This complaint is brought by reason that the Town Attorney, Mayor Miller and Councilwoman Anita Rivers hired Tommie Jerome Jones as the “Interim Town Manager” and worked out the details of his said employment in the “darkness”, even advising him that he would have the job, without advertising the position, without notice and subsequently calling a meeting in less than 24 hours to hire him as rapidly as possible, without other applicants being able to apply, even though our then Manager would be remaining as Manager until November 8, 2019.
This is a MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION – No public officer, employee of an agency, or local government attorney shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit or exemption for himself, herself or others. This section shall not be construed to conflict with statute 104.31.
Reasonable notice required – A vital Element of the Sunshine law is the requirement that boards subject to the law provide “reasonable notice” of all meetings. See s. 285.011 (1) F.S. Even before the statutory amendment in 1995 expressly requiring notice, the courts had stated that in order for a public meeting to be in essence “public”, reasonable notice of the meeting must be given. …Reasonable public notice is required for all meeting s subject to the Sunshine Law and is required even though a quorum is not present. AGO 90-56. (reasonable notice required even if the subject of meeting is “relatively unimportant). Notice is required even though meetings of the board are “of general knowledge” and are not conducted in a closed door manner.
GOVERNMENT-IN-THE SUNSHINE-MANUAL hold unnoticed meetings do so at their peril…..In Transparency, the court referenced AGO 73170, which concluded that the type of notice given depends on the purpose for the notice, the character of the event about which the notice is given and the nature of the rights to be affected. “Where there is no specific legislative directive as to what constitutes reasonable notice as a matter of law, we agree with the Attorney General that is a fact specific inquiry”. Transparency at 787.
SCOPE OF THE SUNSHINE LAW Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law, s. 286.011, FS, commonly referred to as the Sunshine Law, provides a right of access to governmental proceedings of public boards or commissions at both the state and local levels. The law is equally applicable to elected and appointed boards, and applies to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss some matter which will foresee ably come before that board for actions. ….. There are three basic requirements of s. 286.011, F.S. (1) meetings of public boards or commissions must be open to the public; (2) reasonable notice of such meetings must be given; and (3) minutes of the meetings must be taken and promptly recorded. (legislative requirement that certain board meetings must be open to the public does not imply that the board should meet privately to discuss other matters.
The recorded Minutes of the meeting were cut off when relating to the actual hiring of Mr. Jones as the Interim Town Manager and the Notice of the Meeting was November 16,2019 at approximately 9:00 pm, for a meeting to hire Mr. Jones on November 17, 2019 at 8:00 am, not giving sufficient opportunity or notice to the public.
When the Newspaper and others brought forth Mr. Jones’ checkered past, there were various complaints among citizens including myself. Mr. Jones said I was discriminatory and racist by reason of my telling Mr. Jones that the Town would need to secure a background check on Mr. Jones. He stated he was the first African American Manager in White Springs and that we were discriminating against him even though we have always secured background checks on employees and Managers.
A Public Policy of Open Government by Ashley Moody Attorney General: Our system of open government is a valued and intrinsic part of the heritage of our state. Each day, Floridians use these laws to inform themselves as citizens, to attend government meetings and to review government records. As a result of these efforts, government leaders CAN BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS. The Founding Fathers of our country recognized this fundamental truth during our nation’s infancy and it remains just as valid today. As James Madison said: “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives” Florida is nationally recognized for its strong support for government in the sunshine and his commitment is reflected in our statutes and Constitution. As Attorney General, I remain committed to the principles of transparency embodied in these laws and the benefits they secure for our state. This year’s edition of the Government in the Sunshine Manual incorporates laws, judicial decisions and Attorney General opinions in place as of October 1, 2018.
