bad guys will know what areas will be "seeing a reduction of patrol coverage"  Is that what the Sheriff wants to happen?

To say I am disappointed that the sheriff is telling District 1 that we will receive a reduction of patrol coverage is an understatement.  We have had big issues with crime in West Escambia, Myrtle Grove, Avondale, Bellview, and other areas of District 1.  We have had murders in Beulah (Billings murders, Billy Boyette murder spree, and the recent murder where a body was dumped on Klondike Road) residents in Logan Place have endured had a rash of car burglaries--and to say these areas are going to receive "a reduction of patrol coverage" is astonishingly disappointing.

Even if this was planned it should not be discussed.  And the timing of this text, right after the meeting where we attempted to compromise with Sheriff Morgan (where we bumped his budget up to give all his men a 3% raise) could be construed by some as retaliatory or worse yet.....threatening.

All because, apparently, we did not fund him an 8% year over year budget increase.  8%.

What a disappointment.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Board Backs 3% Raises for All County Employees including Sheriff's Office Employees

At the final BCC budget hearing this evening, a compromise was brokered to offer all employees a 3% pay increase--including Sheriff's office employees.

Tonight's budget meeting went largely as planned and according to the scripted agenda, with affirmative votes to maintain the millage rate static at last year's rate.  We voted for our total budget of close to $456 Million, an increase of roughly 4.5% over last year's budget of $437 Million.  We recognized about $158K in adjusted revenue added to the total budget, and we approved an add-on I brought to utilize $3.74 Million in recurring revenue to provide 3% across-the-board raises for all County Employees, Clerk's employees, Supervisor of Elections employees, and Sheriff's office employees.

Doug Underhill brought a plan to give the entire pot of newly uncovered recurring revenue to the Sheriff's office--to fully fund Sheriff Morgan's 8% budget increase request (8% over last year's budget allocation).  This idea received no traction and was summarily set aside by the board.

Commissioner Robinson wanted to fund 2% raises across the board for all employees of the ECSO, BCC, Clerk's Office, and Supervisor of Elections office--with the remaining funds to be sent to Sheriff Morgan with the intention that he plus up the pay for patrol deputies.  After some discussion, this plan also failed to gain traction.

The fact that we found additional revenue with which to provide raises was a surprise--we had been told there would be no raises for anyone in any of the departments or constitutional offices--including the Sheriff's office.

My add on, above, was approved this evening by a 3-2 vote, with Underhill and Robinson voting no

I'm glad we were able to work through the process and find a compromise that rewards all of our employees with a 3% pay increase this year.  Going forward, we will work to address the compression issues that plague the Sheriff's office (and the other constitutional offices).  This problem did not develop in one year, and will take many years and lots of hard work to properly address.  I'm confident we can tackle it.

Great News for Those Who Drive on Beverly Parkway

I received word that the project to fix the badly deteriorated railroad crossing on Beverly Parkway will commence this Friday.

Our office has received numerous complaints about this crossing--dozens of phone calls and emails;  it has deteriorated to the point that drivers have told our office they are deliberately avoiding driving across this part of Beverly Parkway--for fear of damaging their vehicles.

Well, I'm happy to report that the railroad company is finally fixing this issue we have been sending to them for months.  Hopefully the road, once repaired, will allow for crossing without damaging vehicle undercarriages!

Coffee with the Commissioner 9-26-2017

This morning we hosted September's coffee with the commissioner event at the Denny's on Mobile Highway.

We had several citizens attend, and each had something they wanted to discuss with me and the county staff that was present.

Tori was a young man that lives in District 2.  His issue was code enforcement.  "How is it right that county code enforcement can enter my property, through a closed gate, even though I have a 'no trespassing' sign installed?"  He was upset-understanding he probably warranted a citation, he just did not like the personnel coming on his property.  Deputy Administrator Matt Coughlin took this gentleman's information for staff follow up.

Dawn, a resident of District 5, was concerned about the final path of the north-bound Beulah Beltway route.  In addition to this, she was concerned that code enforcement has not done enough to bring a nuisance property into compliance near where she owns property.  "I have tried for a year and a half to sell this property--but because this neighbor and the condition of his property--I have suffered a loss in property value-even after lowering the asking price, I can't sell my property."  she continued "I'm here to see if more can be done to have code enforcement cite this property owner to force compliance."  We told Dawn we would have Commissioner Barry's office notified of this issue.

Daryl, who lives in the eastern part of District 1, said he was upset about the clean sweeps being curtailed by the ECSO.  I explained that this is out of the BCC's control.

Another attendee quipped "The Sheriff used to run the jail and patrol the neighborhoods.  Now, he doesn't run the jail and says he is stopping the neighborhood patrols--so why are we paying him?  was the rhetorical question.

Mike, a resident of District 4, wanted my take on the Bill in Congress to allow private ownership of beach properties at Pensacola Beach--so we discussed this in-depth with the participants.

Kevin Robinson from the PNJ came this morning to cover the coffee event and to speak with several of the attendees.

