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COMMISIONERS TANGLE OVER LEGAL MATTERS

Aug 6th, 2008 | 0

Commissioners tangle over legal matters
By LEAH STRATMANN

South Walton County Mosquito Control District (SWMCD) commissioner John Magee and chairman Jim Crawford continue to be at odds over the lack of a contract for SWMCD director Stephen Sickerman.
“He was hired with a specific job description, which constitutes a verbal contract,” Magee said. “That needs to be followed up with a written contract,” he said.
“You’re beating a dead horse,” Crawford countered. Crawford’s refusal centers on the one-year probation period Sickerman is currently working under. He is convinced a contract would effectively render the probationary period null and void.
“A contract has been presented to us. You [Crawford] asked for a period of time to review it,” Magee said. “I don’t want to do anything until the D’Andrea issue is resolved,” Crawford declared.
Magee asked the attorney if there was anything in the D’Andrea contract pertaining to the Sickerman contract.
“Some terms and phrases will be given weight from one agreement to the next,” attorney Lori Bytell said. The dispute with D’Andrea is that he says he was terminated, rather than not having his contract renewed. D’Andrea worked out the remainder of his contract before the board decided not to renew it.
Magee noted there has always been an agreement in the form of a contract between the director and the board and made a motion to have the issue of the contract put on the agenda for the next meeting. The motion died for lack of a second.
In other business, SWMCD revealed finances were in good shape. Three quarters of the $18,500 provided by the state has been received, as well as 98 percent of the ad valorem tax monies. To date 58 percent of the funds have been expended, with a little over three months remaining in the fiscal year.
Bytell reported former commissioner Charlie Burke was sentenced to two years of probation after his felony conviction on the charge he was not a resident of the district when elected. Burke is further obligated to repay the district any monies he received before his removal from the board. The district is required to produce a detailed accounting of real monies, and benefit charges to the court.
The governor is expected to appoint someone to fill the remainder of Burke’s term within the next 60 days. Bytell noted those seeking the seat typically petition the governor, and then an appointee is named.
As was discussed during the last meeting, former director Gary D’Andrea is suing SWMCD for back salary and benefits claiming wrongful termination. The liability insurance carried by the district, through membership in the League of Florida Cities, terminated payment to the attorney representing the district in this case on July 15. The board asked Bytell to attempt to come to the next meeting with a projection of attorney fees and costs associated with the case.
Director Stephen Sickerman reported the work on moving the MC28 ditch is on track. The move will affect seven property owners. Commissioner Magee suggested certified letters be sent to those property owners affected so there would be confusion about who was and was not notified about the move.  Sickerman said it would be done.
Under the heading of new business, Sickerman requested moving $22,000 from contingency funds into operating capitol to ensure there were enough funds to pay for moving the MC28 ditch. The funds will go into equipment rental, repairs, and gasoline expenses. A motion was made and approved to move the funds.
An announcement was made that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a new mileage reimbursement rate of 58.5 cents per mile, effective July 1.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.

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