Section 286.012, F.S. provides: A member of a state, county or municipal government board, commission, or agency who is present at a meeting of any such body at which an official decision, ruling, or other official act is to be taken or adopted may not abstain from voting….and a vote shall be recvorded or counted for each such member present, unless with respect to any such members, there is, OR APPEARS TO BE, A POSSIBLE CONFLICT OF INTEREST under s. 112.311, s.112.313, or s 112.3143, or additional or more stringent standards of conduct, if any, adopted pursuant to s 112.326. IF THERE IS OR APPEARS TO BE A POSSIBLE CONFLICT UNDER s 112.311, s. 112.313, or s 112.3143, the member shall COMPLY WITH THE DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS OF s. 112.3143. If the CONFLICT IS ONE ARISING FROM THE ADDITIONAL OR MORE STRINDARD STANDARDS ADOPTED PURSUANT TO s 112.326, THE MEMBER SHALL COMPLY WITH THE DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS OF s. 112.3143. If the Conflict is one arising from the additional or more stringent standards adopted pursuant to s 112.326, the member shall comply with any disclosure requirements adopted pursuant to s. 112.326.
With Transparency provided only through other citizens and the newspaper regarding Mr. Jones’ Checkered background, Town Attorney, Meagan Logan, at the October 30th workshop meeting stated that the public should not have any complaints because Mr. Tommie Jerome Jones is not an Employee under Contract but rather he is a “Consultant”. Mr. Jones subsequently has reminded the citizens that he is a “Consultant” as is referenced on his attached e-mail to Joe Griffin. No transparency was given to the Public at the Special (Emergency) Meeting by the Town Council or Mayor Miller who was presiding, nor Councilwoman Anita Rivers who personally knew Mr. Jones and his reputation .
After the meeting my wife, Karin Griffin sat down with Ms. Logan and explained that under the circumstances and because of White Spring’s control of Mr. Jones activities, hours, place of work being Town Hall, advising what the Town was willing to pay, and requiring him to contact people and go through records and report that Mr. Jones was an employee and not a “consultant”. Karin Griffin then sent Ms. Logan an e-mail entitled Florida uses right of control so ultimately Tommie Jones would be considered a contract employee Ms. Logan stated she would check on the matter.
Town Attorney Meagan Logan then had the Town Manager Consultant contract completed for the November 12th monthly meeting and although the council was given just a short time to review the contract Councilman Walter McKenzie mentioned that Tommie’s hours should not be fixed under the contract as 10:00 am – 2:00 pm because his position is flexible.
Meagan’s associate who acted as attorney in her absence from the first part of the meeting stated that we can substitute the work Hours “COMMONLY” between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. The Council then agreed unanimously to the contract as written.
The White Springs Town Charter under 3.02 (b) makes reference to Consultants: The Town Council may retain consultants as the Council deems necessary and as may be required by general law or governmental rule and regulation, and when as required in compliance with Florida Statute 287.055. Said consultants shall serve under and at the pleasure of the Town Council.
Although the Town of White Springs did not advertise for a Town Manager as required by law after Stacy Tebo gave her thirty day notice on October 9, 2016, at a Workshop held on October 16, 2019 Councilwoman Anita Rivers nominated Tommie Jerome Jones, of White Springs, to replace Tebo’s position as Town Manager. Instead of waiting for at least 24 hours for a subsequent meeting, an emergency meeting was held the following morning at 8:00 AM on October 17th. The purpose of the meeting per Mayor Miller was the “Discussion and appointment of the interim Town Manager”,
Under the White Springs Town Charter 3.01: The Town Council by a majority vote of its total membership SHALL appoint a Town Manager with the Town Manager and Town Council entering into a mutually acceptable written agreement for the services of the Town Manager. This agreement may specify the term, conditions and benefits of the appointment. The Town Manager shall be appointed solely on the basis of executive and administrative qualifications. The manager need not be a resident of the Town or the State of Florida at the time of appointment and may reside outside the Town while in office with the approval of the council.
