By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
For the past year, from March of 2013 to the present, the Greenville Town Council has been under the cloud of an ethics investigation of Mayor Kovacherich Arnold and other council members at that time, with the exception of Barbara Dansey (new council members Elesta Pritchett and Alphonso Young came aboard months later. The complaint does not involve them in any way).
A week ago, March 12, 2014, the Florida Commission on Ethics released its findings of “no probable cause,” and dismissed that portion of the complaint regarding the Mayor.
The subject of that portion was a conflict of interest, where Arnold was charged with “having a conflicting employment relationship with a business entity doing business with the Town of Greenville” i.e., a Town Council member who also served as a Town employee.
The situation, as outlined by Arnold, arose during the last half of January 2013 through the last of March to early April of that same year. Town Clerk Patricia Hinton and Deputy Town Clerk Marsha Bass had just quit suddenly, leaving no one to run City Hall. For that three month period, Greenville was in a state of emergency, with no one qualified to manage the Town’s accounts and other business. The was no one in the public works department or any other department who could step in to do bookkeeping for the council and the Town, no one to accept utility payments and make deposits, do the payroll and various other services that were needed to keep the town afloat. Arnold added that Workforce of North Florida was trying to find someone for them quickly, but in the meantime, the Town needed to keep City hall open. It received approval from the League of Cities for the emergency resolution allowing Council Members to work in Greenville Town Hall until another qualified person could be found and hired.
Meanwhile, Arnold voted on several matters that came before the Town Council, on matter that would have affected his personal gain or loss. However, the Ethics Commission’s report found no probable cause that Arnold had violated Section 112.3143(3)(a), stating that Greenville was indeed in a state of emergency requiring immediate votes on certain matters, and citing that Arnold had voted only after consulting the Town Attorney at that time, who had in turn consulted the attorney for the Florida League of Cities and received approval before Arnold voted.
The report also agreed that there was no probable cause to believe that Arnold violated section 112.313(3) Florida Statutes, by doing business with the Town of Greenville, stepping in to help with management of city Hall and receiving compensation; or Section 112.313(7)(a) Florida Statutes, by having a conflicting employment relationship; or Section 112.313(10)(a) by simultaneously serving as a Town employee and a Town Council member.
A further charge, that Arnold “used his position to interfere and /or attempt to interfere with the policies and procedures of regarding management of the Town’s utility services,” i.e., tampered with water bills for friends, covered under Section 112.313(6), was also dismissed for lack of probable cause.
Arnold alluded to the other portions of the complaint, or other separate complaints, alleging that he and other council members had held meetings outside the Sunshine Law, or had stalked town employees, allegations he said were not true either, but said that he was mainly glad that this part was over.
“I’m glad all this is behind us,” he said, adding that he was eager to have the Ethics Report’s findings posted so everyone could see, and the council members could get back to the important stuff of managing Greenville’s affairs. “I really wanted the town to know what happened…the town’s been in an uproar for over a year. People have been seeing all the negative things about the council. Now they can see the positive.”