By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council voted unanimously to terminate City Planner Greg Scoville on the grounds that he refused to take a drug test.
Scoville was one of several city employees chosen at random to participate in a drug test last week, but only he declined to take the test. In a letter dated Friday, Sept. 21, City Manager Sara Bowers suspended Scoville without pay and informed him that she would recommend to the City Council that his employment with the city be terminated for violating the city’s drug-free workplace policy.
Addressing the Council at its meeting on Sept. 24, Scoville said the city’s drug test policy, as it was applied to him, violated his constitutional rights. He provided a copy of a legal case from the U.S. District Court’s Northern District, which includes DeFuniak Springs, to Bowers and the Council. He said the case, in which the American Civil Liberties Union challenged and prevailed against a prospective termination, is “similar in most if not all respects” to his own case.
Nevertheless, upon Councilman Mac Work’s motion to put the issue to the vote, board members voted 5-0 to fire Scoville, effective immediately.
Councilman Kermit Wright said he “hated this happened” but he insisted that the drug test policy must be adhered-to regardless of an employee’s position, lest the city establish a precedent that could culminate in unforeseen consequences down the road.
“You’d have to throw out everything we know as far as drug testing goes,” Wright said.
Wright went on to say that the drug testing policy should be extended to elected officials as well as all hired employees and he even volunteered to be the first one of the Council to take such a random test.
Though discussion to terminate Scoville was the big news on the night of the meeting, that issue was actually near the tail-end of the agenda, with several other major items put before the Council. The board members gave unanimous consent to several requests for rental fee waivers of the Community Center, the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood and the Lakeyard amphitheater at Chipley Park to various organizations including Walton Middle School, Walton High School’s Junior ROTC and the Council on Aging. The Council also approved re-upping the contract with Christmas Reflections’ Ben Nelson.
City Attorney Clayton Adkinson presented three items to the Council for its approval, including a contract with Earl’s Well Drilling and Pump Services, Inc. and two related ordinances making new water and sewer customers responsible for the additional cost incurred due to boring out old water and sewer pipes. The Council gave 5-0 votes for approval on all three presentations.
The Council also authorized several contracts and agreements presented by the city manager. Among them was a contract with Ammons Lawn Service and Pressure Washing, LLC. for median maintenance, the renewable agreement for wastewater services with CH2M Hill OMI and an inter-local agreement with Walton County for building inspections, reviews of plans and building code administration duties.
Additionally, the Council voted 5-0 to adopt amendments to ordinances dealing with zoning and safety inspections of existing non-residential and non-commercial structures and the maintenance of commercial properties in historic districts.
Finally, Councilman Wright’s proposal was made to charge an additional $50 for the use of Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood to any and all parties, including not-for-profit organizations or charitable causes, even if those groups would have normal rental fees waived. Wright proposed that this $50 fee be used to pay for an elevator to be installed at the Chautauqua building, as that project carries a not-insubstantial price tag of “about $34,000.” The Council took no action at the meeting, but instead tabled discussion until the next meeting, when city staff will present more definite figures regarding the elevator project.