There was a comment that we the Griffins had a problem with former Town Manager Robert Townsend as well as with other managers (except for Bill Lawrence especially after he divulged what was happening to him). In a conversation overheard in a restaurant, Walter McKenzie was given the task to watch Townsend, by a former councilman, but that did not happen. As a result, it was Mayor Miller who had to handle the situation. This is when Andrew Greene destroyed the sex paraphernalia from the Plant so Law Enforcement could not charge Townsend.
The Town of White Springs placed Town Manager & Water/Sewer Operator Robert Townsend on paid leave on March 28, 2012, after learning that Townsend was under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Prior to the March 28th council meeting, then Mayor Helen B. Miller, PhD, had been informed by Hamilton County Sheriff Harrell Reid and an FDLE investigator that Townsend was under investigation for sexual misconduct/attempted rape of a Hamilton Correctional Institution inmate at the Town’s sewer plant.
The HCI inmate made his allegation against Mr. Townsend to the White Springs Town employee, Andrew Greene, and asked that Greene transport him to HCI, so he could make his complaint to the HCI administrators. HCI called in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, who called in FDLE, who assigned an investigator. FDLE, the Sheriff’s Office and HCI all found the inmate’s allegations to be credible.
Sheriff Reid contacted WSPD Chief Ken Brookins and asked that he escort White Springs Mayor Miller to his office. Sheriff Reid informed Mayor Miller of the specific allegations against Townsend and asked that she not disclose any specific elements of the case since it was still under investigation. He also asked that the White Springs Town Council remove Townsend from his position. Brookins conducted a search of the sewer plant, the primary site of Townsend’s sexual misconduct, with Greene present, but found no evidence.
On April 26, 2012, the Town Council voted to accept Townsend’s letter of resignation. Townsend did not want to return his keys to town properties. After being forced out, he made numerous attempts to gain access to the sewer plant through various town employees. Then Finance Director Pam Tomlinson (Town Clerk/Finance Director) was strongly opposed to Townsend’s removal. She stated she did not want Townsend removed, in spite of his misconduct. Ms. Tomlinson was aware of Townsend’s sexual misconduct and had covered for him for many years. In return, she kept her job and received pay increases in spite of her inability to perform many requirements of her position.
In addition to the initial FDLE investigation, HCI conducted a more thorough investigation of Townsend’s sexual misconduct with current and former HCI inmates who had been assigned to the White Springs inmate crew supervised by Townsend. The investigation identified multiple victims – some still incarcerated at HCI and some already released – who confirmed that they too had been sexually assaulted/raped by Townsend.
On December 19, 2012, the Town Council voted to offer the position of Town Manager to Robert Farley, who had previously served as the Live Oak City Manager. During the January 14, 2014 Town Council meeting, Mr. Farley formally announced His resignation/retirement as Town Manager. Prior to his last day on town payroll, Farley informed Miller that Greene, who had been re-assigned as the town’s water/sewer operator, had informed him that he (Greene) had found Townsend’s homosexual sex paraphernalia at the office of the town’s sewer plant. Greene told Farley that he noticed a ceiling tile was out of place in the sewer plant office and when he moved closer to re-align the tile, he observed objects which upon removal turned out to be sex paraphernalia. Rather than notify WSPD, the Sheriff’s Office or FDLE that he had found evidence of Townsend’s criminal sexual misconduct, Greene, with full knowledge that law enforcement was seeking evidence of the crime removed the evidence and destroyed it.
Assignment of the town’s new Fire Rescue emergency response vehicle and the use of a town credit card, recently approved by Mayor Bullard, were allegedly Greene’s long overdue reward for destroying the evidence of Townsend’s sexual misconduct/rape against the HCI inmate/victim.
Townsend was never charged or arrested for his sexual misconduct/rape of any HCI inmates/victims.
Prior to Robert Townsend being hired as the Town Manager, Griffin and another citizen of White Springs (Robert Dezendorf) provided the Council Members and the Town with Townsend’s background information. Two applications were completed within a week of each other whereby Robert C. Townsend applied for positions with the Department of Corrections and to the Town of White Springs respectively. In the first, Townsend admitted an alleged child molestation case when he was a deputy sheriff. In the second application to the Town of White Springs there was no mention of the case.
Thomas J. Kennon III, Esquire had defended Robert Townsend in an alleged child molestation case when Townsend was a deputy sheriff. With Judge Kennon as one of the Senior Circuit Court Judges, Robert Townsend’s case was dropped in spite of his being found guilty for child molestation in Clay County. This case had been reported by the Lake City Reporter including the fact that Townsend was required by the courts to enter rehabilitation for a period of two years.
Townsend who then reportedly owed the Kennon Law Firm some $8000 for his defense was forced to file bankruptcy. In spite of his previous record which did not exist to the Town of White Springs nor did the Council wish to hear of his past record, Townsend was appointed as the City Manager. Thomas J. Kennon III, Esquire, then became the attorney for the Town of White Springs.
Townsend was involved in terminating the Fire Chief Mr. Peeler and taking funds of some $10,000 which the fire department earned through donations and events when money was required.
These are only some of the reasons. There was always concern about his working with the HOPE program. Townsend however, was a good manager and managed his job efficiently as well as being the Public Works position at the Water and Wastewater plant. He would probably still have his job as Town Manager had it not been for his sexual proclivities.
Karin for the blog