Tuesday morning, the South Walton community and beyond reeled in shock from news of high-profile community leader Lane Rees's arrest Monday evening on child pornography charges.
Rees and his wife, Brenda, have been actively involved in the community since moving here in the late 1990s.
Lane worked as a human resources advisor for Atlantic Richfield for 20 years in Houston, Dallas, and Anchorage before moving here and founding Human Resource Solutions Inc., a management consulting company providing human resource expertise for progressive organizations. He consulted for various Walton County organizations for more than 10 years.
In 2000, Rees was elected as a Walton County Commissioner, a position he held for four years, serving as chair in 2001/2002. He was defeated by Scott Brannon.
In 2002, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Rees to the Florida Medical Examiner Commission. In 2008, he was elected without opposition to the county’s Republican state committee and still serves in that capacity. At that time, Brenda was elected as the county’s state committeewoman.
Considering Rees's position as State Committeeman in the Republican Party, Walton County Republican Party Chairman Jim Anders said on Wednesday that until Rees is convicted of a felony or resigns his position, he has no recourse to remove him.
As of Wednesday morning, Anders had not talked to Lane, but said he had talked to Brenda, who was in Dallas at the time of the arrest and now on her way home.
"Brenda told me she did not know anything about an investigation prior to the arrest and is in shock," said Anders.
Anders said the State Republican Party in Tallahassee is looking at the charges, but he believes Lane should have an opportunity to defend himself. Anders said he had left a voice message on Lane's phone, but the call was not returned.
"I have gotten calls and some people want to call a special meeting, but I am waiting to hear from Lane," said Anders. "We will know better how to proceed after we hear from him."
Lane, who was named the “Community Walton Man of the Year” in 2011, also serves in high-ranking positions and on boards in the United Methodist Church, and on occasion, he preaches.
Current Walton County Commissioner Cindy Meadows told The Sun she was shocked by the news, but added that all are innocent until proven guilty.
"Unfortunately, there are people in Walton County who have vendettas," she said.
Rees was booked in the Walton County Jail on Monday and faces more than 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines if convicted of the possession charge as well as the charge of transmission of child pornography.
On Feb. 25, cyber-crime investigators with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office began the investigation that led to the arrest after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), relating to the possibility of an individual trading in child pornography media files.
Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson told The Northwest Florida Daily News Monday that “multiple images” were found at the home during a search Monday.
“Corroborating evidence” supporting the charges “was found at the home,” Adkinson said. “He has for sure got some pretty significant images.”