Overall, it was another great opportunity to connect with the citizens, hear their issues, and hopefully provide some potential solutions.

I look forward to next month's event.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

My Issue with the Creekwood Agreement...

The ECUA crafted agreement with Creekwood smells worse than a fetid garbage dump.  I don't blame the homeowners for not wanting to sign this garbage.

Yes, I ripped up that garbage agreement at the meeting.

I ripped it to shreds and called it what it is----Garbage.  It smells worse than an ECUA sewage spill....

The County and the Homeowners have been working to get the ailing lift-station at Creekwood fixed; a majority of Creekwood residents have grudgingly agreed to take on a special tax assessment to the tune of $625,000 to get this done.

Nobody is happy about the language that keeps the HOA on the hook for any problems with the repairs and construction of the new, ECUA approved lift station, in their subdivision----but the language that forces the HOA to indemnify the County, ECUA, and the contractor during the construction (which may take as long as 18 months to complete) is just too much....

I was under the apparently mistaken impression that the contractor, once engaged in the construction, would be responsible for this lift station and the homeowners could finally breath a sigh of relief.  Wrong.  Why won't ECUA see that the homeowners are acting in good faith, they have secured the financing to fix the lift station, and they are prepared to move forward.  Why must the ECUA keep their boot on the collective necks of these homeowners, rubbing salt in the wound?  Why?

The garbage rhetoric I have heard is "It would not be fair to our ratepayers to take responsibility for this lift station before it is brought up to our standards"  But wait---these residents are ratepayers!  How about a little compassion for their plight!

Initially, I felt that the least I could do to keep this process going to get this lift station fixed was to get the County on board with the badly flawed agreement, which would allow ECUA to take action on it next, and ultimately it would allow for the HOA to sign it/not sign it--because ultimately the ECUA is controlling this process; they won't take the lift station until it meets their standards.

But when the attorney read some of the most onerous language that keeps the homeowners on the hook through the entire process--I just couldn't support it.

I have a new strategy I am formulating that I will soon be discussing with the HOA.

I think we can do better than that garbage agreement.

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Budget Breakthrough?

There is a potential budget breakthrough coming;  It will be discussed at an upcoming BCC meeting.  Here are the details...
We may have found an additional $3.7 Million Dollars in non-recurring funds that could be used for employee raises.  We will discuss these potential sources and uses of funds at Tuesday's first budget hearing.

WCOA Interview 9-11-2017

This morning my interview with Don Parker and Jim Sanborn was broadcast on AM 1370 WCOA.

We had a great discussion about numerous topics--to include: the Jail, the bid protest of the jail, the global settlement of the jail explosion from 2014, the current state of the budget, the state of the disagreement with Sheriff Morgan over his budget request, and also a lengthy discussion of the disbursement process of the County Law Enforcement Trust Fund.

I also briefly discussed what could be a budget breakthrough that could provide for employee raises.

I always appreciate the opportunity to appear on this program!

Full interview can be heard here 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Horse Stall Fees Waived for Hurricane Irma Evacuees!

Escambia County's Equestrian Center is waiving per-horse stall fees for Irma Evacuees

There has been much discussion yesterday evening and also today on social media about Escambia County's Equestrian Center's use fees for horse owners affected by the storm.

I have spoken with administrator Jack Brown about this matter, and his staff have advised that the stall fees per horse (Typically $18.00 daily) will be waived for non-local horse owners who are evacuees from Hurricane Irma.

Owners will be responsible for providing their own shavings (or purchasing these from us)and also owners will be responsible for feeding (and providing the feed) for their horses.

We will allow for the horses to remain in our center for a reasonable period of time after the storm, in order to allow for evacuees to plan for return to their respective communities.

We have a number of RV spaces available as well, upon which we pay TDT fees, water and electricity charges.  These spaces will be available for use by horse owners at our customary rates as availability and space permits.

A press release describing all of this will be coming out later this afternoon.

Equestrian Center Information:

 7750 Mobile Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32526

Friday, September 8, 2017

There is a lot Going on in Beulah!

Take a look at the map above.  There is a lot of building going on in Beulah--tons of it.  Right now, our infrastructure is not sufficient to handle everything that is happening.  Some folks are angry, they do not like the growth and wish things could be the way they "used to be."

Unfortunately, growth has come to our area, and so long as it is managed properly, growth is good.  Navy Federal Credit Union bringing 10,000 jobs to district 1 is a GREAT THING!

Developing OLF 8--will be a great thing!

I just want district 1 to know I am working hard to get the infrastructure modernized to accommodate the growth;  There is much to do but once we do it, we will all be better off for it. Making 9 Mile road a 4-lane road, adding the interchange in Beulah, finding another north-south connector road between Mobile Highway and 9-Mile road, getting the exit out of NFCU through the visitor's center.  All these things and more are being worked.

We will have more jobs, a larger tax base, more amenities, restaurants, and retail facilities.  This is all coming, and once we have it, our community will be even better than it is already.

We just have to have patience and get through the construction and planning phases.