GRADY JOHNSON -           COUNTY COMMISSIONER  DISTRICT 4
I will be updating "What You Should Know" and "What I Think" after each Commission meeting or when other new information comes available.  Please visit often and contact me with your thoughts, ideas, or if there is any information you feel that I, as your Commissioner, need to know.
"The people with something to hide are the only ones that will object." Billy Cypress, Tribal Chairman, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, January 14, 1994
 
August 22, 2013
 
Hello Hardee County.  I am back with new up-dates. 
 
As many of you know Ihave been the target of calculated attacks which was clearly implemented to denyme as a county commissioner due diligence on the behalf of you the citizens.  It is not a surprise to see how far BillLambert, Ken Evers and their club members would go in their retaliation fueledby desperation. Remember it was Mr. Lambert who stated in open meeting that hewould decide when and how he would respond to those of us who reached out tothe Joint Legislative Audit Committee for help.
 
Many of you are aware that I have made the motion to dismiss Mr. Evers, the BOCC attorney, several times inthe last two years. The motions made where based on what I know to be an outrageousconflict of interest with the IDA, EDC, EDA, BOCC and his failures to perform evenat a minimum his duty as the BOCC Attorney.Because of Mr. Evers’ conflicts, as well as his failure in his due diligence as the BOCC attorney, this has raised serious questions forme as to his moral code.
 
Because of this I have had no choice but to retain special counsel to address issues of greatconcern directly effecting Hardee County. My personnel attorney, LenoreBrakefield of Bond, Schoeneck and King recommended Mr. Richard A. Harrison P.A.who is Board certified in municipality and local government law.  Please review the documentattached below which is Mr. Harrison’s letter to the Hardee County BOCC and theIDA board members as well as a copy of the Complaint filed against FRBA and ahost of others, and also a copy of Mr. Lambert’s presentation to the IDA/EDCBoard during their August 20123 meeting. I think you will agree that Mr.Harrison is a no-nonsense person and clearly intends to assist in rectifyingthe lack of transparency and accountability that clearly has been denied HardeeCounty by design.
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
May 1, 2013
 
What you are about to review is not in the U.S. Constitution as an employee ‘s right.  Bill Lambert on February 19, 2013, the day after the Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing, had a key staff member place a public information request to the Joint legislative Audit Committee for all documents and records of correspondence from the Hardee County citizens sent to that Committee. There is absolutely no reason for hired employees such as Bill Lambert, nor the IDA as an appointed board, to investigate the citizens of Hardee County because they asked for help in holding Bill Lambert, Ken Evers, Lex Albritton, IDA and the BOCC accountable for operating outside statutory law that was documented by two audits.
 
By their own admission in their answers to the audit, Lambert, Evers, and Albritton operated outside the law from the day Bill Lambert was hired in 2005.  It is not clear how many of you reached out to the audit committee but there were well over one thousand pages that were copied at a cost of $664.28  (public funds) paid with check #1112 from the Hardee County Industrial Development Authority.  
 
Bill Lambert has not stepped down and the IDA and the BOCC have taken no action to remove him nor Ken Evers, nor Lex Albritton. As a result, these three continue to operate with no restraints and now they are spending public money to acquire information on concerned Hardee County citizens.  This action is wicked and vile with absolutely no justification that Bill Lambert, Lex Albritton and Ken Evers could possibly defend.  The information they obtained has no value to them other than perhaps for retaliation and fear mongering that they have demonstrated to be good at.  And it has started.  One case has already been reported to FDLE and I am getting reports of fear mongering, threats of job losses, boycotting businesses, and law suits for anyone who signed the so called “Grady Johnson” petition that was submitted to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
 
A number of citizens have questioned why people are not being arrested. There are two recourse's for justice involving illegal acts. First in criminal law there must be present evidence beyond a “reasonable doubt “ that could result in someone being incarcerated. Civil action is based on the “preponderance of evidence” where every thread of evidence is admissible. I believe the best way to describe this is the OJ Simpson murder case where he was freed by a criminal court but was found  civilly liable for his actions in the death of two people in civil court. Therefore it may take a civil action by one or more of the Hardee County citizens to bring about accountability that has been nonexistent since 2005.
 
Hardee County it is your money, your government, your first amendment right to voice your opinion and ask for help. The entitlement mentality bolstered by the arrogance that has justified their actions as the sole owners of Hardee County and its assets is our failure as the BOCC and the IDA board. Until you get the BOCC and the IDA board to do their due diligence or the governor to step in for malfeasance of office by the BOCC it is clear to me that every trick in the book is and will be utilized to deny the citizens of Hardee County accountability, transparency and the integrity that is required when dealing with public funds. One way or the other it will be dealt with to protect Hardee County and every Hardee County citizen’s rights. 
 
This is why a federal grand jury must address this issue on the behalf of Hardee County citizens.  This is beyond FDLE and Jerry Hill, the State Attorney and local prosecutor. 
 
Any citizen of Hardee County that feels they are being marked for and or retaliated against please notify Pam Bondi the Attorney General’s Office at  850-414-3990 or FBI at (904) 248-7000 and please notify me.
 
April 19, 2013
 
Hardee County Citizens are being blamed!!
 
I saw something in the IDA meeting this month that was anything but rational thinking for public service responsibility. It was an appointed and elected official, as well as the head of a business blaming Hardee County citizens for these individuals’ and company’s problems. They did include the recent TV news articles, blogs, and anything and anybody for questioning their actions involving public funds as a bad thing. The Chairman, Jim See, said it again when he said that those who believe that he/IDA has done anything wrong, “they can just leave Hardee County”.  Hardee County enough is enough!! All anyone has to do is look at the hard core evidence presented by two independent audits and you will see that Bill Lambert, Ken Evers, and Lex Albritton are the architects of this mess that is not and was not in Hardee County’s best interest.
 
Auditor General finding No.5 states “Prior to December 2011, the IDA had not filed required annual financial reports or provided for annual financial audits, contrary to law”.  The findings went on to say “The IDA had not prepared or filed annual financial reports with DFS for any fiscal year since its existence”.  Millions of dollars of public money have been handled with little or no records available to you Hardee County or the State of Florida.  How can this be if, as they say, they did nothing wrong? 
In the first audit by Mike Carter of Larson Allen it was stated in a public meeting review by Mr. Carter that they went back to 2004  and at that point they had to “create a base line of money” because there was no way to get an accurate figure. The audit statement of condition by Mike Carter of Larson Allen found: “The authority does not have formally documented accounting policies or procedures” meaning the IDA.  How can this be? They did nothing wrong!
 
The Larson Allen Audit Finding on Statute Failure Statement “Comply with Florida Statute Filing Requirements” Management is responsible for filing the following.  (1) An annual financial report in accordance with Section 218.32 of the Florida State Statutes. (2) An annual financial audit report in accordance with Section 218.39 Florida State Statutes. (3) An adopted budget by resolution in accordance with Section 189.418 (3) of the Florida State Statutes. (4) Preparation of Qualified Public Depository Forms. (5) Oath or Affirmation. How can this be? They did nothing wrong!
 
The Auditor General’s report shows a repeat in accounting failure from the first audit by Bill Lambert and the IDA. Audit General Finding No. 6  “The IDA had not taken full corrective actions in response to financial reporting and internal control findings reported by its independent auditor as material weakness and other deficiencies”. How can this be? They did nothing wrong!
 
The “Cause” statement in the Larson Allen audit by management, meaning Bill Lambert, Lex Albritton and Ken Evers said “Management only recently became aware of these requirements”. This statement for an excuse should have produced three resignations or immediate firings to protect public trust.
 
