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Presnell wins top county job

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By Alice Du Pont

 

The Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners unanimously named Robert Presnell as County Administrator during the Oct. 16 regular meeting. On Oct. 2, three commissioners, Chairman Sherrie Taylor, Eugene Lamb and Brenda Holt voted to hire Presnell as the county administrator. There were issues with an existing settlement stemming from a lawsuit Presnell filed against the county in 2010. He claimed to have been fired because he was a whistleblower under the previous county administrator, Johnny Williams.

 

Commissioners and Presnell agreed he would resign his position as county coordinator and take the position as county administrator, effective Oct. 17.

 

Commissioner Doug Croley said no administrator should take the job with a 3-2 vote, because it would send the wrong message and hamper the individual’s ability to be successful.

 

Commissioner Eugene Lamb said Croley’s assessment was similar to how he felt.

 “The way some of us treated the last administrator (Williams) was awful. Some of us were disrespectful and gave him pure hell,” Lamb said.

 

While Croley said he was willing to give Presnell the opportunity to prove himself, he said he didn’t want to hear from anyone telling him county employees were sleeping in their trucks or crossing the state line in county vehicles to buy lottery tickets.

 

“We need to all move forward, and I’m willing to give him a chance,” Croley said.

 

Commissioner Gene Morgan had his own observation about what makes a county administrator successful or not.

“An administrator gets into trouble when he starts listening to one commissioner,” he said.

 

Taylor asked Presnell if he wanted the job as administrator, to which he replied “yes.” But he didn’t have a letter of resignation from the coordinator’s position, and the matter was postponed until he turns in his resignation.

 

In other business, commissioners:

• Agreed to match the city of Quincy’s $18,000 contribution to Big Bend Transit to keep the Quincy Shuttle operating for the next three months. At that time, Quincy City Manager Jack McLean said the matter would be revisited. The fare will go up to $2.50 from $1 and hours of operation will be cut from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m, five days per week, which McLean said are peak ridership hours. The Gadsden Express, which provides transportation three times per day to and from Tallahassee, will not be affected.

 

• Approved a plan presented by the working group to use a one-time only sum of $258,000 from indigent health care tax dollars in 2008-2009. The group, made up of health care providers and others in the community, offered a plan that would pay for direct services to indigent citizens. 

 

• Sheriff Morris Young appeared before the BoCC to get some clarification on a suggestion made by Morgan during the Oct. 2 regular meeting that the BoCC look into operating the jail and hire a jail administrator. To save money and address overcrowding commissioners might want to consider, Morgan said, looking into using a facility already built that would house 500 inmates. Young said he felt the conversation was one-sided because since he was not at the meeting and did not know the issue was going to be discussed. Morgan got little support for his idea from Lamb and Holt, while Taylor said she would be willing to consider the proposal. Croley was not at the meeting.

“Having a one-sided conversation when I’m not here, I don’t appreciate it,” Young said.

 

• A proposal to fully fund the economic arm of the Chamber of Commerce went nowhere after Holt renewed her objections to giving the organization any money when there has been no plan presented to the BoCC on how the funds, nearly $94,000, will be used. She said any organization could ask for money and tell the BoCC what they plan to do with it later. Doug Croley said he would abstain from voting on the issue because he is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and it could be construed as an ethics violation. But, he said, he would continue speaking in supporting the Chamber of Commerce and be an advocate. Morgan told Croley he could support the Chamber by resigning and voting to fund them. He said he had resigned from the Chamber’s Board of Directors as well as the organization and was now able to vote to fund them. He said he checked with the Ethics Commission before he resigned.

 

“All you’re doing is playing a shell game. It’s not for me to resign so that I can vote to fund them,” Croley said.