By JEFFREY POWELL
“I want to let the public know the truth about Mr. Burke’s statements in the May 8, edition of the Beach Breeze,” said former South Walton County Mosquito Control District (SWCMCD) Director Gary D’Andrea. “Many of his comments are inaccurate.” D’Andrea is referring to comments made by suspended SWCMCD Commissioner Charlie Burke. Burke was suspended from his position by Governor Charlie Crist following his arrest for allegedly not residing in the district he serves.
Burke said, “I was the deciding vote to reduce taxes 20 percent in my district. I also voted to remove the overpaid director.” Burke then suggested that charges brought against him were a repercussion of those votes. D’Andreas employment with the SWCMCD did in fact end on October 1, 2007 as a result of a 2-1 vote not to renew his contract. He would have made $116,000 per year had his contract been renewed.
D’Andreas responded, “First of all, there is no deciding vote on a three person board. If you use Mr. Burke’s reasoning Mr. Magee’s vote was a deciding vote also in regards to this year’s budget. Secondly the budget was not reduced by 20 percent, I know because I did the budget.”
“The almost $2 million budget that was approved was reduced by approximately $36,000 which is roughly
one and a half to two percent. However the approved budget did not include the carry forward monies from the 06-07 budget,” D’Andrea stressed. “With the addition of those funds, there was probably no reduction in the budget.”
“In regards to my being overpaid, as Mr. Burke has stated on numerous occasions, I did a survey on mosquito control directors of special districts and found the average yearly salary for 2006 to be nearly $103,000 annually,” D’Andrea said. “In 2006, I made $106,000. This survey was presented to the commissioners and should be available to the public from the SWCMCD.”
According to D’Andrea, the raise he received to $116,000 was because he had taken on additional duties and was unanimously approved by the commissioners. Those duties included reviewing drainage systems of proposed developments in cooperation with the Walton County Planning Department. He also received a performance evaluation raise and cost-of-living adjustment, as did all of the SWCMCD employees.
As for Burke’s suggestion that charges brought against him were in retaliation of his votes also has D’Andrea concerned.
“His statement that the state charges against him were because of his votes on my employment and budget do not make sense,” he said. “How can votes made in September trigger an investigation initiated months earlier?”
“I want to warn the taxpaying citizens that Mr. Burke’s comments are untrue,” D’Andrea concluded. “Anyone that wants to know the truth about the SWCMCD budget and salaries should call the district themselves at 267-2112.”