Hardee County by their own words supported by two audits the evidence is indisputable that from the time of Bill Lamberts hiring in 2005 until December 2011 they operated outside the law. Now because of the BOCC failure to take action, and the fact the IDA voted to spend your money with complete knowledge of the above to allow Bill Lambert, Ken Evers, and Lex Albritton to defy the Auditor General they are now in an attempt to provoke the Attorney General into granting them amnesty. 
 
I find it pathetic but yet concerning as a commissioner as to the effort of a few to demonize the Hardee County citizens who have questioned the leadership, motives and failures, and the actions pointed out by two audits.  All who have demanded accountability, transparency and statutory compliance immediately get accused by the very ones that have violated public trust of “not supporting economic development” “stirring trouble” “telling lies” and anything else that might can be said or done to protect the architects’ agenda of smoke and mirrors.
 
I think it is time that Bill Lambert, Lex Albritton, Ken Evers, IDA, the BOCC (and I include myself), as well as some past commissioners, state representatives and some state senators to be summoned to sit in front of a federal grand jury and be held accountable for any action that may have been taken that has violated the public trust here in Hardee County. The United States Attorney’s Office needs to be addressing these issues because of the involvement of federal money and the involvement of state representatives. This cannot be left to FDLE and the local prosecutor.
 
 
March 4, 2013
 
Citizens of Hardee County 
 
FINAL AUDIT STANDS: LAW HAS BEEN BROKEN   LAMBERT, EVERS, ALBRITTON RECOMMENDED AND THE IDA BOARD VOTED TO DEFY AUDIT GENERAL AND ARE TAKING THE FINDINGS TO ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR ANOTHER OPINION.
 
I think the time has come for some soul searching and a reality check for those who conspired and implemented a bait and switch campaign involving the IDA, the Mosaic agreement and its money. I  believe the intent by all involved including the home town media has been to keep you, the Hardee County Citizen, off balance and unquestioning as to their motive. The protection of the blind eye of the Hardee County BOCC either through pure ignorance, blind loyalty, or for personal gain has allowed this campaign of smoke and mirrors to flourish.
 
The three architects of the campaign are Mr. Lex Albritton county manager, Mr. Ken Evers the BOCC, IDA, EDC, and EDA attorney, and Mr. Bill Lambert, the EDC/IDA director. If you have read (not the local media spin) the first audit as well the Auditor General’s audit report then you have seen that the evidence is overwhelming that this is about Mr. Bill Lambert, Ken Evers and Lex  Albritton’s ingenious definition that the Mosaic money is Bill Lambert’s private fund. These three decided and operated as such that Bill’s private money did not fall under the definition of state statutes.
 
The Auditor General and the GEO’s office have rejected Mr. Bill Lambert, Ken Evers and Lex Albritton’s initial ingenious definition that the Mosaic money is in fact private funds to do with as they pleased. The IDA recently voted to allow Bill Lambert, Ken Evers, and Lex Albritton to defy the Auditor General’s findings, to spend your public funds to fight the very organization required to protect public funds from the absolute failure of Lambert, Evers, and Albritton to protect your public funds, who were being paid with your public funds to begin with.  The Auditor General and the GEO’s office are the ones they ignored and hid from in the first place.   Hardee County, you must ask who is the beneficiary in this “Goat Roping”. (See the attached Joint Legislative Audit Committee letter to BOCC attorney Evers in Nov 2011 and GEO’s non-compliance letter from Dec 2011 also to Evers as the IDA attorney.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Before we go any further you must understand the Mosaic Agreement and what the payment of money was for. The Hardee County BOCC simply refused to vacate your county road ways, easements and mining setbacks until Mosaic agreed to pay the forty plus million dollars as scheduled in the agreement.  Contrary to propaganda the Mosaic agreement is between the Hardee County BOCC and Mosaic and NOT Bill Lambert.  Mr. Lambert has demonstrated his temper tantrums when the bait and switch is not working, he then resorts to threats which are, in fact, baseless, that the Mosaic money will be lost, or we will just give it back, and/or will have to reopen the permits.  Having to perform according to State Statutes, contrary to how Mr. Lambert, Evers, and Mr. Albritton have operated, will not destroy economic development in Hardee County.  In fact, it will assure that these funds will accomplish what they should be accomplishing. 
 
Mr. Lambert was the negotiator on the behalf of the Hardee County BOCC and if he produces any document that would allow him to hold Hardee County and Mosaic hostage there will be no choice but to notify law enforcement. At that point Mr. Albritton, Mr. Evers and the sitting commissioners as well as the commissioners of that time frame will have some explaining to do.
 
THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND INTENT OF STATUTORY FAILURES:
 
In 2004, before Mr. Bill Lambert lost his County Commission seat, Mr. Ken Evers was (and is) the BOCC attorney and Mr. Lex Albritton was (and is) the county manager. These three while on your tax dollar received an education of special district statutes as well as the special act in 2004 that created the EDA.  According to staff records Mr. Lambert, after you voted him out of office, became the EDA director in 2005 thru May, 2012.  Mr. Lex Albritton was appointed the administrator of the EDA in 2004 to present date. Mr. Ken Evers became the Attorney for the EDA, as well as the IDA, EDC and was the BOCC attorney at the time.
 
After the completion of the Mosaic agreement in 2007 and at the acceptance of this money, Mr. Lex Albritton and Mr. Ken Evers clearly supported the concept that the money was Bill Lambert’s private money.  Mr. Evers and Mr. Albritton could only have been ‘deliberately brain dead’ for failing to make sure statutory law involving public funds was complied with by Hardee County IDA.  It was and is Ken Evers, Lex Albritton, and the IDA board’s responsibility to make sure that the IDA and Bill Lambert operates within statutory law. (See March 10 2011 attachment DCA’s Jack Gaskins.  Note first paragraph per statute “Dependent Board”).   
 
 
 
 
In our conversations, Bill Lambert and Ken Evers have blamed the Mosaic agreement as the problem for the controversy. Setting the bait and switch propaganda aside, the hard cold facts are that Mosaic is a private company and has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Albritton and Mr. Evers responsibility in making sure that the IDA, EDA, EDC, BOCC and Mr. Bill Lambert operates within state statutes as well as applying state statutes involving public trust.
 
FINALLY A CONFESSION BY ATTORNEY EVERS MOSAIC MONEY IS IN FACT PUBLIC FUNDS
 
Mr. Bill Lambert on a number of occasions has gone quite red faced with me in defending the fact that he negotiated the Mosaic agreement therefore that was private (his) money not the public’s money.  The understanding of this being Bill’s private money was the tone that he set with other people besides me.
 
In the January 2013 IDA meeting while discussing the preliminary Auditor General’s findings, IDA member Don Samuels asked Bill Lambert and Ken Evers as the IDA attorney to answer the question once and for all whether the Mosaic money was public or private funds.  Mr. Samuels went on to say if the Mosaic money is private then what are all these people doing in this meeting. If it is private money why can’t we make them leave? Attorney Ken Evers finally answered the question and stated that the Mosaic money was in fact “PUBLIC FUNDS”.  
 
Until this admission by Mr. Evers, the BOCC, IDA, EDC and the EDA attorney, that the Mosaic money was in fact public funds, the myth that it was Bill Lambert's private money was allowed to stay in play and the IDA clearly operated as such. Upon the notification of the DEO’s Office of statute violations, Mr. Lambert did switch his view. At that point Mr. Lambert decided that the Mosaic agreement and its money was HYBRID and that no law applied. Then Mr. Lambert went as far as to say that Jack Gaskins of the DEO’S office agreed with him. Gaskins did NOT agree with Mr. Lambert (see State Of Florida DEO’S Dec 1, 2011 and Nov 9, 2011 Joint Legislative Audit Committee documents attached. )
 
About a year ago I spoke directly to the IDA board in front of Bill Lambert, Lex Albritton, and Ken Evers. I blamed the BOCC as well as Bill, Ken and Lex that the eight of us had thrown the IDA members under the bus for the failure in applying statutory law. I still suggest that all IDA members review FS 189.042 (6) as they can be PERSONALLY responsible for statutory failure.  This does not apply to Bill Lambert as he can walk away because he has no vote on the board!!!
 