The Mayor and Ms. Rivers not only violated the Sunshine Laws by not advertising or placing notice for others to apply but called a Special Meeting in less than 24 hours which was not CONSTRUED BY THE FLORIDA SUNSHINE LAWS an “emergency” since Ms. Tebo would not be leaving her position until November 8, 2019.
Mr. Jones was interviewed at the October 17th meeting stipulating his education with a 3.1 grade average at St. Thomas University for his MPA FOR WHICH HE DOES NOT HAVE A DEGREE. At the time he indicated the Town of White Springs needs its own project software milestones and finances to capture everything that needs to be done but further stated he has no networking background. This means Mr. Jones has no education for conceiving, designing and implementing computer networks for the Town of White Springs nor the ability to monitor computer system security and perform maintenance procedures. Mr. Jones likewise does not have Town Manager Experience nor the financial expertise to assist our Town in bringing it back to the Black since it is near bankruptcy.
Mr. Jones only provided information about his work history and appeared eager to accept the Interim Town Manager position. However since this was a rush to hire and neither Mr. Jones nor Mayor Miller stated that Mr. Jones had a checkered background, and that this hiring was devised in the “Darkness” without the Public’s knowledge or providing the transparency needed so the public would be aware of Mr. Jones past history without reading it in the newspaper or our blog. Mr. Jones would be hired with a unanimous council vote at $25.00 per hour and work from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm for a period of six months. Jones per one councilor was the person who would bring people together thereby his vote was based on Jones’ personality and that he was African American. This would assure the current officials would be re-elected in the upcoming April 2020 elections by the African-American Vote.
Mayor Miller stressed Tommie Jones has had a 40 year career. Miller at the October 17th meeting said that we need an interim town manager half time of 20 hours a week to begin the process. She then asked Mr. Jones about his commitments even though she was aware that Mr. Jones had a personal commitment of caring for his father.. Mr. Jones brought up his dad up who he takes to adult day care. Mr. Jones drops him off and his wife who works at HCP picks his dad up and Mr. Jones stated he could be back in town at 9:30 a.m.. The Council then decided that Mr. Jones hours would be from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 pm five days a week. Mayor Miller then told Mr. Jones that he would be paid $25.00 an hour.
Councilman McKenzie told Mr. Jones that his interim manager/consultant position is an exempt position It was stressed by other council members that that Mr. Jone’s hours are flexible. (Note with Walter McKenzie advising that this is an exempt position, it was referring to an employee/interim Town Manager whether under contract or not…but for the purpose of providing benefit to Mr. Jones. If Mr. Jones was considered a consultant, he would not have to fill out a White Springs Employment Application wherein he may be subject to false statements since he advised after he was hired that he only had one felony rather than three. Furthermore, as a consultant he would not have to be subject to a full background check of his prior employment and history nor would he have to take a random drug test even though he had a more current misdemeanor relating to cocaine. Mayor Miller and Councilwoman Rivers virtually devised this scheme to protect Mr. Jones from falsifying an application, which our Town Attorney Meagan Logan assisted in advising all concerned that Mr. Jones was a Consultant.. Yet those of us who have his actual records, which herein are attached, are aware of his checkered past.
Mr. Jones advised me personally that when I suggested a background check, that I was discriminatory to the first African American Manager and a racist as well for suggesting to assist him with advice relating to the laws of Florida until he was on his feet. This was before Mr. Jones lied about his background and the Council led by Mayor Miller do not care what type of background Mr. Jones has. Only that Mr. Jones do as he is asked by Mayor Miller and other council members.,
At this special meeting when Mr. Jones was hired, Mayor Miller then gave instructions to Mr. Jones as to what he needed to do, since Mr. Jones, even though attending some meetings, had no idea what his duties would entail. Some of these instructions included but were not limited to meeting with the owners of the Genoa Industrial Park, that his knowledge of sewer and water will assist in the Sewer Revitalization project, even though he is not certified and licensed will be beneficial; that he will need to start with data security and advised him to start with the IT Group based in Gainesville, That Mr. Jones need to get a list of Contracts and Grants from Ms. Tebo, to Meet with the County Coordinator Louie Goodwin, and several other projects to which Mr. Jones stated he would need the Council’s direction. Mrs. Miller continued by stating what Mr. Jones needed to do by way of the Sewer Revitalization, requesting additional funds from Senator Montford, stipulating the problem with water pressure at SHE, etc.
