GRADY JOHNSON -           COUNTY COMMISSIONER  DISTRICT 4
I will be updating "What You Should Know" and "What I Think" after each Commission meeting and 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 following is a link to the Hardee County Clerk's website where you can view all Commission Meetings including a streaming view of meetings in progress.  If you cannot attend your Commission meetings this is a great tool for learning what your Commissioners are doing.  We invite your feedback.
 
August 13, 2013 EDC/IDA Meeting
 
 
 
 
 
 
March 19, 2012
 
Below is a Public Records Request emailed to the County Manager today.
 
Mr. LextonAlbritton
County Manager
 
Mr. Albritton your decision in this issue to ignore and violate state law will not stand with me. You will provide the following information involving Resthaven and the Civic Center disaster funds, as well as all state, federal, and insurance agency documents relating to these two projects.
 
Resthaven
 
Quote dated10-4-04
Requisitiondated 11-19-2004 by Doug Knight
Approved by LexAlbritton PO # 49646  PO dated 12-06-2004
Invoices Dated 1/17/2005 in the amount of $75,000.00 & 3-29-05 in the amount of 56,040.00
 
Produce all documents including the list of PO’s and invoices for Labor and Material below:
 
PO# 49646 dated12-06-2004           Florida Restoration Team       $300,000.00
PO# 49646 dated 1-26-2005             Florida Restoration Team       $75,000.00
EXP-Invoice 4232 1-26-2005            Florida Restoration Team       $75,000.00
PO# 49646 dated 3-30-2005             Florida Restoration Team       $56,040.00
EXP Invoice 4232 3-30-2005            Florida restoration Team        $56,040.00
PO# 49646 dated 6-08-2006            Florida Restoration Team       $71,355.25
EXP-Invoice 96017  6-08-2006        Florida Restoration Team       $71,355.25
PO# 49646 dated 7-21-2006             Florida Restoration Team       $97,604.75
 
PO# 49645 dated 12-6-2004             Cobb Construction Inc.           $100,000.00
PO# 49645 dated 12-21-2004           Cobb Construction Inc.           $45,150.00
EXP Invoice# 1119 12-21-2004         Cobb Construction Inc.           $45,150.00
PO#49645 dated 4-7-2005                Cobb Construction Inc.           $1,800.00
Exp Invoice # 1119 dated 4-7-2005  Cobb Construction                  $1,800.00
PO# 49645 dated 4-7-2005               Cobb Construction Inc.           $30,100.00
EXP-Invoice #1119 dated 4-7-2005  Cobb Construction                  $30,100.00
PO#49645 dated 6-5-2006                Cobb Construction                  $22,950.00
 
Produce documents that show who the Florida Restoration Team is and where payments were sent.
 
Also ServPro of Southeast Tampa, invoice date August 28 2004, in the amount of $729,324.15. payment issued September 13,2005.
 
The invoice to Resthaven dated Sept 7, 2004 in the amount of $395,282.85 and documentation for payment made June 22, 2005
 
Civic Center:
 
Two quotes dated9-22-2004
 
RequisitionDated: 11-15-2004 & 11-19-2004 by Doug Knight
 
 Requisitions requested by Doug Knight dated 11-5-2204 & 11-19-2004 and approved by Lex Albritton
 
PO# 49584 dated 11-15-2004         Invoice dated 11-15-2004       $150,000.
PO# 49647 dated 12-6-2004          Invoice dated 12-6-2004         $75,000.00
PO# 49647             ”                           Invoice dated 1-26-2005         $80,000.00
PO# 49647             ”                           Invoice dated 3-10-2005         $120,000.00
PO# 49647             ”                           Invoice dated 4-19-2005         $153,357.54
PO# 49647             ”                           Invoice dated 6-2-2005           $50,000.00
 
This informationwill be provided by 3-26-2112.  I have and will continue to reject your lack of honesty and truthfulness as an excuse to not perform your duties. This information should be readily available.
 
CommissionerGrady Johnson
Dist #4 HardeeCounty
 
 
January 19, 2012
 
As you may have already seen and/or heard, the IDA audit for the years 2009 and 2010 are complete.
 
What was not provided by the local media were the “Material Weaknesses” including non-compliance with state statutes found by the audit performed by Larson Allen which I have attached below.   The audits in their entirety are, I understand, on the IDA website and can be reviewed there and I will provide complete copies on this website at a later date.
 