TRIP TO TALLAHASSEE:
 
It is absolutely embarrassing but yet so laughable that some key people in their arrogance dismiss the Audit Committee (JLAC) and the purpose of why we were summoned.  Our testimony was sworn testimony that can be used in an investigation as well as prosecution. It was made clear by the Audit Committee that they only have subpoena power to ask questions and obtain answers as to compliance as well as non-compliance of statutes. They have no arrest powers but did make recommendations a number of times during the meeting, to report the information being provided them to law enforcement.
 
Chairmen Abruzzo took an immediate five minute break when sworn testimony exposed the fact that Bill Lambert and the IDA had given over two million dollars of public money to a company that did not exist and it was also exposed that three State Representatives were involved and were recipients of the money.  The Auditor General is allowing an 18 month period to comply to law. Law Enforcement will make any arrests, if necessary, at the completion of an investigation.
 
What is bizarre to me is that a few in key positions have claimed a collective right of entitlement that Hardee County is for only those they accept into their fold. For example Mr. Ken Evers is the attorney for the BOCC, IDA, EDA, and EDC which is clearly a conflict of interest especially now that statutory failure is exposed.
 
If you would review the video of the audit committee hearing you will see Senator Ring laughing at Mr. Ken Evers justification as to why he does not have a conflict of interest. Mr. Evers never did give the Senator a direct answer. Senator Ring informed Mr. Evers he was working on legislation over this very thing and stated that he would have Mr. Evers back to testify.  But yet inside the walls of Hardee County the right of entitlement must be maintained by those who are critical components such as Evers is to Lambert in order to survive in the environment they have created.
 
Contrary to the bait and switch propaganda, I am for reasonable economic development in Hardee County.  But that does not include support for the display of absolute incompetence by Mr. Lex Albritton and Mr. Ken Evers in failing public trust.
 
Stay Turned More to Come
 
November 12, 2012
 
Hardee County Citizens
 
I ask that all of you who have not seen the November 1, 2012 meeting please do so (the last 20 min or so on Clerk of Court’s streaming of the BOCC meeting). I believe this meeting to be one of the most telling BOCC meetings when it comes to cronyism holding hands in support in order to deny you the truth. If this were not so serious and harmful to Hardee County it would be absolutely laughable.
 
The big question should be why is the BOCC providing immunity for an employee who is required by his job description to explain his actions, especially failures involving Hardee County policy and procedures as well as State Statutes. Some seem to think this is just about the 1.2 million that the manager diverted without authority to do. That is just the beginning of a number of failures if we are going to run a legitimate accountable government.
 
In reviewing the BOCC meetings you will see that the BOCC accountant Hugh Bradley and I have something in common: The same deaf ear and the blind eye has been shown both of us by the manager and the BOCC when it comes to accountability of your money and transparent job performance.
 
In the last six months the BOCC has invoked gag orders, adopted new rules, installed lights with a countdown clock and an alarm all aimed at stopping you the citizen from asking questions they do not want answered. This is indicative of the entitlement mentality (kingdom building) that cronyism has protected and with that protection has eliminated accountability and transparency.
 
It has been said that all I want to do is fire the county manager. Having the best interest of Hardee County at heart then yes, absolutely I do want to fire Mr. Albritton. This would be the first step in achieving the goal of a transparent and accountable government in Hardee County.
 
Mr. Albritton’s and the BOCC's entitlement mentality has made it clear to me that accountability and transparency are not in his ‘job description’ and has been protected as such. There are a number of BOCC meetings on record just this year alone that clearly exposes this.
 
Plain and simple, the cronyism that has allowed kingdom building is the number one problem that has forced Hardee County to stagnate.
 
For Hardee to move forward this must end or we must deal with more of the same.
 
October 22, 2012
 
Hardee County
 
In light of the latest events I have been taken aback as to the support and backing so many of you are giving me for my efforts in trying to do my statutory obligation as well as exposing the lack of legitimate accountability in your BOCC.
 
Thank You All
 
The fact that we are a workingman’s community and most are not able to attend commission meetings to witness first hand the true picture of what is going on is concerning to me. I am grateful for what is clearly an effort by many of you to investigate and obtain the truth for yourself. Remember all meetings are on streaming for your review.
 
The uproar now is over the latest county manager evaluation.  If you will continue scrolling through on this site I have posted my overview and rationale for my evaluation and have included commission hearing dates that would show in part why I made my decisions within this evaluation. During June and July of 2012, Mr. Hugh Bradley, the Clerk to the Board and BOCC accountant exposed the diverting of money by the manager who did not have the authority to do so, and who failed to report it the Clerk. Not reporting the diversion of $1.2 million from the Clerk is not merely a mistake.
 
That kind of action and intent stands for itself. I have also is a number of other issues that need addressing. Additional questions as to the manager’s policy failures as well as failures involving State Statutes and also budget issues, plus another $3 million plus that I believe needs clarity.
 
Legitimate county manager evaluations are done in a workshop meeting first. The BOCC’s failure to utilize an open process to discuss Mr. Albritton’s job performance, and utilizing full disclosure of the facts  should be self evident that there is a fixed effort to deny you the public access to the rationale of each Commissioner’s County Manager evaluation.
 
The question is why? To that end Mr. Albritton has clearly demonstrated acceptance of the protection afforded him, therefore, he has clearly shown that he can forgo accountability to you and I in any area of his choosing.
 
I am fully aware of how public service (government employee) evaluations are supposed to be derived. For over twenty-five years of my public service career, employee evaluations were a part of it. The idea of proper job performance evaluations in your government is to investigate each piece of responsibility and evaluate each on its own merit in order to protect you the citizen and all employees from the cronyism, good ole boy operation, and class warfare that plague Hardee County today.  I believe in order for Hardee County to move forward in a prosperous way what must go are the entitlement mentalities that has allowed for kingdom building, deception, deceit, dishonesty, and forms of retaliation that have been demonstrated on a number of fronts.
 
You must ask yourself would any of this be an issue if everyone involved was doing their due diligence and applying their statutory duty, as wells as forthcoming with the facts in the sunshine (public meeting) placing Hardee County first as required by law.
 
Please read on in this site where there are two other overviews that promoted this last round of events.
 
September 30, 2012
 
Hello Hardee County Citizens
 
It has been a while as you know since my last update. I will again start posting updates on issues that are important to you the taxpayer. I have been extremely busy with county issues as well as state issues that will, and have had, an impact on Hardee County.
 
This update concerns my thoughts on issues that are on record and the latest County Manager evaluation that was due August 24, 2012. It was just released publicly September 25, 2012 by the BOCC Attorney at the request of a citizen via public information statute.
 
I hope that those of you who review my evaluation of the manager’s job performance and the attachments will take the time to watch the commission meetings referred to in the evaluation. Included in these meetings are times when Clerk Hugh Bradley, who, among other things is the BOCC accountant, appeared before the Commission wherein he provided precise and detailed information regarding illegal acts involving diverted public funds.
 
Mr. Bradley, in his second appearance before the board on this same issue stated that he would not come before the Board again as it was now up to the Commissions to act.  The Board has done nothing to act upon or rectify the situation. In fact (and this was a first for me), the Board of County Commissioners gave a deaf ear and a blind eye to a Constitutional Officer.
 
In my evaluation of Mr. Albritton I overlooked and did not mention the 6-7-12 meeting that lead to the Hardee County BOCC voting in a gag order on citizens that would stop you from asking any question on the issue of these diverted funds as well as questionable expenditures on county buildings.  The act of diverted public funds was finally confessed to by Mr. Albritton but yet the gag order remains.
 
