SPECIAL TO SOUTH SANTA ROSA NEWS – FOLLOWING IS THE SPEECH GIVEN DURING LAST NIGHT’S COUNTY COMMISSION MEETING BY SANTA ROSA COUNTY CLERK OF COURT & COMPTROLLER DONALD C. SPENCER:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to speak. I think the public should be aware of the events regarding the Waste Pro Contract and the recommendations that the county staff gave the Board, and how the board failed to follow the County staff’s recommendations which has put us where we are today. I will present a short video of some of the events that have transpired over the past year, and then I’ll continue on with my presentation.
- At the October 10, 2019 Board meeting staff advised the Board that the Solid Waste Franchise contracts were due to expire in December 2020. The Board approved HDR Engineering to assist staff to develop a solid waste collections franchise RFP and pay HDR Engineering $64,550.00 for their assistance in the RFP.
- At the April 23, 2020 Board meeting county staff advised the Board that ECUA was not going to renew their solid waste contract with Santa Rosa and their services would end in December 2020. Staff advised the Board that they could work with Waste Pro or do an RFP for the North End of the County or one for the entire County. The Board recommended working with Waste Pro and advised staff to work with Waste Pro.
- At the May 14, 2020 Board meeting county staff advised that HDR Engineering had completed and drawn up a 42-page draft. It was reviewed by the County’s legal department and delivered to Waste Pro on May 7, 2020. Staff advised that Waste Pro was evaluating the agreement. Staff gave several options to take if Waste Pro agreed or did not agree with the draft.
- At the June 8, 2020 Board meeting county staff recommended to move forward with the RFP as changes to the existing franchise agreement were desired to improve service levels. The Board decided not to follow staff recommendation and decided to discuss new terms with Waste Pro. With this decision, HDR Engineering, who was hired to help with the RFP, and had been paid approximately $30,000 for a 42-page agreement, was not longer needed.
- At the June 25, 2020 Board meeting the recommendations by the staff to the Board, at the Boards direction, was to recommend approval of the revised solid waste pro agreement. The staff again advised the board for a need for an RFP which the Board did not approve. Thus, HDR Engineering was no longer needed to assist with an RFP.
- At the November 24, 2020 Board meeting, which was called because Adams’s Sanitation had filed an appeal to the Waste Haul permit that was denied, and the appeal had to be heard within 10 days. Commissioner Parker asked why the appeal hearing was set before the court hearing. Attorney Andrews said this hearing was set within the ten days’ notice given. Commissioner Parker asked if this should be tabled prior to the court order or does the Board have to take action. Attorney Andrews said the Board does not have to take action. He said the circuit court will defer to the determination of the legislative body which has the initial ability to administratively determine what their statutes, regulations, and contracts say. Attorney Andrews said the decision of the Board, if made, is going to go to the circuit court with the presumption of correctness and will have bearing on the decision by the circuit court.
Commissioner Parker said staff hired a consultant for the RFP. However, this consultant was hired at the direction of the Board in October 2019. Commissioner Parker said he depends on staff to go over the parameters of what the consultant is paid for. These parameters and documentation of scope of work for the consultant was provided to him for the October 10, 2019 Board meeting. So, either Commissioner Parker either did not review the material he was voting for or didn’t have a problem with the scope of the work at the meeting.
Commissioner Parker said he made his decision based on staff advice. However, staff advised the Board on numerous occasion they could do an RFP (request for proposals/bids). Yet Commissioner Parker did not follow Staff advice and that is why we are where we are today. Commissioner Parker said he did not run for office to look at thousands of pages of Documents. Needless to say, Commissioner Parker is a County Commissioner and the citizens of Santa Rosa County expect him to read the documents and be familiar with them before each Board meeting. If Commissioner Parker feels he should not have to read these documents, then maybe he should not be a County Commissioner that the public depends on to have knowledge of the documents in the agenda, and be replaced with someone who is willing to read and be familiar with the documents. How can Commissioner Parker have an intelligent discussion or vote if he has not read the documentation for the Board meeting? Commissioner Parker, you can delegate your Authority but not your Responsibility. You are Responsible for your votes and to throw Staff under the bus for your failure to follow their advice and to try and hold staff responsible for your actions is wrong and shows bad leadership.
