BOCC notified of pending litigation

Published: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 10:02 AM.

An emergency meeting to discuss a pending lawsuit ended in a heated face-to-face exchange between two commissioners that brought law enforcement to the meeting room.

By the time deputies arrived, Commissioners Carmen McLemore and Joanna Bryan had separated, but not before another episode in the soap opera that has become the Gulf County Jail played out.

The meeting was called to notify commissioners that county attorney Jeremy Novak had received a notice of intent to file suit against the BOCC.

The suit, Novak said, alleges defamation, negligent training and negligent supervision and is being brought by Tallahassee attorney Marie Mattox on behalf of James Smith.

Smith was formerly employed at the jail and according to warden Michael Hammond had left the county’s employ some three years ago.

Novak said he was asking for approval to move ahead with the needed steps: perform an investigation into the allegations, notify the BOCC insurance carrier and hire special counsel.

Novak said the public emergency meeting was necessary under statute – the county failed to take this step when notified of a federal lawsuit brought by a local political action committee – to receive BOCC approval to move ahead and be able to call a closed-door session when appropriate to discuss legal strategy.

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