On a number of issues that are on record the BOCC performance shows an absolute failure to act which has left the citizens no choice but to ask questions. Now those questioning are called ‘bashers’ by members of the Hardee County BOCC (on record a number of times). On another front of entitlement mentality involving Hardee County public funds, your accountability demands are referred to as demonization by State Representative Ben Albritton Jr.  (See The Herald- Advocate September 27, 2012.)
 
It is very clear to me if we, your elected officials as well as management personal, were in compliance with our statutory and ethical requirements then you the citizen would have little concern or questions about your money and how things are being managed.
 
For me the ultimate embarrassment was the decision that was made in Tallahassee to send the Auditor General to Hardee County. The blind eye and the deaf ear of the Hardee County BOCC and the county manager to statutory requirements involving the IDA are inexcusable. Because of that failure every tax payer in Florida now has a stake in Hardee County. The inaction places the very people we appoint to the IDA at an unnecessary risk of personal liability. The Hardee County BOCC, the county manager and the IDA’s non-compliance of accounting requirements of public funds as dictated by State Statute is being rectified by the Audit General’s oversight.
 
Given all that has happened in this past year in Hardee County, I believe that Hardee County has come to a crossroad which will define Hardee County for the future.  The evidence is clear the lack of due diligence by the Hardee County BOCC, and the lack of oversight involving the manger, and blatantly using ignorance as an excuse clearly needs to end.
 
The question is:  “Who benefits?”  No elected official and or employee should ever be allowed to elevate themselves above transparency and accountability. Public Service, Public Business, Public Money!!!
 
The decision rests with you the people: Do we continue business as usual, or is it time that Hardee County demand accountability, transparency, good stewardship of your money, and a standard that accepts only professional public service?
 
I ask that you review the evaluation and the dates of public hearings provided, then decide for yourself.  If you agree with the facts, then act.
 
 
 
 
April 17, 2012
 
I would like to take a moment and talk to you the tax payer about issues within your government.  In the last six years of attending almost every meeting involving the Hardee County Commission under the direct leadership of the county manager it has been made clear to me that often their agenda is in direct conflict with our First Amendment guarantee.
 
There is a thing called the Bill of Rights. The last sentence of the first amendment is your right to petition the government for ‘redress’ of grievances.  Redress has numerous meanings including rectify, remedy, put right, set right, balance out your grievances against your government.  What a great couple of words:  Redress grievances.
 
Many of you who have talked with me about the problems you have seen with your local government, know that the agenda carried forward by the Commission and the manager has left our citizens secondary.  Their agenda has allowed them sole ownership of Hardee County.  Things revealed recently regarding Resthaven are perfect examples.  Many of you read the Herald Advocate a few weeks ago where the paper reported how everything was accounted for and how great a job the county manager has done.
 
Ms. Seamon of the Advocate reported that all was well with the State Attorney’s findings and that everything was cleared. That is not true.  The $1.1 million of insurance money that was diverted is contrary to State Statute and this was not cleared of any wrong doing.  The State Attorney’s findings that I reviewed simply were the response to the submission of evidence and what evidence was reviewed and how much weight was given to that evidence for criminal prosecution.  I have in my possession the complaint filed by the Clerk and the evidence that was reviewed according to public records.
 
Checks were submitted well beyond the statutory time allowed.  The decision to file or not to file is that of the State Attorney.  I can tell every Hardee County citizens that I believe that the State Attorney could not have seen all of the evidence that was withheld from discovery until the recent events of 3-15-2012.  At that time Lex Allbritton defied FS 125.01 and FS 119 by refusing to produce that information to me.
 
Mr. Albritton in the end had to produce information that in the past was not made available.   What was discovered and confirmed by Gallagher Bassett is what Mr. Albritton, Doug Knight, and a few others may not want us to know and that is that instead of $400,000.00 in diverted funds as was originally discovered, but that a total of $700,855.35 was paid for the reconstruction of Resthaven.
 
I cannot findthe reconstruction.  In the last seven years we are tipping a million dollars of your money in a building that clearly is pretty much the same as when it was built.
 
Hardee County, what this is about is the fiscal responsibility of your tax dollars.  I take my job as an elected official as serious business on your behalf.  My only agenda is FS 125.01 that outlines my responsibility to you.  This constant uproar, whenever I ask these questions is generated by Lex Albritton, some of the Commissioners and their associates, as well as Joan Seamon of the Herald Advocate.  Why would this happen unless they did not want you to know the truth?  
I have beenaccused of “just not getting along”.  Well in a way I guess I can understand that sentiment because it seems like every time I find something that seriously offends my sense of ethics along with the denial of accountability, the finger gets pointed towards the same small group of people.
 
This group’s claim of sole ownership of Hardee County is absolutely the epitome of arrogance.  They call me a trouble maker for asking questions about your money and their actions in spending your money.  Why should this be “troubling”?
 
According to the Governor’s Office (which is MY ethical oversight) and FS125.01 that is why you elected me!!!!
 
The Resthaven incident clearly says it all.  I welcome Lex Albritton, Doug Knight, Marshall Austin, Joan Seamon, the Herald Advocate, as well as any sitting Commissioner to show the people of Hardee where $700,855.35 was spent on and in Resthaven.
 
April 3, 2012
 
Please review the attached document and decide for yourself.  If at any time you would like to question me or see all of the additional documents I have which supports the appearance of fraud either call or email me.
 
Resthaven /Civic Center
 
I have found what appears to be why Lex Albritton, your County Commissioners, Joan Seamon, and the Herald Advocate have done everything they can to stop anyone from learning the information in these documents which makes me believe someone wants to hide $700,855.35 in insurance claim money that was supposed to be spent for the reconstruction of Resthaven.  It is my opinion that this is the smoking gun.  Please review the attached document that shows a recap of claims for damages.  I have additional documentation where Gallagher Basset has confirmed payments made on both Resthaven and the Civic Center.  
 
 
 
I visited Resthaven approximately four years ago and inspected it because of alleged mismanagement of disaster funds (direct payment to vendor) and did again three months ago.   I can tell you it is pretty much the same structure as when it was built by the current condition of the building. The question four years ago is still the same today.  “Where did the money go?”  Please go look for yourselves.
 
By reading through the documents that I have, it appears clear to me that Lex Albritton, Doug Knight, Marshall Austin (CJW General Adjuster), and the County Commissioners had direct involvement.  The same applies to the Civic Center building where claims totaled $1,357,681.69 for restoration.
 
Your Hardee County Commission has just allocated more than $70,000.00 of your tax dollars in the last four months to replace the original electrical wiring in the Resthaven building built in 1903.  In addition, money was allocated to replace three showers that a small 12 year old would have a tough time taking a shower in.
 
Hardee County, remember about three years ago when you packed the commission room on three different nights to stop the Commissioners from closing Resthaven?. Remember their justification in their attempt to convince you to let them close it? Then ask yourself how they could justify their reasoning for closing Resthaven if they had just spent $700,855.35 in reconstruction. (Unconscionable!)
 
At the 3-15-12 Commission meeting all witnessed the unity between Lex Albritton and the Commissioners that supported Mr. Lex Albritton and his strong reluctance of my request to produce the public documents (which is contrary to State Statutes) involving Resthaven.  I want all Hardee Citizens to be aware that I intend to do everything I can to see to it that the truth comes out.
 
“The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
 
March 19, 2012
 
To the citizensof Hardee County
 
Review the clerk’s office video of the March 15, 6:00pm commission meeting. You will see a true representation of what I view as a complete failure of statutory duty by one and all. The Bradenton Times article “How To Take Back A Town” was brought up by Mr. Frank Kirkland who spoke about the Resthaven and the Civic Center issues of where approximately 1.1 million dollars went.
 
