Escambia County Commissioners discuss several important issues on the agenda

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 03:34 PM CDT
Escambia County Commissioners discuss several important issues on the agenda story image
ESCAMBIA COUNTY   --  Escambia County commissioners met today, with several important items on the agenda.
Among those items was a outside forensic audit of  employee compensation and benefits made by outgoing Clerk of Courts Ernie Lee Magaha during the transition to new Clerk Pam Childers.

This report examines lump-sum cost of living adjustments and annual leave "buy-backs" that took place during the transition period.
The findings say employees were essentially given a bonus of 3 % of salary a bonus other county employees were not getting, a bonus some say Magaha did not have the right to give.

We went to the county commissioners to get their reaction and to find out what they plan to do.
Current Clerk Pam Childers presented the findings to the Board of County Commissioners Thursday afternoon.

The details included a three percent "lump sum cost of living adjustment" effectively paid as bonus by Ernie Lee Magaha in September of 2012.

It's a bump other county employees did not receive.
Gene Valentino/District 2 Commissioner
"It puts out a big red flag. And at the end of the day the buck stops here. It's my obligation to make sure that if we're going to be transparent for the citizens of Escambia County that we are."

The audit also lays out more than 250,000 tax payer dollars used to buy-back employee leave time.

Five employees were each paid more than ten thousand dollars with one pay out up topping twenty-four thousand.

That information caught the attention of Commissioner Lumon May.
Lumon May/District 3 Commissioner
"I was shocked to learn that people got bonuses of ten-thousand and in excess of twenty-some thousand. More than the median income in my District. I mean that is alarming to me, and I think it's going to warrant further investigation."

The report also finds that state of Florida statutes may have been violated when these public funds were paid out and recommends that a legal determination be sought as to whether the former clerk did violate provisions.

County commissioners voted to further pursue this matter.
Steven Barry/District 5 Commissioner
"When they say to seek legal opinion, I think we have a responsibility to seek that legal opinion. I agreed with Commissioner Robertson's motion to first seek our county attorney's opinion and then take it from there."

County Attorney Allison Rogers will be coordinating the next steps in this process.
There was also an update on the county's audit into missing BP gift cards at the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber Of Commerce.
Earlier audits turned up "irregularities" and more than 500,000 dollars in unaccounted for cards.
Those cards were purchased by the chamber to try and bring tourists to our beaches.
The current audit is still ongoing.  There have been some issues getting needed information from American Express.
We'll keep you updated on the process.
Escambia County Commissioners discuss several important issues on the agenda
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