Councilman Garrett Anderson leveled another accusation Monday evening at City Manager Julian Deleon as the city council discussed which previous allegations by Anderson and Deleon would be probed by a private investigator.
After Anderson filed a sworn complaint against Deleon on March 12 with the Florida Commission on Ethics, the council decided March 25 to have an investigator look into the complaint and Deleon’s responses.
Council wanted its own investigation because the Commission on Ethics typically takes more than a year to start a probe.
At Monday’s meeting, the council considered a “scope of the investigation” that included five allegations by Anderson and six allegations by Deleon.
Anderson alleged that Deleon attempted to harm Anderson or close down Anderson’s business “Anderson Arms” through misuse of his position as city manager and Deleon threatened county building department inspector S.Y. Mosley with loss of his job if he did not immediately inspect Anderson Arms with intention of shutting it down.
Deleon alleged that Anderson filed a complaint with the Commission on Ethics swearing to false allegations.
Also, Deleon alleged that Anderson is the one who committed misuse of office by expecting that Kenneth Long would provide a favor to him by agreeing to consider electrical problems at Anderson Arms to be Long’s fault and the resulting damage to equipment insurance-related so that Long’s insurance would pay for it.
Anderson said the investigation should not include his personal business Anderson Arms.
“I don’t believe they are any concern to the allegations made against Mr. Deleon,” he said. “They don’t concern the complaint made to the state ethics board and it is strictly my private business.”
Anderson wanted two allegations made by Deleon removed from the scope of the investigation including the aforementioned claim that Anderson committed misuse of office expecting a favor from Kenny Long of Long’s Air Conditioning.
Also, Anderson wanted the following allegation by Deleon removed from the scope of the investigation: Councilman Anderson intentionally performed, or caused to be performed, additional electrical work to hide the previously installed and dangerous electrical work, without a permit, after being informed by the county that the county inspection was to be performed within a few days.
City Attorney Gerald Buhr said the allegations made by Deleon do have a bearing on the matter.
“There might be some concern to the council and the citizens that a council person would be intentionally violating a city law,” he said.
Anderson said it was an issue between him and Long prior to him becoming a councilman.
Buhr said Anderson could file an injunction to stop it, but “I don’t think you will get it; you’ll be wasting your money.”
Then Anderson made another allegation against Deleon.
Several citizens have told him that city employees are afraid to question situations or decisions that Deleon has been involved in for fear of “negative retribution from Julian,” Anderson said. “I would like that added to the investigation to see whether or not the employees and or the citizens of Avon Park are afraid of retaliation from Julian if they speak against him or if they have a difference of opinion.”
Mayor Sharon Schuler asked Anderson how would citizens be retaliated against?
Anderson said, if they were to speak against Deleon at council meetings or other places or in private meetings.
Schuler said there are citizens who constantly speak up against Deleon.
“I don’t know that he has been able to get to them to retaliate against them,” she said.
Councilman Parke Sutherland said “unless we are able to identify those folks who are reportedly intimidated how we are going to flesh it out?”
Deleon said he has taken as much criticism as anybody can take.
“You pay me to make decisions; I have not retaliated against anybody; the record speaks for itself,” he said. “You have gone from 103 employees to 50; you are financially strong; those were some tough cuts; there are a lot of people out there who don’t like me; I am OK with that.”
Addressing Anderson, Deleon added, “But to sit there and go out there and solicit complaints about me that is just more of your same tactics.”
After more discussion on the issue, Deleon said to Anderson, “You swore under oath very specific charges against me that now you can’t back up.”
Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray said employees have a personnel process or policy available to them if they have a grievance.
This should not be added to the investigation, “which, in my opinion has nothing to do with the charges at hand,” she said.
Mayor Sharon Schuler said council has called for an investigation because, “I for one and other people do not want a city manager that has done the things you [Anderson] have said he has done. So I think we need to go forward just as it sits and see what happens.”
If there is an employee out there with concerns they can talk to council or labor attorney Brian Koji, she said.
By a 4-1 vote, council approved the scope of work for the investigator, Al Smith, including the allegations by Deleon concerning Anderson Arms. Anderson cast the “no” vote.
By a 4-0 vote, with Anderson abstaining, council approved the contract with Al Smith of Paragon Information Services, LLC.
The contract calls for a billing rate of $75 per hour plus mileage at 55 cents per mile and travel from the Paragon Bartow office billed at $37.50 per hour.
Smith estimated that, for billing purposes, he could complete the investigation in 30 hours or less, the contract shows.
Noting that council would like all issues resolved within 60 days, Smith said he should be able to complete the assignment and submit a written report to council within that time frame.