Last week the Office of Santa Rosa County Clerk of Court Donny Spencer filed a complaint with the State Attorney’s Office after receiving a $28,762.61 returned check from the county’s Navarre Beach Fishing pier operator, Coastal Concessions, LLC.
Steph Maddox, general manager of the pier and a partner in the LLC, said she reached out to the county to request that the check not be redeposited, explaining her company received a $17,000 bad check and $3,000 in related fines which had caused a series of unforeseen financial problems.
Spencer said he did not receive Maddox’s plea, but either way, it would not have mattered.
Spencer said it’s his office’s policy to redeposit returned checks instead of allowing vendors to arrange for other payment to the county.
According to Spencer, two checks from Coastal Concessions, LLC, were returned by the bank. Spencer said the first check was received in September for the August payment. He said that check cleared after it was redeposited.
Spencer said a second check written Oct. 26 for $28,762.61 to cover September’s payment was returned twice, prompting his office to file the complaint with the State Attorney and assess additional fees.
In an Oct. 30 email, Spencer directed staff not to contact the company regarding the situation. “Do not contact Coastal Concessions about this. They will have another excuse of why their check bounced again. Let’s see if it clears the second time before we do anything,” he said.
“I look at this as a theft of funds from Santa Rosa County,” Spencer said in a related email. “They have collect (sic) county funds and mishandled them. This is a misappropriation of county funds. This is not the only business we are having a problem with on the beach that is misappropriating county funds. This will continue until we get some teeth in our ordinance or take action,” he said.
When questioned about which other business was having issues making required contract payments to the county, Spencer said Rocco’s Italian Bistro had been late for “months” but that the owner has since paid up.
District 4 Commissioner Rob Williamson seemed more willing than Spencer to try to work with the pier vendor to resolve the issue.
“It is important to account for every dollar owed to (Santa Rosa County). I feel it is equally important to provide support and give businesses in Santa Rosa County every opportunity to be successful. Let’s look for ways to make it easier for businesses to comply,” Williamson said in a Sept. 22 email.
Ultimately County Attorney Roy Andrews issued a Nov. 17 breach of agreement memo, advising Coastal Concessions to rectify the situation within 30 days or face a rescinded contract.
The company has since asked commissioners to give them until Friday to make good on their payments for September and October, which include pier gate fees and 3.1 percent of sales.
They also asked the board to also consider an extension until January for other expenses, including roughly $29,000 in power bills the county had been paying for a year and a half, failing to pass along the cost to the LLC until Maddox says she discovered the mistake in October.
“We went to them and were honest,” she said about the situation.
Scott Rayner, managing partner of the LLC said he is committed to paying the county everything which is owed.