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Santa Rosa Clerk of Court calls for Commissioner Sam Parker to resign over attorney firing

Annie Blanks
Pensacola News Journal

In an unexpected turn of events at the first County Commission meeting of the new year, Santa Rosa County Clerk of Court Donald Spencer went rogue from the county agenda and called for District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker to resign due to Parker spearheading the firing of longtime county attorney Roy Andrews in December. 

Spencer, who attends every Board of County Commission meeting as a constitutional elected official, requested a surprise add-on to the regular agenda at the Thursday meeting. It's highly unusual for anyone but a commissioner, county administrator or county attorney to request an agenda add-on.

After the board went through a few routine agenda items, Spencer began his item with a video montage of some of Parker's comments at the Dec. 10 meeting. Parker, who is serving his second term representing District 1, made a surprise motion at the end of that meeting to fire Andrews, the county's attorney for the past six years. 

County attorney Roy Andrews, center, listens as Nathan Boyles, owner of Adams Sanitation, right, and his attorney George Mead speak during a meeting of the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners in Milton on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.

Surprise firing:Santa Rosa County fires board attorney Roy Andrews after Waste Pro issue

The basis for Parker's motion was that Andrews didn't adequately represent the county during the Waste Pro issue and during the quasi-judicial hearing in which the commissioners unanimously granted Adams Sanitation a permit to operate. 

At that meeting, Parker said he had "lost some confidence in our current level of representation" and asked the board to fire Andrews immediately. The board agreed with him 3-2, with Commissioners Bob Cole and Dave Piech casting the "nay" votes. Commissioners Colten Wright and James Calkins voted "yay" along with Parker. 

At Thursday's meeting, Spencer took issue with what he said was a rushed vote, accusing Parker of contributing to a "hostile work environment" at the county and using Andrews as a "scapegoat" for Parker's own mistakes as a commissioner. 

“I cannot speak for staff, but I can tell you that if I were staff I would be afraid to advise Commissioner Parker, because if he doesn’t take the advice and makes the wrong decision, or gets confronted by the public for his wrong decision, he’s shown he will look for a scapegoat,” Spencer said.

Spencer added that he didn’t see how any attorney would want to work with Santa Rosa County after what Parker and the other two commissioners who voted to fire Andrews did, before calling outright for Parker’s resignation.

“I am asking that due to the potential additional cost of Mr. Andrews’ current salary, the county paying an interim attorney, as well as the additional cost to pay a consultant to search for a new county attorney which will be an expense to county taxpayers because of an un-thought out action to terminate the county attorney … and due to the possibility of the county getting sued, because Commissioner Parker failed to follow county staff advice in creation of a hostile work environment, (I am asking) that Commissioner Parker tender his resignation as county commissioner to Gov. (Ron) DeSantis effective tomorrow at 8 a.m.," Spencer said.

Santa Rosa County Commissioner Sam Parker stands beside his wife as he recites the oath of office during a swearing-in ceremony Nov. 17 in Milton.

Following Spencer's speech, a stunned Parker said he stood by his decision to call for Andrews' firing and did not indicate any intention to resign. When questioned by the News Journal after the meeting, Parker played coy, refusing to definitively say that he was not going to resign.

The county signed a services agreement with Tallahassee firm Nabors, Giblin and Nickerson to provide interim county attorney services for Santa Rosa County effective Dec. 15 while they look for a permanent, in-house attorney to replace Andrews. 

The interim county attorney will cost $14,833.33 per month, or one-twelfth of Andrews' previous annual salary of $178,000, plus additional fees for non-contracted litigation work. 

Annie Blanks can be reached at ablanks@pnj.com or 850-435-8632.