AVON PARK - A Florida Ethics Commission advocate says there is no probable cause that City Manager Julian Deleon used his position to threaten another public official.
Ethics Commission Advocate Melody Hadley reviewed the complaint submitted by Councilman Garrett Anderson and the subsequent Ethics Commission Report of Investigation to issue a recommendation to the Ethics Commission.
Hadley's report states there is insufficient evidence to show Deleon corruptly used his position to secure a benefit for himself or others by threatening and/or attempting to threaten Anderson.
In a Tuesday email, Deleon stated, "Because Councilman Anderson's ethics complaint against the city manager is a matter of public interest to all Avon Park residents, I am releasing the attached public record to the local media to keep the city's residents and business community informed as the investigative process continues to move forward towards closure.
"I continue to maintain that Councilman Anderson knowingly fabricated charges against me and swore to false allegations. The conclusions are evident as documented in the attached document."
Ethics Commission spokesperson Kerrie Stillman said she could not comment on a specific case, but noted that any complaint that is investigated by the ethics office goes before the full commission for a probable cause hearing.
"It is up to the commission to decide whether or not there is probable cause," she said. "They will receive a recommendation from the commission advocate, who acts as prosecutors in our cases, but they [commission] are not bound by that recommendation."
"The commission has full discretion, based on the facts, what they believe the proper decision is under the law."
Stillman could not confirm or deny if the Anderson complaint would be on the agenda for the Ethics Commission's next meeting on Sept. 13.
Hadley's report notes that at a January city council meeting there was a heated exchange between Deleon and Anderson concerning the requirement for the city manager to live within the city limits. A motion was made to remove the residency requirement. It passed with Anderson voting against the motion.
Anderson reported that after the meeting, Deleon threatened serious consequences for Anderson's ammunition manufacturing company (Anderson Arms) if Anderson questioned him publicly about his private business again, the ethics report states.
After this alleged confrontation, Anderson stated Highlands County Building Official Sol Moseley, Jr. and City Fire Department Inspector David Cloud inspected his company, the report states. Anderson also reported that both inspectors' jobs were threatened if they did not comply with Deleon's demands to find a complaint to shut Anderson's company down. Mosley stated he received a complaint in December from Kenny Long of Long's Air Conditioning company about Anderson Arms, but did not inspect the business until after he received a Jan. 25 letter from Deleon, the report shows.
Mosley denied telling Anderson that he felt pressured to find a violation, according to the report.
Cloud stated that his inspection of Anderson Arms was prompted by a complaint from Long and that Deleon did not instruct him to conduct an inspection, the report states. Cloud denied telling Anderson that Deleon ordered the inspection or that his job was threatened.
Long confirmed that he contacted Moseley and Cloud about a wiring issue with Anderson Arms and that he sent a letter to Deleon about the same issue, the report shows.
Anderson initially alleged that Deleon contacted the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and filed a false complaint against him and his company, the report shows. During his interview for the Ethics Commission's investigation, Anderson stated that he has since learned that Deleon did not file a complaint with BATF.
In his Tuesday email, Deleon said, "I have already been cleared by the Avon Park City Council by a formal resolution, based on the attached findings by the Ethics Commission staff, whom independently reviewed the matter, I am also expecting to be cleared by the Commission on Ethics around the middle of September."
Anderson could not be reached for comment.