A former South Walton resident has filed an ethics complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics against Board of County Commission Chair Cecilia Jones.
The complaint, dated Oct. 17, was filed by Arthur Miller, who lived in South Walton from 2001 to 2016 and was treasurer of the South Walton Tourist Development Council and a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustments.
In his complaint, Miller alleged Jones is guilty of conflicts of interest and misuse of power and listed several examples.
"I am confident that I have done nothing unethical and I believe the investigation, once concluded, will support that confidence," Jones said in a statement to The Sun.
The Sun also reached out to Miller for comment about his complaint and the allegations, but he did not respond.
Miller stated in the complaint that Jones attempted to influence the outcome of a whistle-blower lawsuit on behalf of county employee Hal Laird, who filed suit against the county in 2015 for wrongful termination. Miller stated that Jones had a personal interest in the outcome of the case because she is a personal friend of the Laird family, which she did not disclose before giving testimony on the matter, and she advised Laird that he would not have been fired if she had known about the termination. She then voted to settle with Laird for $130,000.
Miller also stated that Jones' son owns a beach vending business, an issue on which she votes to regulate.
During the 2016 BCC election, Miller alleged in the complaint that Jones improperly used her official position as a commissioner to influence the election of the District 5 seat In favor of a candidate she openly supported and assisted with his campaign, including use of county assets. Miller stated she also used confidential information gained in her official capacity to influence the election to assist the candidate.
Miller cited Section 104.31 of the Florida Statutes that prohibits a county officer or employee from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election, nomination, or influencing a vote or results. According to the complaint, Jones told former District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows that she was getting involved to influence the election against Meadows. Jones then began to advise and assist Tony Anderson, driving him to functions, and used a county-owned golf cart to carry his campaign materials. Anderson was successful in his campaign, and Jones and Anderson now vote the same most motions.
Miller stated in the complaint that Jones used her husband Jerry Jones as an intermediary to contact other commissioners and communicate regarding official county business, a violation of State Sunshine Laws. He cited a recent example of this is Jerry Jones' communication with District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander discussing Commissioner Jones' desire to terminate Deputy County Administrator Dede Hinote in an attempt to influence her vote on the termination.
Florida Sunshine Law prohibits county commissioners from communicating outside of a formal Board of County Commission meeting about potential agenda items, including communicating personally or through a third party about any action the board may take or matters that will come before it for action in the foreseeable future, or to exchange information between county commissioners.
Miller stated in his complaint that Commissioner Jones also used her husband to intimidate, bully, and threaten other commissioners, county employees, and electors, making visits to the homes of other commissioners and county employees, and has followed or stalked county employees.
Miller stated that Jerry Jones has made reports to various agencies about county employees in an attempt to harass employees, and has parked his truck at county offices to report to his wife about them.
According to the complaint, Jones directed the termination of an employee and replaced that employee with one of her relatives without notice, job advertising, or following county procedures.
Walton County Deputy County Administrator Dede Hinote filed a complaint against Commissioner Jones in early October.