Ethics & Intimidation At The Center of Valentino's Allegations Against Sheriff Morgan
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan is the main target of a complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics, by former County Commissioner Gene Valentino.
Valentino declined WUWF’s request to be interviewed, saying he prefers to wait until the Commission on Ethics takes up the case, which he believes will be next month or in February.
Filed in October, the complaint names Morgan in connection with three allegations.
The first is that he left Valentino what the former commissioner calls a “threatening” message on his office voicemail, regarding a private conversation between Valentino and then-Administrator Randy Oliver.
“I’m not sure where Mr. Oliver’s coming from, but I reiterate to you Gene, that I ain’t happy,” said Morgan on the voicemail. “If this goes forward, bring your flak jacket and helmet, because there will be fireworks and blood in the water.”
Morgan says such accusations come with the turf as an elected official. He added that both state and county attorneys reviewed the voice message, and found no cause to take action. He calls Valentino’s complaint "baseless."
“I’ve yet to have one filed by just a citizen who thinks, or verifies, that there’s something wrong, and none of them have been founded,” said Morgan. “They’re used primarily, and sadly, as harassment for elected officials. This one is in that very same category.”
Allegation number two claims that a campaign video for Doug Underhill, who beat Valentino in the Republican primary, was produced by ECSO employee David Craig, using ECSO resources.
Allegation number three claims that Morgan accused the County Commission of criminal negligence, involving the April explosion at the County Jail.
A fourth allegation involves Chief Deputy Eric Haines. Valentino alleges that when former County Administrator George Touart died in January, Haines refused to lower the U.S. and state flags at county facilities to half-staff for a week. Morgan says that would have violated flag protocol.
“The President of the United States can order our colors to be at half-staff throughout the nation,” Morgan said. “At the state level, the governor can order the U.S. flag and state flag lowered. They’re the only ones who can do it for a period of mourning.”
As commissioner, Gene Valentino and Sheriff David Morgan had a largely adversarial relationship. But Valentino maintains that his ethics complaint is separate from any past disputes.
If the Florida Committee on Ethics decides to hear the complaint, an investigator will determine if there’s probable cause for an evidentiary hearing. If it finds that an ethics violation has occurred, sanctions can range from a public reprimand, to a fine to removal from office.