One issue is that a year after the hurricane, two checks totaling approximately 1.1 million dollars were diverted directly to a vendor (NOTE..THIS IS A CORRECTION FROM THE ORIGINAL TEXT "couple of vendors") without going through the Hardee County accounting system.  Several commissioners, as well as Lex Albritton, openly maligned the Bradenton Times and Mr. Rehill the author of the article “How to Take Back a Town”, including calling Mr. Rehill a liar and that he should be put in jail.
 
I suggested that if this article was untrue then let us produce the documentation that shows it was in fact lies.  I directed Mr. Albritton to produce the paper work and his response was that it would take the majority vote by the commissioner to make him do it. He also stated among a number of things that he was not inclined to do so because of a rag newspaper. I was amused when the Chairman Minor Bryant asked me if I wanted to make a motion to direct Mr. Albritton to produce the public documents. I was just amazed that the commissioners allowed Lex Albritton, a hired employee, to refuse a directive to produce public information and allow Mr. Albritton to defy state law by putting it on the backs of the Commissioners.  This is absolutely unbelievable and should be embarrassing to the Board and as far as I am concerned shows an absolute lack of ethics, and perhaps even pure ignorance or arrogance in defying the Board’s responsibility to the tax payers for accountability.
 
Additionally,Commissioner Birge brought up the audit report.  It was the Audit Report of September 2005 that brought this information to light.
 
The Audit states:
 
05-05:  Hurricane Repairs and Insurance Proceeds.
 
Finding:  During our testing of revenue, we noted that two insurance reimbursements and the related hurricane repair expenditures totaling $1,120,837 had not been recorded in the general ledger.  Insurance checks were made payable to the authorized vendors who performed repairs for the Board, and these items were not recorded in the Board’s accounting records.  This resulted in understated revenues and expenditures for the year.
 
Recommendation:  All insurance proceeds or reimbursements should be made payable to the County so that property accounting and control is maintained.  These proceeds should be recorded as revenues and the related repairs should be recorded as expenditures in the accounting records.
 
ManagementResponse:  All insurance proceeds will be made payable to the county.
 
Judge foryourself.  The Board never addressed this problem when they became aware of it and now seems to deny that there was ever any problem to begin with.
 
Also, note the hand gestures by Mr. Albritton – not sure who he was signaling to - when I started talking.  I believe it is self-explanatory.
 
I knew where this was going but I wanted to see how far this group might take it so I accommodated the Chairman Minor Bryant and made the motion.  So, guess what happened with my motion to make Lex Albritton adhere to state law.  Surprise!  I did not get a second so it was a “no vote” to make Lex Albritton adhere to FS 125.01 and FS 119.  I have directed Mr. Albritton that he will adhere to state law (see What You Need to Know).  I provided invoice numbers and purchase order numbers as well as figures that will grab your attention and promote a number of questions I am sure you will want answered.
 
I want everyone to know I have been to Resthaven to see if I could see where $400,000.00 worth of remodeling was done. I even went up in the roof area as I was told a new roof was put on in 2003 (Permit # 0300497 issued 5-30-2003) and then Hurricane Charlie blew it off in 2004.  Another permit issued in 2-2-2005 was for Interior & Exterior remodeling, Permit # 04-00917).  I was amazed to find that the old roofing is still there in those areas that I was able to see and that the metal was screwed directly through the old roof without proper understructure.  The beam structure I looked at was clearly the original in my view.  As for the interior, the original base boards (except for a short area in the hall) some knee wall paneling in the hall, the old tile floors etc. all were visible.
 
In Mr. Albritton’s directive the purchase order numbers as well as invoices (that state labor & material cost) that were paid should clear all this up. All of this information that I provided to Mr. Albritton and also placed on this web site with payment documentation is public records Clerk’s Office.
 
I cannot find any remodeling material (distinctive from the original material) even close to $400,000.00 with the most extreme imagination.  Documentation should clear this up.
 
As for the CivicCenter  - the same thing? There is a remodeling bill for $729,324.15 that was directly paid to the vendor on September 13,2005 without going through the Hardee County Accounting system.  I again cannot find any evidence of remodeling but again the invoices should clear this matter up.
 
I started attending commission meetings on a regular basis after Hurricane Charlie.  Most of you will remember about four years ago the Commissioners where adamant in their attempts to close Resthaven.  I wondered at that time why after spending $400,000.00 to remodel would you do that?  For my own information I inspected both Resthaven and the Civic Center buildings back then and my findings are still the same.  Where is the $1.1 million that bypassed the county accounting system?
 
Show the documentation which should account for every penny and where it went and in return, this will lay to rest any questions that have resulted from the lack of accountability and ethical responsibility and the arrogant dismissal of responsibility for the public trust.
 
December 19, 2011
 
Additional information has been added to What You Should Know regarding the latest with the Legislative Auditing Committee and our IDA.
 
November 11, 2011
 
CountyManager Yearly Evaluation November 2011
 
Those of you that have viewed my web site hopefully have a clear understanding involving my thoughts on professional public service in relation to the county manager.  In my evaluation of the county manager, I scored him a zero in all areas and made a recommendation to dismiss.   As I have stated before, a Commissioner trying to do his job is Mr. Albritton's biggest and worse nightmare.  I also have found that true transparency and accountability does not conform to his style of management.  Just a few short weeks ago the manager in open meeting challenged the Commissioners repeatedly to fire him or leave him alone.
 
I made a motion for dismissal however it failed for lack of second.  I have attached my narrative from his evaluation for your review.
 
On a number of occasions questions that involved tax dollars were deferred to staff and the manager avoided taking any responsibility.  Some things must be answered by the manager such as when money is apparently "misplaced" or unaccounted for without implying that he doesn't have the knowledge to report on these problems.  The approved county budget is under the county manager's direct control.  Common sense says that the ultimate responsibility for any problems, glitches, missing money, etc., is that of the manager, not his staff.
 
All accountability and transparency rests with the county manager and it is his obligation to keep the Commission informed.  In addition, all staff members must have the commitment of the Commission for approved policies and procedures to provide fair and proper oversight to guide them.  There appears to be a large gap between adopted and approved procedures and direction given on baseless policy and created on the fly which appears to be the norm.
 
 
 
 
October 11, 2011
 
Every voter and taxpayer in Hardee County must view the Commission meeting from Thursday 10-5-11 which is available at www.hardeeclerk.com.  The very last ten or fifteen minutes should give everyone an eye opener and an idea of what I seem to be up against.
 
From the first day of taking office as one of your elected representatives I have been maligned not only by the manager and fire chief but by fellow commissioners for getting information independent of the censored information that is always produced to the Board.  The Commission MUST have accurate information in order to make the best possible decisions.  I seek out the truth which means relying on the Clerk’s Office because that is where a Commissioner is suppose to go and should go for uncensored information.  As the Clerk to the Board, one of the Clerk’s statutory functions is to provide a Checks and Balance for financially related responsibilities performed for the county under the Board of County Commissioners.  In Thursday’s meeting it is my interpretation that Mr. Bradley made it clear that the Board was not getting complete and accurate information from the manager.
 
I have not known the Clerk, Hugh Bradley, as long as most of you but I have listened to Mr. Bradley in the past six years or so addressing the Commissioners (two of whom are still Commissioners).  My first impression of Mr. Bradley was that he was a man of integrity and this impression has only been strengthened from my role as a taxpayer to my role as a Commissioner when discussing tax dollar issues.
 
Many of you have heard the issue of the fire department’s budget and the outrageous excessive overtime.  Some fireman are earning over 2000 hours a year in overtime at a tremendous cost to the county which is indicative of poor management.  During this budget process I received the usual censored information from the manager as well as Mr. Choate the fire chief.  During the budget hearings I produced payroll information from the Clerk’s office.  This clearly upset Mr. Albritton and Mr. Choate who stated that the information that I have from the Clerk was not accurate.  (View also the budget workshops involving the fire department budget)  Mr. Choate has stated to multiple venues that the Clerks information is wrong.  
 
