Two men at the center of separate government controversies are among the semi-finalists for the position of Escambia County Administrator. Interim Administrator George Touart and ex-Pensacola City Administrator Bill Reynolds are among the 16 candidates submitted by the headhunting firm Waters Consulting Group in Dallas, Texas.
Touart, 65, was named Interim Administrator last November after Randy Oliver was fired. He served in that job from 2002 until 2007, when he stepped down amid reports in the Pensacola News Journal about his personal business dealings.
The articles led to ethics charges against Touart, with a grand jury later clearing him of any wrongdoing. Touart’s interim agreement – not a written contract – has been renewed several times. When he first returned, he said he would not be interested in being hired permanently. But last July Touart said he had changed his mind.
County Attorney Allison Rogers says Touart has a right to apply. In one vote taken at that time, three commissioners indicated they would not approve Touart’s hiring on a permanent basis. Rogers says that’s perfectly legal, as long as their reasons are “non-discriminatory” – anything not involving areas such as age, ethnicity, health and gender.
Bill Reynolds served as Pensacola’s City Administrator until last summer. He was fired by Mayor Ashton Hayward after being charged with withholding copies of new city logos from former City Councilwoman Diane Mack.
Reynolds fought the misdemeanor charge of records mishandling and was cleared by Escambia County Judge Thomas Johnson in September. The case led Mayor Hayward to require city workers to undergo Sunshine Law training in August, conducted by the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation.
The Escambia County Commission will begin paring down the list from 16 to five on Thursday, with interviews scheduled to begin next month. At this point, the goal is to have a permanent administrator on the job by February.