AP council seeks investigation on ethics complaints
AVON PARK - The city council voted Monday for an independent investigation into Councilman Garrett Anderson’s ethics complaints against City Manager Julian Deleon, who has countered with ethics issues concerning Anderson. “In my opinion there have been a lot of innuendos, reckless allegations, rumors on the streets. Mr. Anderson mentions lawsuits,” Deleon said at Monday’s city council meeting. “I have yet to see anybody get a nickel from the City of Avon Park on any of those lawsuits.” Anderson claims that the city manager threatened to shut down Anderson Arms and purposely punish him based on his discussion of the city manager’s private matters before you [council], Deleon said. Anderson claims that the city manager demanded Fire Captain David Cloud to shut down Anderson Arms, otherwise his job would be in jeopardy. Anderson claims that the city manager demanded for the Highlands County building official S.Y. Mosley to shut down Anderson Arms, otherwise his job would be in jeopardy, Deleon said.How did Anderson’s private matters concerning a dispute with Kenny Long of Long’s Air Conditioning morph into city issues? Deleon said. Deleon explained that due to damaged equipment at Anderson Arms, Anderson wanted to file a claim against Long’s insurance company. Long, who is a certified master electrician, stated in a letter to Anderson that that his work was not deficient. “Mr. Long explained to Administrative Services Director [Maria] Sutherland and I that Mr. Anderson and his mother, Sherry, were actively hounding Mr. Long for his insurance policy,” Deleon said. Long, who has been in business in Avon Park for 30 years, continued to maintain that the reasons for the failure of Mr. Anderson’s bullet-making plant was the wiring that Mr. Anderson constructed without permits, not the work done by Mr. Long, Deleon said. The dispute continued, Deleon said. After Anderson was elected to the city council, he asked the city clerk for Long’s insurance policy for a job Long was doing for the city. Long filed an ethics complaint against Anderson with the city for misusing his position as a council member, Deleon said. Deleon said he deferred the complaint to City Attorney Gerald Buhr who wrote, “As for the code issues, I don’t see how you have any choice but to have those investigated, but you are wise to have the investigation done by the county since they are the code officials for the city.” As this whole thing was developing, allegations started flying around the city of Avon Park that Anderson made a comment at a Rotary Club meeting that if his facility ever exploded he would take out three city blocks, Deleon said. Deleon asked Councilman Terry Heston and Mayor Sharon Schuler if they had heard that comment “on the street” and they both responded, “yes.” He was not targeting Anderson, Deleon said, but he has an obligation to act for the public safety of the citizens of Avon Park. “You [Anderson] sitting on the council does not give you a pass on any of this,” Deleon said of the requirement for building permits. “I have waived my confidentiality rights although they could have remained private for a year while we play the game that you have started,” Deleon said to Anderson. Anderson responded, “It is no game.” Deleon retorted, “Excellent, excellent.” You cannot employ a city manager who has allegedly threatened Mr. Anderson, along with Mr. Cloud and Mr. S.Y. Mosley, Deleon said. He requested that council authorize Buhr to move forward with an investigation on the charges. If the city does an investigation, “I would like there to be a city council resolution either clearing my name or pointing out that he has fabricated what he has filed,” Deleon said. “Allow the ethics commission to move forward … because after we are done I am coming for my legal fees from you,” Deleon said referring to Anderson. Anderson responded, “If there are no lawyers there would be no legal fees.” Deleon said, “I am retaining an attorney, sir. I have documentation that shows that you have fabricated not just one thing, but many things in your allegations.” Anderson said the state commission on ethics has the power and the resources to do an accurate investigation. “I didn’t want any biased opinion locally; I wanted the state; I believe the state is very fair,” he said. Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray said she has heard and read enough and is ready for an independent investigation. Schuler said the city can’t operate for the year and half it typically takes for the state ethics commission to start an investigation. “I don’t think we can sit here and let Mr. Deleon run our city with such a cloud so therefore I think we need to invoke our rights to ask for an independent investigation,” she said. Council voted 4-0, with Anderson abstaining, to authorize Buhr to seek a private investigator to conduct an independent investigation.