Throughout this process Mr. Choate, supported by Mr. Albritton, has challenged any information that he has not personally provided.  The bullying by Mr. Albritton and Mr. Choate experienced by past Commissions was staged to halt any questions that would expose their dishonesty and this is coming to an end.  The Sheriff, the Clerk, and myself, as three Constitutional officers, have been attacked by Mr. Choate and Mr. Albritton who as employees show total disregard for elected representatives of you the people. This demeanor is beyond the pale of all ethical and moral standards and this has to stop.
 
I have given Mr.Albritton a written directive for him and Mr. Choate to forward to me in writing the evidence that Mr. Choate has to support his accusation that the Clerk of the Board payroll data is inaccurate or not true.  Note that the payroll produced by the Clerk is based on what Mr. Choate turns in for payroll checks to be written.
 
In July, at the opening round of budget workshops Mr. Albritton’s finance director exposed the fact that FEMA demanded the return of in excess of a million dollars that we received because of Hardee County’s double billing on projects.  I have given a directive to Mr. Albritton to explain in writing how he mishandled in excess of a million dollars that was incorrectly requested and received from FEMA after the hurricanes by our county and is still unaccounted for to date.  See Attachment.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hey Hey Hey Hardee County!
 
Today our Sheriff’s Office under the direction of Sheriff Arnold Lanier and his staff flipped the switch on the 911 emergency system.  It is now at home where it belongs.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of the staff at the Sheriff’s Office.
 
Setting aside all the controversy in the past we now have our own Hardee County dispatchers trained and ready to go.  In my public service career this is the third 911 system that I have been a part of and it has been a pleasure to talk and listen to the dedicated professional dispatchers and support staff that we have at our Sheriff’s Office.
 
Sheriff Grady Judd and his staff went beyond the call in their efforts to assist our county in emergency services given the fact that it was never a necessity and only just politics within our own county government.  I, as a County Commissioner cannot thank Sheriff Judd and his staff enough for their commitment to our emergency services.
 
The bottom line is that we have our own dedicated staff at the Sheriff’s Office Dispatch that do not have to take a back seat to no one when it comes to their service to you and I the citizens of Hardee County.  I for one thank them all.  What a great day for Hardee County.  We now take care of our own.
 
May God bless them all for their commitment to their duty that is shielded by honor and an unwavering commitment to those in need of emergency services.
 
9/26/11
 
As you may have seen, Joan Seaman of the Herald Advocate has once again attacked me in the local newspaper as usual in defense of Mr. Lex Albritton.  She and one of her cabal, Russell R. Pearson lll (you may know him as Mason Quinn whose arrest record speaks for itself) are working hard to dig up information from my past.  Mr. Pearson is claiming to be an employee of the law firm of De Beaubien, Knight, Simmons, Mantzaris & Neal to make himself appear legitimate. Please review the attached that Mr. Pearson sent me back in December shortly after I took office. You will see Mr. Pearson had no problem trying to sell the power of his journalistic capabilities and yet at the same time proclaiming to be Chief Bill Beatty’s Chaplin for the Wauchula Police Department.  In addition it was reported to me back then that Mr. Pearson’s wife worked for Chief Beatty as the Chief’s secretary and Accreditation Officer.
                          
                      
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This cabal (consisting of Seaman, Chief Beatty, Lex Albritton and their cheerleading squad) has been digging into my records in other counties. Their intimidation attempts in the past failed so the next step is to try to discredit me in order to take me down, or at least discourage me from doing my job.  Not only are they obtaining my records but they are digging into my children’s records.  If they do not find something juicy enough on me then I assume they are trying to find something on my children to discredit me.  Only thugs mess with the families.  Real low lives, wouldn’t you agree?
 
The one thing Seaman is correct about is the correlation between the incident she chose to print about and my desire to hold Lex Albritton accountable for his actions.  When the uproar occurred in Collier I was deep into fighting corruption within the ranks and there was a cabal there also who were doing everything they could to stop me.  It took time but the end result was that one cop involved lost his job and a Captain (who was instrumental in giving me the two days off) and a Sergeant served Federal prison terms due to corruption. After nearly 27 years with Collier I was asked to go next door as the Chief Deputy in Hendry County where similar problems also had to be addressed and cops lost their jobs.  In the past, my enemies, whether in or out of uniform, carried guns, Miss Seaman, so there is little you and your support group can do to intimidate or scare me.  But that said I too see the similarities.  Given the content of your tirade it would have been nice if you had written about a few of my commendations also.
 
I ran for County Commission because I was asked to run and because I too recognized there were many problems plus red flags of corruption in one form or another, as well as a failure within our local government to address these problems.  As far as my being a “newcomer”, I believe that I was elected because I had NOT been born here.  My only allegiance would, therefore, be to the people and I could get something accomplished instead of being just another bobble-head.  However, I am a 6 generation Florida boy and I now have a Yankee making an issue of where I used to live.  Now that IS discouraging!
 
Since I have always felt great respect and a deep gratitude for our county employees and what they do, I can only say that as a County Commissioner, according to Florida Statute 125.01, I cannot hire, nor fire, nor direct any employee under the County Manager.  Statue 125.01 (S) does state, however, that I may make investigations of county affairs, inquire into accounts, records, and transactions of any county department, office, or officer, and for these purposes, require reports from any county officer or employee and the production of official records.  Section (W) states that I may perform any other acts not inconsistent with law, which acts are in the COMMON INTEREST OF THE PEOPLE of the county, and exercise all powers and privileges not specifically prohibited by law.  There is nothing that Jim Kelly, Joan Seaman, Bill Beatty, Lex Albritton or their little cheerleading squad (who meet on Friday’s at the office that is located in front of the Annex on 17) can do to stop me from doing my duty on the behalf of the Hardee County Citizens.
 
My past is an open book.  One and all are welcome to review my files. I have made it clear that Joan Seaman and Jim Kelly of the Herald Advocate were not going to hold me hostage with the power of their so-called journalistic pen and spin regardless of who’s paying them for the pen!!!!  Now let me be very clear Joan Seamen and Jim Kelley, stay away from my children.
 
9/15/2011
 
On Friday, September 9, 2011, there was a budget workshop to address the fire budget and in my view it was a complete failure as a workshop.  Rather than discussing the reason for the excessive overtime it was turned into a love fest where we told the firemen (who made up a majority of the audience) how much we appreciated their work and also how much we appreciated the work of Chief Beattie of the Wauchula City Police Department.  Although that sentiment is commendable, the overtime situation which has averaged out to be over 15,000 hours a year for the last ten years without any justification or oversight was all but ignored (from seven thousand to over twenty thousand hours yearly.)
 
Also, at the end of the workshop, the county manager went on a tirade.  By any professional public service standards Mr. Albritton’s actions as a subordinate to the Commission should have been a non-negotiable termination.  His action prompted a motion by me at the next regular meeting to terminate his employment, a motion that failed for a lack of a second.  During that same meeting I voted against approving the tentative budget.
 
Mr. Albritton’s outburst and ridicule of the Commission as well as his absolute disrespect for the elected officials he works for is indicative of his state of mind.  It is no doubt his lip quivering break down was aimed at me.  Mr. Albritton was incensed when I revealed the data from the Clerk of Court’s payroll records that clearly showed that there has been no oversight applied to the fire service payroll expenditures over the years and the information I obtained demonstrated that the information supplied by him and Choate’s was a deliberate dishonest distortion of the facts.
 
Mr. Albritton chastised the Commission (me) for not utilizing staff for information and he also made it clear how he felt about a Commissioner going outside of his office for information.  Mr. Albritton’s actions clearly show he has neither respect nor any intention in recognizing the fact that he works at the pleasure of the County Commissioners.
 