Mike Carter of the Larsen Group was very clear that this was not a forensic audit in that the sources of revenues and expenditures were reported, but the appropriateness of those revenues and expenditures was not audited.  In reviewing the numerous pages of reporting on material weaknesses it makes me wonder: Considering the knowledge of the managers on accountability and management of public funds, how those weaknesses could exist.   There are no apparent internal controls to oversee financial transactions. There was a serious lack of financial oversight in that there were no bank reconciliations for some bank accounts, and financial activity for a Property Owners Association that had not been established with any proper documentation, as a couple of examples.
 
Please review each page of the material weakness findings carefully as I think you will find it interesting and mind boggling at best.
 
 
 
 
12/19/11
 
EVERYONE IN HARDEE COUNTY SHOULD READ THE ATTACHED LETTER ADDRESSED TO THE CHAIRMAN AND THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS. 
 
I have attached additional correspondence received from the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee regarding the IDA audit and also the Hardee County Housing Authority regarding their non-compliance status with the State.  The bottom line is that if the County does not comply funds will be withheld and court action will be taken to force compliance.  Attachments that I have not included show that the County has provided a date by which we are able to comply.
 
There is noargument with the State at this point.  We are not in compliance with Fla. State Statutes.   This is not a matter of the opinion of Mr. Lambert, Mr. Evers, nor the County Manager and the fact that no one even thought to obtain State direction when these districts were created causes me to question the competence of the leaders of our county, especially if their opinion was that neither the IDA nor the Housing Authority could and should continue operating without being held accountable by Florida State Statute and to the tax payers.  This was all avoidable hadthey done their jobs.
 
Let me know what you think
 
 
 
December 6, 2011
 
I have attached more correspondence that I have gathered up which is in addition to the information below dated November 26.  The first is a response dated March 10, 2011 from the Department of Community Affairs which acknowledges the registering of the Hardee County Industrial Development Authority and its classification as a dependent special district and clearly states the rules and statutes which must be adhered to.
 
The second attachment is from the Legislative Auditing Committee and is a second letter from them describing that even though an extension has been granted to the IDA to comply, the committee was to meet on December 5 to determine the action to be taken against the IDA for its non-compliance.  Additional correspondence has just been received from the Department of Economic Opportunity which implies that our IDA has been busy trying to convince the State that they should make an exception for us and their response was basically not only no but hell no.   I will try to make that available to you soon.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
November 26,2011
 
I really do notknow where to start on this one.  As you read the attachment from the Joint Legislative Audit Committee I hope you come to realize how serious of a problem this is.  It also suggests that once again accountability and transparency is long overdue for Hardee County.
 
Also as of this date, I have yet as a Commissioner of this county to be notified of this letter which is dated November 9, 2011 and addressed to the Board of County Commissioners Chairman and to the County Attorney as the registered agent for the IDA .  I heard about and obtained a copy from Russell Smith, Wauchula City Commissioner.  How insignificant the citizens of this county are considered by some.  This is another great example of the tail wagging the dog.
 
When looking at the last page of this letter, note the CC and you will see starting with Senator J. D. Alexander six additional people were in fact notified.  The members of the Hardee County BOCC should have been notified by the county manager and/or the County Attorney upon the receipt of this demand letter which notifies us of a failure of the IDA and BOCC to comply with state law.
 
Of special interest is #3 in the demand letter referencing the Mosaic money.  Many of you have heard the same that has been stated to me many times in that the Mosaic money does not belong to the tax payers of Hardee County.  I for one have argued that point with Mr. Lambert as well as several others that this is tax payer’s money and as such should stand up to the same inspections and oversight as all tax payer’s money.
 
 
 
 
November 11, 2011
 
Update regarding a Solar Farm and also the Gasification Processing Plant for Garbage Disposal
 
There has been some question in reference to the tax abatement proposal for the proposed solar farm.  The area in the northeast part of Hardee and bordering Highlands County is an old grove that adjoins the dairy farm location. Due to Green Belt there is, in fact, very little tax base there.
 
In the purchase and development of this solar farm there is very little, if at all any, impact to the infrastructure services provided by Hardee county tax payers. All schools taxes will be paid in full yearly. The eighty per cent abatement being considered with a 20 per cent taxable value to Hardee County will be a huge income for Hardee if successful.  It will take some time to completely structure the farm but as it grows so will our county income as the total value, as I understand it, should exceed seven hundred million dollars when completed. I believe this is a win-win situation for all concerned.
 
Please let meknow your thoughts.
 
In addition, you may have heard of the gasification garbage processing plant that would like to build in Hardee County due to our central location. I have made a request that before we go any further I want to see and have available for the Hardee county citizens a comprehensive video of this operation shown at as many open forums as it takes so all can see and have their say.
 