Walter McKenzie then advised Mr. Jones that we discussed the important work but that he needs to enjoy some of the other aspects of being a Town Manager. McKenzie said he gets involved in tourism and explained the Bike Association events
TOMMIE JEROME JONES IS NOT A CONSULTANT/ INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR
A consultant is defined in the dictionary as: A consultant is a professional who provides expert advice in a particular area such as security … Such consultants are often called “contractors” since they are usually providing technical services (such as …. who has influence over an individual, group, or organization, but who has no direct authority to implement changes
2017 Florida Statutes Title XIXPUBLIC BUSINESS Chapter 287 PROCUREMENT OF PERSONAL PROPERTY AND SERVICES SECTION 055 RELATES TO CONSULTANTS BEING professional architectural, engineering, landscape architectural, or surveying and mapping services; definitions; procedures; contingent fees prohibited; penalties. SHORT TITLE.—This section shall be known as the “Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act.” See Mr. Jone’s attached Resume’. There is no one specific professional service which he may provide and he is not certified or licensed in any capacity. Th White Springs Charter refers to this statute when hiring consultants.
TOMMIE JEROME JONES was hired as an “Interim Town Manager” but he had no such experience previously as a Town Manager nor does he have certifications or licenses for other such professional services Therefore he does not fall within the definition of “Consultant” .
(a) For each proposed project, the agency shall evaluate current statements of qualifications and performance data on file with the agency, together with those that may be submitted by other firms regarding the proposed project, and shall conduct discussions with, and may require public presentations by, no fewer than three firms regarding their qualifications, approach to the project, and ability to furnish the required services.
Mayor Miller and Councilwoman Anita Rivers devised a plan to hire Tommie Jerome Jones as a consultant but to be responsible to fill in the Charter required Town Manager position for which the council would assist Mr. Jones to inure the benefits of a Strong Mayor/Council form of government in lieu of the Weak Mayor/Town Manager form of government which our Charter established. And the Town Attorney elected to refer to Mr. Jones as a consultant.
The Council members were advised that Mr. Jones had one felony years ago and no misdemeanors and Mr. Jones himself stated that he was having his record cleared by the Governor. When checking with Governor DeSantis’s office, there was no such record of that request.
When advising the Council of the actual charges, the response was that Mr. Jones was doing such a good job for the council, in that anything which was asked of him, including management decisions by the council was accomplished with their advice.
Councilwoman Anita Rivers, the entire council was advised in advance of the hiring or personally knew of Mr. Jones’ checkered past which was relayed only to the Council Members but not to the public.
Tommie Jones does not fit the definition of consultant nor Independent Contractor because:
(I) The independent contractor maintains a separate business with his or her own work facility, truck, equipment, materials, or similar accommodations
JONES DOES NOT HAVE A SEPARATE BUSINESS OR WORK FACILITY BUT RATHER OPERATES IN THE OFFICES OF THE TOWN OF WHITE SPRINGS.
(II) The independent contractor holds or has applied for a federal employer identification number, unless the independent contractor is a sole proprietor who is not required to obtain a federal employer identification number under state or federal regulations;
Mr. Jones is not a sole proprietor of any such business as a consultant.
(III) The independent contractor receives compensation for services rendered or work performed and such compensation is paid to a business rather than to an individual;
Mr Jones is paid by the Town of White Springs with deductions for FICA Social Security and Medicare. Whether or not the Town pays their portion of such Taxes the Town is responsible for in the case of Mr. Jones to the IRS is unknown
It shall be noted that Mr. Jones does not bill the Town of White Springs for his hours but rather Mayor Miller advised Mr. Jones that he would be paid $25.00 per hour and that he would work 20 hours a week for which the Town Council unanimously agreed.
