By DOTTY NIST
The July 24 weekly meeting of the Citizens for Honest Government focused on the Walton County Clerk of Courts. This was the latest installment of the group’s Citizens’ Academy series.
William Pennington, finance director for the clerk’s office, was the featured speaker for the meeting, which took place at the Northwest Florida State College South Walton Center.
Pennington explained that the clerk’s office handles all court documents and also “wears the hat” of comptroller, the accounting side of the office’s functions. The clerk is also the official recorder for the county of documents such as warranties and mortgages, he told attendees. In addition, Pennington said, the clerk collects the tourist development or “bed tax” on short-term rentals south of the bay.
Pennington was asked for the total amount of debt owed by the county. He responded between $22 and $24 million. A large part of that amount, he explained, was owed on capital projects and on the South Walton Tourist Development Council’s large-scale beach restoration project.
Pennington noted that the clerk’s office produces a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report on the county’s finances. The document is available on the clerk’s web site, www.clerkofcourts.co.walton.fl.us.
Driftwood Estates resident Alan Osborne later spoke at length on the topic of corruption in Walton County.
Osborne said it is his belief that 20 to 30 people control how the county operates. He alleged that numerous county employees have been terminated for no reason—and that employees do things they should not do due to pressure and fear of losing their jobs.
Osborne was of the opinion that the Walton County Board of County Commissioners should hold an emergency meeting due to conflicts he alleged to be in existence with regard to the recent lawsuit filed against District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones as an individual over funds placed in her charge by another individual.
Osborne urged attendees to get involved with county government. “The check and balance is you going to a meeting,” he said. He also recommended that citizens call their commissioner, the attorney general, and the governor on matters of wrongdoing.
“We need to move forward as a county,” Osborne urged.
Citizens for Honest Government meetings are held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday nights in room 119 at the Northwest Florida State College South Walton Center. The meetings are streamed live on www.Neighborvision.com and are open to interactive participation. Meeting videos are also posted on www.Neighborvision.com for viewing as needed. Information on meeting topics is available by logging onto the web site www.waltoncountycitizens.com.