The testimony so far is that no garbage will be stockpiled or left in the open. The receiving area will be a minimum of a 100 thousand square ft under roof. The garbage is transformed through this gasification process to numerous products as it is received.  There still is a long way to go and a lot more of factual evidence to be presented to the citizens before the final decision is made.
 
Please let meknow your thoughts on this also
 
8-3-11
 
If you have read the local paper you will see there is a Letter to the Editor and my response to it.  In order to keep it within a reasonable length I shortened my original response to Mr. Shiver's letter for publishing and below is the full text of that response.
 
Hardee CountyCitizens:
 
Mr. Jim Kelly of the Herald Advocate notified me that he had a letter to the editor that he was sure referenced me.  Mr. Kelly stated he wanted me to have a chance to address the accusations and statements if I so desired. I want to thank Mr. Kelly and the Herald Advocate for this opportunity. I am sure everyone that reads Mr. Shiver’s letter to the editor will agree that Mr. Shiver is in fact talking about me, County Commissioner Dist 4 of Hardee County.
 
First I will address the implication that there are only 30 or 40 ‘followers’ that I represent. I represent the taxpayers of Hardee County.  Mr. Shiver has clearly ignored the fact that the majority of the voters of this county heard what I had to say and asked me to represent them.  I am aware that my commitment and dedication to this honor is upsetting for those who may have benefitted in the past history of business as usual which seemed to be “go along to get along”.  The mandate placed on me by the Hardee County taxpayers is to establish accountability for their money and transparency of the actions of all county government charged with spending taxpayer’s dollars.
 
Financial accountability under the present system is under the direct control of the county manager.  The only way to ensure the Commission receives uncensored and clear information is to have the Clerk as the Clerk to the Board, do a daily, weekly, and monthly accounting for expenditures.  This is part of the Clerk’s statutory function and would be a proper check and balance.  The Clerk’s office has a financial system in place to take over this chore.  The Board has the authority to direct the county manager to utilize these resources already available to us rather than the myriad of systems which seems to produce the hide and seek protocol currently in place.
 
Prior to and during my campaign for office the fire department was at the top of the list of many taxpayers to answer for the escalation in costs.  Understand this is about the fire budget not EMS.  In fact, I have been very clear to everyone from day one that EMS should be segregated administratively with its own director.  All paramedics are funded as full time employees and should be scheduled as such. But this does not sit well with the union because of overtime losses for them (the 2011 adopted budget for Overtime Dual Response 2011 was $204,774.00).
 
Let me state for the record that Mr. Shiver has never personally held a conversation with me about the fire department or about any statements I may or may not have made before the campaign or after.
 
In reference to the County Manager, Mr. Lex Albritton, I made no secret before my election and after that I have felt that he needs to be replaced.  Since my election, Mr. Albritton has been extended every opportunity to recognize that the Commissioners are the voice of the people but he has chosen business as usual.  Approximately six years ago I started attending the county commission meetings and the two things that were as clear as could be was that the County Commissioners were not doing the job they were hired to do and were being blindly lead by members of their own staff.  And the second thing was that the County Manager had not a clue about how professional public service standards should apply to his job.  The people who elected me recognized this very thing and have made it clear that this has gone on way too long.
 
The call for Mr.Albritton’s dismissal is nothing new.  If you recall back to the 2008 campaign this very thing was the primary issue for one of the candidates.  He was elected but the dismissal did not happen and it was business as usual.  In my campaign I can tell you that from one end of this county to the other the citizens have made it clear they want a change.  That change was to start with the manager being replaced, and institute the accountability and transparency that clearly has not existed and still does not exist today.  Because of a 4 to 1 vote the changes wanted by the citizens still have not occurred.
 
Chief Mike Choate personally is not an issue with me but professionally Mr. Choate is on the taxpayer’s dime.  So I can tell you that I fully intend to hold him to the same professional public service standards as any other department head.  Mr. Choate has failed to demonstrate to me that those standards exist in his interpretation of administrative responsibilities to the Board of County Commissioners.  Throughout the past years of my attending BOCC meetings and Fire Board meetings I have been taken aback by the Chief’s deliberate intent to produce inaccurate information involving the fire department and its operation.  Long before I was elected I questioned Mr. Choate about this and he told me that “this is the way it’s done”.
 
What has been promoted by Mr. Choate, a certain number of his employees, as well as Mr. Shiver is a deliberate misrepresentation of my stand and my words to various citizens of this county.  Never have I stated to anyone under any circumstances that our fire department should be a totally volunteer organization.  This started well before I ran for office when Mr. Lex Albritton and Mr. Choate deliberately altered the facts (lied) to me as a taxpayer during a public meeting about fire department issues involving the union and the use of trained volunteers.
 