In securing a copy of Mr. Jone’s payroll check, it was noted that a deduction of $49.73 was taken out with the words on the check stub “Medicare Employee Tax and Social Security Employee Tax.
Note the words FICA were not shown in the payroll check. FICA is an acronym for “Federal Insurance Contributions Act.” Two separate taxes are added together and treated as one amount that is referred to as “payroll taxes” or FICA. These two taxes, individually, pay for both Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare health insurance but the word FICA was not used.
FICA tax is typically 7.65% of earnings up to $127,200 (2017 figure). Employees pay 6.2% of their earnings for Social Security retirement benefits and their employer pays 6.2% for a total of 12.4% of a worker’s income. An additional 1.45% tax is also collected to fund Medicare benefits and this, too, is matched by employers.
Self-employed persons pay both halves of both taxes for a total of 15.3% of their net business earnings. These taxes are reported on Schedule SE with their income tax returns. Self-employed persons can deduct the employer-equivalent portion of self-employment tax in figuring their adjusted gross income (AGI).
Since Mr. Jones is having FICA taxes deducted from his Check he would be considered an employee and not a self-employed consultant. And whether the title “consultant” is devised so that the Town does not have to pay their portion of the taxes is unknown, since we currently do not have our accounting person who is on sick leave. Mr. Jones has since changed his salary to a full amount going to an incorporated holding company
(IV) The independent contractor holds one or more bank accounts in the name of the business entity for purposes of paying business expenses or other expenses related to services rendered or work performed for compensation;
Mr. Jones does not have a separate bank account for paying business expenses or other expenses because he works out of White Springs Town Hall, is supplied an office and equipment and makes decisions on what must be spent and provides such information to the Council. He is paid based upon an hourly wage dictated by Mayor Miller and is told he will work 20 hours a week whether or not flexibility is utilized.
(V) The independent contractor performs work or is able to perform work for any entity in addition to or besides the employer at his or her own election without the necessity of completing an employment application or process; or
Mr. Jones works solely for one entity, the Town of White Springs. Since all prior Town Managers were contracted as Employees who could NOT undertake other positions, Mr. Jones if he were a consultant would be able to work for more than one Municipality as a Town Manager, but that is not the case, nor is Mr. Jones a professional Town Manager, but it is a method by stipulating Mr. Jones is a “Consultant” to inure to the benefit of the White Springs officials so that they may control what Mr. Jones is doing. And since Mr. Jones stated he would need direction in an unfamiliar profession, he is satisfied with the arrangement because it provides him an income and other benefits.
(VI) The independent contractor receives compensation for work or services rendered on a competitive-bid basis or completion of a task or a set of tasks as defined by a contractual agreement, unless such contractual agreement expressly states that an employment relationship exists.
Mr. Jones receives compensation dictated to him, in lieu of providing a proposal or letter of intent stipulating the work he would do for the Town and What he would charge the Town of White Springs. He has no control over the amount of money he receives nor did he provide such an agreement to the Town. Again, his salary requirements and his hiring was done in the darkness by Mayor Miller and Council woman Anita Rivers, and brought forth in a meeting without any objections or inquiries.
b. If four of the criteria listed in sub-subparagraph a. do not exist, an individual may still be presumed to be an independent contractor and not an employee based on full consideration of the nature of the individual situation with regard to satisfying any of the following conditions:
(I) The independent contractor performs or agrees to perform specific services or work for a specific amount of money and controls the means of performing the services or work.
Mr. Jones agrees to perform the specific services of the Interim Town Manager for a specific amount of money Mr. Jones did not dictate but he does not control the means of performing the services or work which the council members, specifically Mayor Miller so dictates.
