Local News

Avon Park city manager defends removing man from council agenda

AVON PARK - A former Avon Park police officer who said he had videotapes and documentation backing up an investigation he conducted complained Thursday night that City Manager Julian Deleon prevented him from disclosing those results by removing him from the agenda. Dan Burke, who said he's now a private investigator, however, declined Friday to discuss the investigation or its topic with Highlands Today. Deleon defended removing Burke from the agenda, saying that Burke has nothing positive to say and a track record of leveling false complaints or invalid complaints against city officials. "I'm not interested in what he has to say," Deleon said of Burke. "He has been hell-bent in trying to implicate city staff in misconduct. All of his complaints have been found to be unsubstantiated and unfounded."
After the meeting, city special projects director Maria Sutherland accused Burke of following her and said his statements on a radio show prove that. But Burke insisted he wasn't stalking Sutherland and that he was doing his job as a private investigator. The matter involving Burke wasn't the only item that indicated divisions within the city. In presentations of competing banners, residents presented Deleon and Councilman Garrett Anderson with banners supporting them. The presentations came after the city hired a private investigator to investigate allegations that Anderson made against Deleon and allegations that Deleon made against Anderson. Doris Miller, a resident, presented the banner to Deleon, saying that she and the signers felt he has done a good job in managing the city government. Former Avon Park Mayor Tom Macklin presented the banner to Anderson in support of his performance as a council member. Macklin didn't open the banner for the public to see it. As for the issue regarding Burke, Deleon said that Burke filed numerous complaints in the past including an ethics complaint against Mayor Sharon Schuler that was rejected, a complaint that Sutherland lacked a college degree, which was untrue, and other criminal complaints that were unfounded. Deleon also said in an email that Burke has complained about Deleon's use of his vehicle. Deleon said he goes out in the field and remains the engineer in charge of projects. He also said he was outside of the office for a period while keeping the public works director position vacant and saving the city $90,000 by doing the work himself. He said that Burke also has talked about trips to Sam's Club. Deleon said the city saved money through buying items in bulk, He called it "pettiness," that complaints have been made about Sutherland buying personal goods at Sam's with her money while purchasing city supplies with city funds. Also at the meeting, the council approved on first reading proposed changes to the city's charter. The alterations, which must be ratified by voters, includes spelling out that the council can contract with another entity for an investigation, eliminating the right of employees to appeal their termination by department heads to the City Council and disbanding the civil service board. Deleon said the charter doesn't prohibit the investigations. He also said that the civil service board has remained vacant and that such employee appears are costly. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834