My position then and now is that only ten of the 39 career Hardee County fire fighters/EMS live in Hardee County.  Twenty-nine (29) of these union fire fighters/EMS employees, according to Mr. Choate, live in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakeland, Tampa, Orlando and elsewhere.  As a citizen, I asked why we could not take our own home grown career firefighters, and as it is in thousands of other fire departments across the nation, certify them (if not already certified) to instructor status, promote a trained volunteer program, and as it grew, use attrition to cut back on fire fighters who take over 1.4 million dollars a year out of Hardee County to their respective counties.
 
In my view Mr. Choate has made it clear that he places the union over his responsibility to Hardee County regardless of the cost. This is unacceptable so far as professional public service standards from my experience. His fear mongering tactics has allowed the tail to wag the dog.
 
Regardless of Fire Chief Choate and his father in-law’s references to training requirements, the training for career fire fighters is the same for volunteer fire fighters. There are separate levels of achievement in training that allows a volunteer fire fighter to accomplish the simplest task to the highest level of a fire fighter including paramedic standards.
 
There is recent legislation that assists in the training standards program for volunteer fire fighters, especially in rural communities.  My research has shown me that only the fire departments controlled by union rules limit the usefulness of volunteer fire fighters by restricting their duties, including not interfering with overtime pay for the union fire fighter. In other words, equally trained volunteers on duty cannot respond to a fire if a union firefighter can get overtime.
 
The information obtained by Mr. Choate’s father in-law in the local region is the Desoto and Okeechobee fire departments who promote the same union ideology.  It is my intention to bring information to the citizens that reflects comparatively to the financial needs of my county.
 
According to the US Fire Service and Fire Analysis & Research Service there are 1,148,100 fire fighters in the USA.  Career firefighters make up 335,950 (29%) of the total. Trained Volunteers make up 812,150 (71%) of the fire fighters protecting our communities.  Yet Mr. Albritton and Mr. Choate say this old school and that volunteers are a thing of the past.
 
There are 30,165local fire departments in the USA.  Of that total there are 21,168 fire departments that are all volunteer status. There are 4,989 fire departments that are mostly trained volunteer with some career employees. There are 1,765 fire departments that are mostly career with some trained volunteers. There are 2,263 fire departments that are all career with no volunteers.  Mr. Choate has been allowed to promote Hardee County to this elite status at enormous and to my mind unnecessary cost to the taxpayer.
 
The question now is can Hardee County afford to continue down this path?  It is your money and you should decide.  In Hardee County we have approximately 28,000 people funding a full blown career fire department. The 2010/2011 adopted budget for fire is $3,960,639 for 26.8 employees/firefighters.
 
There are thousands of examples nationwide to compare rural communities such as Hardee. One example, the Putnam County Volunteer Fire Service, has (18) eighteen chartered volunteer fire departments.  Their funding source is partially by county fire tax funds and partially by private donations.  Putnam County has 827 square miles and their 2009 population estimate is 74,608.  Seventy-nine percent (79%) of the population, approximately 58,940 people, live outside the five incorporated areas.  The total fire service except for the City of Palatka is provided by volunteer fire departments.  There are 1,643 miles of roads in the county and nearly 68% are still unpaved (sound familiar?).
 
I have Putnam County’s Budget summary from 2007 thru 2011 and the total fire expenditures for 2011 are $4,097,499.00. This includes one new station manned with paid firefighters according to their budget document.  
 
In comparing Hardee Counties budget of $3,960,639.00 for 28,000 people to Putnam County’s $4,097,499.00 with a population of 74,608 there is only $136,860 difference for Putnam County to service 46,608 more people for fire protection.  In my view this is what I call putting taxpayers first at every level as it should be.
 
Another example is Hendry County’s fire/EMS budget for 2010.  I spoke with Hendry County officials and according to their information they have a population that is over 50,000 and an over 60,000 population that is seasonal. The budget given to me by Hendry County Officials was just over $2.7 million for the Fire Department and EMS combined. (Hardee County’s combined fire/EMS is just over $5.7 million).  Hendry Counties EMS paramedics are full time employees.  Their fire fighters are all trained volunteers who have met the standards of training at their respective levels.  In addition I have been told that approximately four of these trained volunteers have finished their paramedic schooling and are available to assist not only as equally trained firefighters but also as equally trained paramedics for providing medical attention to their citizens.
 
I am aware that my direct approach in demanding clarity, accountability and transparency for tax payer’s money as well as all actions taken by our local government is troublesome for a few.  But I truly believe only those with something to hide will object.
 
