Council favors hiring private investigator to probe allegation against city manager
AVON PARK – The Avon City Council agreed Monday to hire a private investigator to probe allegations made by a councilman against City Manager Julian Deleon. The vote was 4-0 with Council member Garrett Anderson, who filed the ethics complaint against Deleon, abstaining. The council’s decision to hire Al Smith depends on an agreeable contract to the city council and Smith. Smith owns Paragon Information Services LLC, which is headquartered in Winter Haven. Smith would comment very little about the matter. His website says that he has “almost 35 years experience in law enforcement and as a private investigator.”“We don’t fake our experience and we don’t overstate our capabilities,” the website says. “We just don’t get into all that goofy false advertising that has become so prevalent in the industry,” the web site said. The decision to hire Smith comes a few days after Deleon, during a press conference, strongly denied allegations Anderson made against him. Anderson filed a complaint with the State Commission on Ethics that Deleon threatened Anderson’s business, Anderson Arms, if Anderson got involved in Deleon’s personal business. Anderson also alleged that “Deleon contacted the Highlands County Building Department inspector, S.Y. Moseley, and the Avon Park Fire Department’s interim chief, David Cloud, and demanded that they administer an immediate inspection on the business of Anderson Arms with the intent of shutting it down immediately.” Deleon denied that and said the problems began regarding an insurance claim for damage at Anderson’s business. The council’s decision to investigate Anderson’s allegations against Deleon was questioned by former Councilman George Hall, who said such a probe should be delayed until the Commission on Ethics makes a decision. Hall said the state could decide before the Avon Park probe is completed. But some city officials say that state investigations can be protracted. Mayor Sharon Schuler said she felt it would be an injustice for Deleon to continue as city manager for the protracted length of time a state investigation might take if he did what Anderson alleges. City Attorney Don Buhr also said a state investigation can last more than two years. The City Council also noted the 10-year-renewal of the lease Classic Caladiums has for a 130,000-square foot warehouse on the city’s airport property. The city has been losing $3,750 per month. Although city officials acknowledged the lease does result in the city losing money, they also said the company provides jobs and has improved the building.