CHIPLEY — County Commissioner Lynn Gothard said that county purchasing policies and state statutes may have been violated when the board voted to buy a generator last month.
The Board of County Commissioners were holding their March meeting Thursday morning when Gothard read a prepared statement in which she alleged that County Manager Steve Joyner violated state laws when he arranged for the county to buy a generator from a fellow county employee — a generator that happened to be stored at Joyner’s residence.
“After the meeting, I received information that the purchase had possibly violated both Florida statutes and county purchasing requirements,” Gothard said. She began researching the information, and agreed that possible violations had occurred and that more information and disclosure was needed.
“On Tuesday, March 4, three days after the February meeting, I both verbally and through e-mail contacted Mr. Joyner asking that the generator not be purchased and the item be put on the March agenda for additional discussion,” Gothard said. “On Thursday, March 14, I received information that an invoice had been received by the finance office with the instructions for it to be paid ASAP. This was three business days before the March workshop where I had requested the item be discussed.”
Gothard contacted Joyner to ask why the generator was not on the agenda for the March workshop, and was told that “a couple of commissioners had told him to go ahead and purchase the item since it had been approved in the February meeting,” she said.
“I was disappointed in the total lack of regard for truthful disclosure and information,” Gothard said.
Gothard said county policy requires purchases of more than $10,000 to receive three quotes or bid proposals, and state statute requires disclosure of any potential conflict of interest.
“Mr. Joyner was obligated to tell this board of his business and personal relationships with the owner of Holdfast Construction and that the generator when purchased by the BOCC vote was located at Mr. Joyner’s home,” Gothard said.
“Let me also say that I have found nowhere in either the Washington County policy or Florida Statutes any authority hat empowers a county commissioner to direct a county manager to disregard the directive of fellow commissioners,” Gothard said. “In addition, asking commissioners about an issue which is or was to be added to the agenda and which could have resulted in a vote of the BOCC could be construed as ‘polling’ of the board which violates Florida Sunshine Law.”
County Attorney Jeff Goodman did not comment on Gothard’s accusations during the meeting, and no one on the board asked him for a legal opinion.
Her fellow commissioners did, however, begin to take exception with Gothard as soon as she finished her statement.
Chairman Alan Bush told Gothard that there had been complaints from unidentified county employees who said that they felt threatened by her.
Commissioner Joel Pate said Gothard was “the most meddlesome commissioner” he had ever seen.
Joyner noted that the board, including Gothard. had voted to purchase the generator, and Commissioner Todd Abbott said the generator was a much needed piece of equipment.
“Frankly, I was embarrassed to find out the county couldn’t run if the power went out,” Abbott said.
The generator was needed so the county could run both the lights and the fuel pumps in the case of a power outage. The generator was purchased for $22,500 from Holdfast Construction, owned by Mike Horton. According to the minutes from the Feb. 28 meeting, the generator was purchased with money the county raised by selling scrap metal.
“Today I am making a public notice that failure to follow the policies as stated in the Washington County employee handbook and operational manual, as well as the Florida Statutes, in the future will result in my request of this board for disciplinary action as directed by board policies,” Gothard said.