As a Commissioner I have heard all arguments with a majority saying that something needs to be done because the cost is burdening the taxpayers.  I strongly feel that until we achieve professional public service standards throughout the county, starting with a county manager, and a strong prompting by the Commissioners to achieve that goal these few kingdom builders who continue to try to deceive the Commission and the citizens will continue to cripple Hardee County and use your tax dollars to do it.
 
 
6/29/2011
 
At the citizens meeting Tuesday I was asked to provide information regarding the function and names of members of the Hardee County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), the Hardee County Economic Development Council (EDC), and the Hardee County Economic Development Authority (EDA).  Attached is an overview of the functions of each including the members of these organizations that I received from Bill Lambert today and I will have copies of this information available at the next meeting to be held at 7:00 pm on 7/12/2011 at the Double J Restaurant.
 
EDC.pdf (PDF — 113 KB)
 
 
 
6/8/2011
 
Hardee CountyCitizens
 
I have had a lot of question involving the new in completed baseball/softball fields and their cost.  Here lately the conversation has increased so the best way I know to answer all the question asked is to post what was given to me that I had requested from various county heads.
 
The first round of accounting (spread sheets) I received early in this year showed the last bill posted was 1-20-11. The total as of January 20 2011 was $800,535.95.
 
As of May 25, 2011, I received a new updated spread sheet and the cost shown now is $893,637.69.  Both of these spread sheets, each with several pages, are attached below for your review.  Please let me know your thoughts.
 
Ballpark1.pdf (PDF — 773 KB)
Ballpark2.pdf (PDF — 874 KB)
 
 
 
 
 
April 18, 2011
 
One issue (among many) that I have been working on is involving the Florida Ave. repaving job about which I have a lot of questions. My concerns are with the contract total and the numerous change orders.  Listed below are the total grant moneys available from the State of Florida.
 
The State of Florida funding is $1,733,006.00 and the contract calls for repaving of Florida Ave CR 35A, SR 64 to US17.  ONE MILLION SEVEN HUNDRED THIRTY THREE THOUSAND SIX DOLLARS!
 
The total work, according to statements and documents was from Carlton St No. to US 17
 
Cobb Construction’s bid proposal (Unit Price) was from Carlton St. to US 17 for a total bid of $618,345.89.
 
There were four Change Orders requested.  All change orders were granted and approved by the majority of the Commissioners and were awarded to the contractor.  I voted against change orders #3 and #4 which were the only two that have come up since I have become a Commissioner.
 
CHANGE ORDER #1   5-11-10       $459,388.91
CHANGE ORDER# 2   7-6-10         $    5,881.06
CHANGE ORDER # 3  11-23-10    $  26,254.55
CHANGE ORDER # 4  4-4-11         $102,377.74
 
The total of all Change Orders coming from the original bid is now at $593.902.26.
                     
Total payments thus far to Cobb Construction has been $1,212,248.15
                                               
If you will notice, the change orders granted are almost as much as the original bid.
 
I am waiting for Mr. Kevin Atchley to tell me where the other $ 520,000.00 plus has been spent. At the meeting I asked how much would be left out of the total he stated a little bit.  Chairman Atchley interrupted my question and stated that there were other expenses.
 
It is this type of thing that I cannot vote to approve.  I am not aware of any government entity who would allow any project to exceed the original bid by more than $5,000 where there would not be a new bid required.  There are rare exceptions, such as when the contractor bumps into something that would prevent them from completing the project that no one could or would have reasonably foreseen, however unless something extra ordinary occurs then strict guidelines must be utilized. 
 
Shortly I will be providing you with additional info on budget preparation.
 
4-20-11 UPDATE
Mr. Kevin Atchley provided the additional information on expenses.
 
March 15,2011  Construction Inspection      $  36,712.50
April,30 2010  Surveys                        $  37,855.00
               Roadway Design             $  70,704.00
               Construction Inspection      $  33,500.00
 
September 22, 2008    Surveys                  $  71,900.00
                      Roadway Design           $ 157,100.00
                      Construction Inspection  $  89,936.00
 
                      Total                    $ 497,707.50
 
What has been paid to Cobb Construction according to county records is the sum of $1,212,248.15
 
Expenses described above       $  497,707.50
 
Total paid                     $1,709,955.65
 
The original grant             $1,733,006.00
 
Folks, I have posted this info due to many questions I have had from citizens about this. Apparently from the minute I posted the above information a select group of individuals have shown extreme concern to the fact that you (Hardee County) would see this and read it and “interpret it wrong.”  This seems pretty straight forward to me.
 
Understand I am sure there is more to this than I have posted so feel free to contact myself or Kevin Atchley of the Road Department for further explanation if desired.  I will provide additional information as I obtain it.