Commissioner Parker said he has not had hundreds of people reach out to him letting him know he made the right decision with Waste Pro before he approved the Contract with Waste Pro, yet he still voted for Waste Pro. Commissioner Parker said a competitive bid would have been the appropriate way to go. Hindsight is 20/20. County staff on numerous occasions recommended going with an RFP. All of this could have been avoided if the recommendations from staff had been followed.
County Attorney Andrews said the power to grant exclusive contracts in waste management specifically in waste hauling is set forth in state statute 403.706. He said the county can contract with one or more companies to provide services. Andrews said there is no statutory specific requirement for procurement in waste management services. He said the county’s procurement ordinance and process allows the Board to vote not to go through competitive procurement but to do a contract on an exclusive basis. Andrews said the Board determined it was in the best interests of the citizens to negotiate with Waste Pro, which is what took place.
At the December 10, 2020 meeting Commissioner Parker recommended that the County terminate the County Attorney because Commissioner Parker had lost confidence in Mr. Andrews. Commissioner Parker made a motion and it was seconded, and with a vote of 3 to 2, the Board terminated the County Attorney. The other two Commissioners had not been on the Board for 30 days and agreed to terminate Attorney Andrews without ever working with Mr. Andrews. This decision has put Santa Rosa into a position that I am not aware of it ever being in before. I have been Clerk for 8 years and have set with this Board as Clerk. I have seen the Board make numerous decisions and without a doubt this is the worst decision I have seen this board make. What Commissioner Parker should do is look at himself in the mirror and see who is to blame for what has happened with the Waste Pro contract. It was a result of the Board not following county staff advice.
It is apparent that all Commissioner Parker is doing is trying to cover himself and place blame on Staff and the County Attorney for the decision that he has made over the past 12 months, regarding the solid waste contract. Commissioner Parker failed to follow Staff’s advice, and continued to go against staff when they suggested, on numerous occasions, that the Board put out an RFP for solid waste contract. He also went against staff when advised that the contract and franchise was legal, and the Board did not have to take action. The Board, however, voted to approve Adams Sanitation’s permit. Because of this decision the county is open for a possible lawsuit by Waste Pro. The door is now open for other solid waste carriers to apply for a permit in Santa Rosa county since Adams Sanitation was approved. It appears that Commissioner Parker is concerned that the County may be sued, and he wants to make sure that he can place his authority and responsibility for his wrong decisions on county staff. I am sure Commissioner Parker did not even take into consideration the additional cost the county will incur before Commissioner Parker took out his errors on the County Attorney. The three commissioners that approved the action to terminate the County Attorney ran on Conservative values. But with this decision their true colors show, because there is no telling how much this is going to cost the county taxpayer. They feel free to spend the taxpayer’s money foolishly by doing this. This is the citizens of Santa Rosa County’s tax dollars that have got to cover Commissioner Parker, Commissioner Calkins and Commissioner Wrights actions.
I have worked in a hostile work environment during my employment years and I cannot speak for staff, but I can tell you that if I were staff I would be afraid to give advice to Commissioner Parker because if he doesn’t follow the advice and makes the wrong decision or he gets confronted by the public for his wrong decision, he has shown he will look for a scapegoat. I have worked under these conditions in my past career and it turns an employee into a yes man employee. It may lead the employee to tell the management what they want to hear even if it is not correct. It is not fair, safe or beneficial to the county for anyone to work under this type of atmosphere.
If I were an Attorney there is no way I would leave my private practice to work for Santa Rosa County as the County Attorney under these circumstances.
Because the actions of Commissioner Parker and my loss in his ability to lead as a Commissioner. I am asking that due to the potential additional cost above Mr. Andrews current salary that the county is paying the interim Attorney, as well as the additional cost to pay a consultant to search for a new County Attorney, which will be at the expense of the county taxpayers because of an unthought out action to terminate the County Attorney, and Commissioner Parkers saying he did not run for office to look at thousands of pages of Documents, along with the possibility of the county getting sued, because Commission Parker failed to follow county staff advice, and the creation of a possible hostile work environment that Commissioner Parker tender his resignation as County Commissioner to Governor DeSantis tomorrow morning effective at 8am tomorrow.