BCC OKs interim administrator contract, McCormick relinquishes chairmanship

STAN SUNDAY is on board as Walton County interim administrator effective Feb. 1, following approval of his employment agreement at a Walton County Board of County Commissioners special meeting on that date at the Walton County Courthouse. (Photo credit: Walton County Public Information)

By DOTTY NIST

Just short of nine months since approving the last county administrator contract, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) has approved a contract with Stan Sunday, a former Walton County deputy administrator and law enforcement officer, to serve as interim county administrator.

Sunday had served as deputy county administrator from 2013 until 2021, when he had resigned with a severance package agreed to by then-Walton County Administrator Larry Jones.

The action approving Sunday’s interim administrator contract took place at a Feb. 1 BCC special meeting at the Walton County Courthouse.

On an interim basis, Sunday is to replace former Walton County Administrator Quinn Robertson.

Robertson had been fired in a 4-1 vote by the BCC on Jan. 23, with only District 4 Commissioner Donna Johns voting against the termination.

The vote to approve the contract with Sunday was 4-1, as well, with District 1 Commissioner Boots McCormick voting no.

Also at the Feb. 1 special meeting to consider the contract with Sunday, McCormick unexpectedly relinquished the BCC chairmanship after serving as chairman for a little over two months.

At the outset of the special meeting, even before the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance and the meeting being called to order, McCormick presented a brief statement.

“I want to say on the record,” he commented, “that I believe one of the most important relationships, especially working together, is that between the chairman of the board and the county administrator, whoever that may be, or may not be—it’s got to be a tight working relationship, to keep the day-to-day things just going.”

“At this time,” McCormick continued, “I don’t feel I have the ability or the desire, so effective immediately, I hereby resign as chairman of the board and pass the gavel to the vice-chair.”

McCormick had served as a law enforcement officer in Walton County, as had Sunday, before entering politics. He did not detail what issue or issues he had with Sunday.

There was a pause after the gavel was handed to Johns, the vice-chair, after which Glidewell addressed her as “Madam Chairman.”

“I’m sorry, I did not expect that,” she said.

“I didn’t either, that’s why I wanted the county attorney to explain what that means, because I don’t think it’s ever happened before,” said Glidewell.

Clay Adkinson, acting county attorney, observed that the officials were “a little out of order,” and recommended proceeding with the invocation, pledge, and call to order before discussing the matter.

Johns asked for the meeting to proceed in that manner.

After the meeting had been called to order, attorney Adkinson advised that since, as he understood, McCormick had indicated his resignation from the chairman position, effective immediately, that Johns would preside at the meeting and sign any documents necessary from the current time forward to the next BCC meeting.

“I believe,” Adkinson continued, “we are somewhat in unprecedented territory. I don’t recall this ever having happened, at least not in my memory of Walton County governance.”

Adkinson indicated that county policy would not provide for the vice chair to automatically become the new chairman in such an instance. “I believe,” he explained, “it’d be appropriate for us to put that at the start of the next meeting to have the board officially elect a chair and then to appoint someone as the vice-chair.” He noted that this would not mean that Johns could not be chosen as chair.

Adkinson concluded by advising that the gavel was Johns’ for the rest of the meeting.

Turning to the business to be considered, Adkinson introduced the proposed employment agreement/contract with Sunday, which staff had negotiated per direction of the BCC from the Jan. 26 BCC special meeting. He noted that the contract was in the standard form that the county had been using and that had been used with Robertson’s contract. Adkinson said the contact had been approved by county legal counsel and by Sunday.

Glidewell moved for approval of the contract as written, and the motion was seconded.

Johns asked about any differences between the terms of contract and those approved in the previous county administrator’s contract.

Adkinson replied that this was a contract for “at-will employment,” and that duties and authority were effectively the same as with the previous contract. “We did a little clean-up verbiage to conform to what Mr. Sunday wanted, to make sure it was clear,” he said, adding, “We’re attaching the county administrator job description and the current org chart just to be more clear.”

Adkinson noted that the compensation was substantially the same number “of where you were,” and that the paid time off, health insurance, and retirement benefits had been written to best address Sunday’s current situation.

“There are some minor differences, but it is more as to the nature of him being interim and his status as a retiree from the Florida retirement system…” Adkinson also noted.

Johns asked if there was a time frame for the contract. Adkinson replied that no time frame was specified but that the contract would remain in full force until terminated by the BCC or by Sunday.

In response to a question from District 3 Commissioner Brad Drake, Adkinson said that Johns would be responsible for signing and executing the contract on behalf of the BCC upon approval.

Asked if he would like to speak, Sunday came forward to address the officials. “I’d just like to say I appreciate the opportunity , appreciate your confidence in me,” he said, “and I look forward to doing great things working for you and serving the citizens of this community.”

Due to legal counsel having recently advised that county policy does not allow public comment on personnel matters, the BCC approved a motion to waive that prohibition in order to provide for public comment on the contract under consideration.

Drake asked Adkinson if it would be possible to put allowing public comment on personnel matters into place in perpetuity. Adkinson responded that this would not be possible at the Feb. 1 meeting since the meeting had been noticed for a single topic (the interim administrator contract).

However he said staff had been directed to work on an immediate update of the BCC meeting policies and procedures—and that he expected the proposed revisions to be presented to the BCC at its second meeting in February, after which workshops would be scheduled on overall meeting procedures. Adkinson suggested incorporating the change Drake had suggested to be considered as part of the update process.

In public comment, Wes Wyrick was of the opinion that the county was making a mistake by not setting up a period in which the former administrator would work with the new interim administrator to pass on information and knowledge about that job in order to smooth the transition and avoid anything “falling through the cracks.”

Also speaking during the public comment period was DeFuniak Springs resident Dan Cosson, who said he had heard that, after the BCC had voted 3-2 on Jan. 26 in favor of bringing Sunday on board as interim administrator, that Glidewell had stated that Sunday had better not come to his office, because Sunday was not welcome there.

District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson objected that the question was out of order, but Glidewell asked to reply as a point of personal privilege. He stated that he had had a 2 1/2-hour meeting with Sunday the previous day at which his aide Teresa Lowery was also present, He described the meeting as “very cordial,” but did not provide other details on it.

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Glidewell advised.

With no one else coming forward for public comment, a vote was taken on the contract. It was approved 4-1 with McCormick voting no.

Asking to make a comment, McCormick told Sunday, “First of all, congratulations. Your destiny’s in your hand as far as me. I wish you well, and let’s do some things where they need to be.”

Johns concluded the meeting by saying, “I’m looking forward to some continuity, and I’m looking forward to some stability, and I thank you for stepping up to the plate and taking this job.”

The Herald/Breeze obtained a copy of the employment agreement with Sunday on Feb. 1 through a public records request.

Sunday’s base salary is set at $182,000 per year, a bit more than Robertson’s $175,000 per year.

The contract requires Sunday to be on call for 24-hour service and for a vehicle to be provided for his use, which may be taken to his home in the evening but not used other than for official business.

Under “Duties and Authority,” the contract states that Sunday is to perform the functions and duties specified in the job description and other legally permissible and proper duties “without interference.”

Among his duties and authorities are to be employing, directing, assigning, reassigning, evaluating, and disciplining (up to termination), all other administration employees within his chain of command, consistent with BCC policies, ordinances, and resolutions.

Among essential job functions specified as part of the contract are to “Establish, within county policy, appropriate service, and staffing levels; monitor and evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of services methods and procedures; [and] allocate resources accordingly.”

Feb. 1 is the effective date of the contract, and it is open-ended.