Mr. Albritton’s arrogance encouraged by years of no accountability now causes a serious issue for Hardee County.  Mr. Albritton’s worst and biggest nightmare has become a terrible reality for him.  That being a Commissioner who is simply trying to do the job that elected to do.  Mr. Albritton’s recent action shows a fear of information being produced that he does not want to be found.  This fear has caused him to be in what I feel is a deranged state of mind and his future actions will be handled accordingly.
 
Mr. Albritton’s accusation about not utilizing staff to get information was, in fact, not true in that I had obtained reams of information from staff.  He clearly co-mingles fiction with facts which allows him to create his own rules and procedures within his area of command and is affronted when anyone dares to go outside his administrative area.
 
Since my election to office one of the first things that had to be addressed with the county attorney as well as the labor attorney for Hardee County was Mr. Albritton’s irrational conduct and objections to my getting information from staff without allowing him to censor that information first.  The other issue addressed was his dishonesty to me as a Commissioner.  Mr. Albritton has made it clear to me that he will go to any extreme to censor any and all information presented to the Board and to me in particular.  That is contrary to my statutory authority which allows a Commissioner to tap any resources for information without a manager’s censorship.
 
I fully intend to do my job on the behalf of the citizens of Hardee County.
 
Mr. Albritton seems determined to try to hinder my ability to perform my job under my statutory authority.  I want to assure you that I intend to move forward in your best interest.  Therefore I have again spoken to the county attorney regarding Mr. Albritton’s actions and reactions and a course of action is being formulated.  He has demonstrated, in my view, a deranged obsession for ignoring any authority but his own. Therefore Mr. Albritton’s agenda will continue to have the best interest of Hardee County secondary until he is held accountable for his actions by the Board.
 
Any citizens wishing to review the pay records I have questioned can contact me.   I have in hand the last ten years of payroll data that clearly shows in my view the biggest mismanagement of your tax payer dollars that I have ever seen in my entire career.
 
September 9, 2011
 
In addressing the fire budget today the main issue of expenditures vs. the service requirements were once again over-shadowed by atta boys and lets all go alone to get alone.  All efforts were aimed at avoiding accountability!!!
 
The issue that is being avoided is the fact that the manager, as well as the Fire Chief, has inflated the Fire Rescue budget. The number one catalyst for this extensive budget growth has been nothing less than fear mongering in an attempt to defend this increase.  What is actually required and needed for public safety and the standards that are normally used to gauge the service needs are being manipulated to justify an inflated budget.  I heard during this meeting that other counties looked to our county’s fire service as a role model.  In talking with many fire department officials and county officials from the Small County Coalition, none of these organizations expressed that to me.  In fact, the other County Commissioners that I talked with were flabbergasted that we are spending the amount of money we are for fire service.  I truly wish that whatever organizations are looking to Hardee as a role model for fire service would contact me so that I could get their opinion also.
 
The Florida Census for the population of Hardee County in 2000 was 26,038.  In 2010 Hardee’s population was 27,731.  (UPDATE..it has been brought to my attention that this population figure includes in excess of 1500 who are inmates in the prison system)  In ten years we only grew by 793 people. Of course rural seasonal population goes up and down; however agriculture and its migrant population have shown a significant decrease since 2000. The depletion of orange groves and farm land and the current economy has limited transient population.
 
In 2000 according to the Clerk of Courts, Fire/EMS employment totaled 34.  The payroll figures for the fiscal year 99-2000 for Fire was $312,690.77 and the payroll for EMS $344,401.20 for a total payroll $657,091.97.  During this time there were 10,155.95 hours of overtime.  The salaries shown here and below are segregated although they represent the same personnel for Fire and for EMS as most of the employees are dual certified as firefighters and as EMT’s or paramedics. 
 
According to the Clerk’s records for the 2004-2005 budget year, the number of employees for Fire/EMS was at 36 employees with a total in earnings for Fire at $642,215.09 and the total earnings for EMS at $794,411.58 (again, both figures represent 36 employees), for a combined payroll of $1,436,626.67. The overtime for these employees is 10,697.75 hours for the year.  This is over twice the salaries in five years with little difference in overtime hours.
 
The clerks records in 2009/2010 for payroll shows 45 employees with total earnings for fire at $1,191,583.06. The total earnings for EMS were $827,947.97 which is a total payroll of $2,019,531.03.  Overtime for this period was 7,328.9 hours.  (UPDATE.  From fiscal year 99-2000 until the present, there has been over 151,000 hours of overtime.)
 
With payroll dollars almost doubling every five years and with a disproportionate use of overtime, I feel SOMEONE needs to question what is going on with this county department.   What I have found is that the more questions I ask, the more hysterical our manager and Chief Choate get.  Take a look at Friday’s workshop paying particular attention to Chief Choate’s opening words and Mr. Albritton’s end of meeting tirade. 
 
Hardee County hasonly gained 793 people in ten years.  Censes information can be found on-line.  In 2005, the total households were 8,418 with a 3.7 people average to household.  Our tax revenues are being reduced at an alarming rate and we MUST reduce our county’s budget in order to keep afloat.  Our local paper has indicated that we have reduced our budget from prior years but that is incorrect.  We have not.  We are appropriating dollars that were set aside in prior years in a wish list and were not spent and there has been a reduction in state and federal grants that has caused an end to programs and services that we formerly were able to provide.  We must reduce our operating expenditures however we can and the fire department is not the only department that I am scrutinizing.  This is not a vendetta against those dedicated firemen and women who keep us safe, but it is a concentrated effort to call forth awareness within our county departments to police themselves considering our financial position and do whatever they and we Commissioners can in order to be sure that our county gets the very best service that we can provide without “breaking the bank” in order to do it.  Those departments that cannot justify increases or expenditures must be questioned and the fire department is one that is most alarming (no pun intended) considering our rate of growth.
 
I have a lot of experience dealing with shift work, level of service, and overtime considerations and bottom line, neither Mr.Albrittton nor Mr. Choate have produced evidence to justify the amount of overtime that was requested in the current budget.
 
To help me in this respect you must contact your Commissioner and express your concerns and give them (and me) direction so that we can be sure that we do not fail you.  When I do not hear from you then I work hard to do what I feel is right.  I welcome your comments, even (or especially) if you do not agree with the direction I am heading.  Let me know what you thinkbecause I am your voice.
 
Hopefullly I have no type-o’s with these numbers. Anyone wishing to talk with me in reference to this and review the records I have obtained, please call 781-3905.
 
7-19-11  BOCC Budget Workshop
 
The work shop towards the end of the day turned into somewhat of an ordeal.  It is truly a sad day for the Hardee County taxpayers when anyone or any group of people on taxpayers dollars fail to understand that it is not what the taxpayers can do for them it is what they can do for the taxpayers.  It’s calledPublic Service.
 
The morning of the workshop I asked for additional information involving the fire budget for my review.  Apparently it was spun out of control from phone calls to Face Book accusing the Commission of attempting to hold a secret meeting to do away with the paid fireman and go to an all volunteer fire department.
 
There is no wayto describe what went on so you must view the video.
 
One of the first things I saw years back when I started attending the  Commission meetings was that certain individuals routinely fooled the Commission with their propaganda machine and in a number of cases just plain lied at the expense of the taxpayers.  This needs to stop.  We need to address tax dollars vs. service needs of the community. The taxpayer’s best interest and the dedication to spending their money wisely is my first and only responsibility.
 