(II) The independent contractor incurs the principal expenses related to the service or work that he or she performs or agrees to perform.
Mr. Jones does NOT incur the principal expenses for the work he performs or agrees to perform but rather all expenses are paid for by the Town of White Springs since he is in the same capacity as an employee while serving the Town’s under the Town’s control.
(III) The independent contractor is responsible for the satisfactory completion of the work or services that he or she performs or agrees to perform.
Mr. Jones may be responsible for the completion of the work or services that he agrees to perform but at the Council’s direction rather than the Town Manager/Weak Mayor form of government. A Town Manager position is one in which decisions should be made by the Manager but instead, currently, all decisions are made by the Council at their direction and Mr. Jones follows those directions.
(IV) The independent contractor receives compensation for work or services performed for a commission or on a per-job basis and not on any other basis. – Not applicable
IT IS BELIEVED THAT IN ACCORDANCE WITH florida’s right of control test that Tommie Jerome Jones is an employee rather than a contractor. the criteria includes::
- The extent of the right of control by the employer over the details of the work; – COMPLETE CONTROL WHILE IN AN OFFICE IN WHITE SPRINGS TOWN HALL.
- Whether the person employed is engaged in a distinct occupation or business; JONES IS NOT ENGAGED IN A DISTINCT BUSINESS
- The kind of occupation involved, and whether the work is done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision; A TOWN MANAGER POSITION WHETHER INTERIM OR PERMANENT IS NOT CONSIDERED A PROFESSIONAL CONTRACTOR POSITION BUT RATHER AN EMPLOYEE POSITION AND CURRENTLY SINCE MR. JONES IS INEXPERIENCED HE IS UNDER DIRECT SUPERVISION OF THE MAYOR AND OTHER COUNCIL MEMBERS.
- The skill required in the particular occupation; ALTHOUGH MR. JONES HAS STUDIED FOR HIS MPA BUT HAS NOT COMPLETED HIS DEGREE, A TOWN MANAGER OCCUPATION IS CONSIDERED TO BE ONE AS AN EMPLOYEE UNDER CONTRACT.
- Whether the employer supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place of work; THE EMPLOYER SUPPLIES ALL THE INSTRUMENTALITIES, TOOLS AND PLACE OF WORK
- The length of time the person is employed, JONES IS HIRED AS THE INTERIM MANAGER FOR A PERIOD OF SIX MONTHS BY CONTRACT AND ORAL STATEMENTS and
- Whether the work is a part of the regular business of the employer. THE WORK IS A REGULAR PART OF THE BUSINESS OF THE TOWN OF WHITE SPRINGS AND INCLUDES SUPERVISION OVER ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE TOWN AS WELL AS HANDLING THE DAY TO DAY REQUIREMENTS OF THE TOWN WHICH THE COUNCIL ASSIGNS TO HIM.
Florida uses right of control so ultimately Tommie Jones would be considered a contract employee
|Wed, Oct 30, 9:22 PM|
- Florida uses a “right of control” test to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor in most areas of the law. Florida courts have adopted a number of criteria to aid in making this determination. The criteria include:
- The extent of the right of control by the employer over the details of the work;
- Whether the person employed is engaged in a distinct occupation or business;
- The kind of occupation involved, and whether the work is done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision;
- The skill required in the particular occupation;
- Whether the employer supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place of work;
- The length of time the person is employed, and
- Whether the work is a part of the regular business of the employer.
- On Thu, Dec 26, 2019 at 5:18 PM White Springs Town Manager <email@example.com> wrote:
- What exactly are your other pending requests? I will get those prepared.
- Griffin, I am not an employee. I am a contracted consultant. You have been informed before.
- There are no such personnel files that I know of for any contractors.
- Kindest Regards,
- Tommie Jones, Interim Town Manager
- 10363 Bridge Street
- White Springs, Florida 32096
- Mobile: 954-662-4249