By DOTTY NIST
County Commission Chairman Scott Brannon has accused Suzanne Harris of having “self-serving motives,” including attempted extortion, and engaging in a “vendetta” against him.
During the April 10 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the South Walton Courthouse Annex, Brannon delivered two statements, one five pages in length, and one one-page statement with attached material from a polygraph examiner.
Brannon lambasted Harris, a Miramar Beach resident and president of the homeowners’ association for the Edgewater Condominium
The commissioner, who is facing the end of his term in the District 1 seat, also announced that he would not seek re-election.
Over the past few years, Harris has filed a number of lawsuits against the county, one challenging the county’s “Leave No Trace” beach ordinance, one alleging violations in compliance with public records requests, one alleging illegalities with the 2010 purchase of property on Chat Holley Road, and one alleging that Brannon had violated a court order by using a personal email account to conduct official county business. The latter two lawsuits are pending in Walton County Circuit Court.
Harris formerly served as a South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) member until she was removed from that post in February following a motion by Brannon, who charged that Harris had violated the TDC code of conduct.
In his April 10 statement, Brannon announced that he had chosen “to no longer endure the lies, threats, attacks; and attempted extortion directed to both me and those closest to me.”
“I will no longer sit idly with my hands tied behind my back,” he told the gathering.
Brannon said he had tried at one time to “reach out” to Harris but had found this to be a mistake.
“While Ms. Harris may claim to be acting as a ‘citizen advocate,’ I can assure you, she is nothing more than a person motivated by her own selfish desires for power and profit,” Brannon argued.
Brannon claimed that Harris had begun attacks on him and “seemingly any and everyone associated with me” after he was “not obedient to serving her whims.” Some of those attacks involved using the press “at every opportunity” to discredit him and those associated with him, he stated.
Brannon told of a request he said Harris had made for him to come to Edgewater Condominium to meet with her, at which she had “laid out what she wanted in order to avoid the lawsuit (regarding the Chat Holley purchase) being filed against the county.” Brannon provided a one-page statement of what had allegedly occurred at that meeting. Provided along with that statement was a report from polygraph examiner Timothy S. Robinson and an opinion from the examiner that Brannon had been truthful in the statement.
In that statement, Brannon claimed that Harris had provided him with several options for avoiding the lawsuit, the first of those being that she would file the lawsuit, after which Brannon would make a certain motions at a BCC meeting. These, Brannon claimed, included agreeing with Harris’ allegations and to the payment of her attorney fees, assuring that the special counsel for the transaction would not work for the county again, and requiring all money paid by the county for the property to be returned.
Also according to the one-page statement, another option offered by Harris was that she would file the lawsuit and then depose only Lyle Seigler, county administrator at the time of the purchase, for the purpose of “getting to” seller Lloyd Blue’s involvement in the transaction. This option, Brannon stated, would also involve the return of the county’s money for the purchase.
Also according to that statement, Harris’ final option had been to have someone let Blue know that Harris’ son had $50,000 in student loans for law school, “and for $50,000 this all goes away.”
Returning to his five-page statement, Brannon asserted, “I intend to pursue all legal remedies available to me for these acts, and will turn this information over to the Office of the State Attorney.”
He charged that in Harris’ “alleged quest to do away with what she calls corruption and misuse of public money, she has done nothing more than cost this county numerous man hours and tax dollars in responding to her.”
Brannon then attacked Walton County Administrator Greg Kisela in connection with a meeting between the administrator and Harris at her workplace on a Saturday. In Jan. 30 testimony for a recent lawsuit, Kisela had confirmed that he had met with Harris several weeks previous to discuss the search and hiring process for a new county attorney.
Brannon pointed out that there had been ongoing litigation between Harris and the county at the time of the Kisela’s meeting with Harris.
“He has obviously decided that he does not work for this board,” Brannon said of Kisela. “That is unacceptable for the county administrator,” he maintained.
Brannon also confessed to actions that he termed unacceptable and “erratic.”
He blamed “repeated harassment from Ms. Harris and her followers,” of himself and people close to him, along with “the attempted extortion by Ms. Harris” for stress that had caused his behavior to be not in keeping with “someone elected to serve the people of Walton County.”
“To anyone whom I have insulted, offended, or caused problems, I sincerely apologize. The stress and pressure I was under is not an excuse,” Brannon commented….
Read the full story in the April 19, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.