It was finally made clear to me by the County Manager that he was responsible for the fiasco.  I have never witnessed such a blatant attempt to undermine the County Commission by a County Manager.  But in the past there has been a four to one vote stopping his dismissal.  I have said it before I will say it again this manager absolutely has no understanding of Public Service Standards required by a professional public servant.  Nor does he recognize or acknowledge the position of dually elected Commissioners let alone their statutory responsibility.  Mr. Choate’s budget had been reviewed and if I were going to question him the next day or any time after that about his budget, I would have notified the manager to notify the Chief.
 
With that being said the discussion turned into a fiasco, with the subject being fire fighter and volunteer. There has been a lot of conversation about this in the last six years because of the burden that has been placed on the taxpayer.  It was made clear by some of the Commissioners that volunteer fireman will not work here.   I have to agree given the attitude of the Commissioners, the CountyManager, and Chief Choate.  After the meeting I spoke to two Lieutenants of the fire department who also convinced me they could not work with a volunteer program.  As I told both these paid firefighters and I as stated in the meeting it takes unique supervisors and administrators who truly understand the commitment of  public service and it is clear to me that we do not have this.  The propaganda from the County Manager, Chief Choate as well as other career fire fighters that I have heard in the last few years is absolutely disgraceful to trained Volunteer Firefighters of this state and country.
 
You may find thefollowing interesting:
 
According to the US Fire Service & Fire Analysis and Research Service:
There are 30,165 local fire departments in the USA
 
There are 1,148,100 fire fighters
 
29% (335,950) are career firefighters         Deaths 25 in 2010
71% (812,150) are volunteers                        Deaths 44 in 2010
 
21 of the deaths were on the fire ground. Eight (8) of these deaths were residential fires.
 
According to a 2007update, there are 30,185 fire departments nation-wide.
21,168departments are all trained volunteer
4,989 are mostlytrained volunteer with some career employees.
1,765 are mostlycareer with some trained volunteers
2,263 are allcareer
Over 71% of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA fire response is by Trained Volunteers. God Bless them all.
 
ALERT   FEMA FINANCIAL DISASTER
 
On Friday 7-15-11 we received our budget information packets.  Starting Monday we will be moving through the process of approving the FY2011-2012 budget.  Also presented at that workshop meeting was the FEMA Disaster Funds accounting and the fact that we have been ordered to repay to FEMA $1,065,082.10.
 
For the last six years I have watched this can being kicked down the road by the Hardee County Manager.  During this work shop meeting we heard that FEMA was to blame for this financial disaster and that a letter was drafted (see link below) to be sent to them that blames the FEMA process for Hardee County’s inability to account for money we received and spent.
 
 
 
 
There was a lot said during that meeting that just is unacceptable and this approach by a governing body is a first for me:
 
The Board appears to have been completely uninformed of, or else has ignored the lack of oversight of the county manager over this eight year period, and then this Board has simply passed over this whole fiasco by telling our finance director that we (the Board) hope the finance director learned something from this.  It is not the finance director who has failed because she takes her direction from the county manager.  County financing is under the direct control of the county manager.  Approximately twenty million dollars of disaster money was given to Hardee County since 2005. You will get no argument from me that dealing with FEMA (federal government) can be a nightmare but regardless of FEMA’s requirements, Hardee County’s accounting practices are the reason for the failure to resolve this, and so I have to ask, “Where is the county manager’s accountability?” It is my opinion that he owns this financial fiasco!!!!
 
In all my years in public service if there were any discrepancies involving taxpayer’s money, regardless of the amount, every effort was made until every cent was accounted for.  Accountability.  Taxpayers do not deserve anything less.
FEMA determined we were unable to show that we met their guidelines of accounting for money they gave Hardee County.  I suggested that we have a forensic audit done on Hardee County’s accounting practices.  I was met with the mind boggling statement that FEMA had already done an audit.  Yes, they have but for FEMA’s accounting guidelines, not Hardee County’s accounting practices!
 
Since these are public funds I find it suspect that there is no desire for an in-depth audit of our accounting to determine where one million sixty five thousand eighty two dollars and ten cents went.  Instead of a forensic audit on our accounting practices to determine how this money was used which could very well resolve the issue for the taxpayers and with FEMA, we are asking for more time and a payment schedule that would be suitable for Hardee County to pay this amount back. 
FEMA money is accountedfor by project.  FEMA has determined that we were paid twice for several projects and according to our management this was not “discovered” until FEMA completed their audit and notified the county that they wanted the money back.  The problem according to our management is that our “accounting system” did not show we had been paid twice for the same projects so over a million dollars was spent and apparently we do not know on what or to whom. Really????
 
I am only onevote out of five.  With that being said this needs to be addressed.  We need to account for every dollar, and correct all accounting policies that fail to meet guidelines of transparency and accurate accounting.  Our accounting staff deserves proper oversight and guidance through effective policies that will stand up to any level of scrutiny involving taxpayer’s money.
 
During a break from the meeting Michael Kelly of the Herald Advocate posed a question to me in reference to the statute of limitations involving this FEMA problem. This is not the first time that the words “Statute of Limitation” have been mentioned to me in reference to our dealings with FEMA.  Could this be why it is taking years to close out the FEMA projects?
 
According to state and federal authority Statute of Limitations only applies when there is a crime.  In this case the clock will start running only when the issue with FEMA is closed out.  It is then that the Statute of Limitations applies if, in fact, a crime has been committed.  So, if there is anyone who has been counting on the Statute of Limitations running out, then, sorry boys.
 
July 3, 2011
 
Hardee County Citizens
 
I receive the question daily of why we cannot move Hardee County in a new and positive direction.  As one of your Commissioners, I will give you what I know to be two absolute necessities in achieving that goal.  The most important issue to be resolved is the Manager position. Having observed the Commission over six years ago, I thought it was clear then as it is now that two things need to happen to assure a positive and brighter future for Hardee County and that is:
 
(1.) That County Commissioners do their statutory duty to the fullest extent.
(2)  That county management is replaced.
 
Hardee County needs a county manger that has documented experience that clearly shows that he or she understands Professional Public Service Standards.  Those standards require that a manager present to all Commissioners clear and accurate information without a personal agenda and champions any and all decisions on all matters promoted by the majority vote of the Board of County Commissioners.  You are the boss and all decisions made on your behalf should be in the best interest of Hardee County.  A county manger’s position ranks third in the pecking order, not first. 
 
 
It has been repeatedly stated to me by those who I believe benefit personally by the way it is now that we cannot operate one day without a county manager.  They are convinced that Hardee County will absolutely fall completely apart if no one is immediately there to take the position.  Therefore nothing can be done. Bull manure.
 
If one individual has manipulated his position to the extent that this county cannot function at any length of time without him then it is clear to me that a Grand Jury probe is in fact needed to expose this kingdom that has been funded by your money.
 
I have had a number of conversations with Mr. Bill Lambert of the IDA, EDC, and EDA in reference to this very issue and its effect on job creation in Hardee County which is the number one mandate of those boards.  Local government in one form or another does have a direct effect on any direction these boards take.  In discussing with him these problems and the problem solving efforts that are needed, I am convinced that the ones who are choking the life out of this county with their personal agendas foolishly believe Hardee County will not survive without them.
 
These few individuals have taken as stupidity all of the kindness, goodness, and the willingness of the Hardee County people who gave these individuals the benefit of the doubt in handling their money and government affairs.  I am tired of being told that “they” (meaning the citizens of this county) won’t understand.  I have found that “they” DO understand and are tired of it.
 
It is time to for local government to function without the kingdom builders. We need one government operating under the guidelines of Professional Public Service Standards.  
 
These statements and opinions are mine and mine alone I am in no way speaking for any other county commissioner.
Never hesitate to contact your district’s representative when you have a concern or question regarding your county.  It is our job to do our best to serve YOU.
 
If you have any comments you would like to share with me you can contact me through this website.  Your comments will not be viewed on this website, Face Book, nor any other internet forum.  Or, if you have something you would like to discuss, feel free to call me at 863-781-3905.