The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has found no violation in its investigation of a complaint filed against John Grantland, candidate for the District 3 seat on the Board of County Commissioners.
The complaint was filed alleging violations under the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act “restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state, county or municipal executive agencies in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency,” detailed Nadia Pluta with the Hatch Act Unit of the Office of Special Counsel, in a letter.
An officer or employee of a state or local agency is subject to the Hatch Act if, as a normal and foreseeable incident of his principal position or job, he performs duties in connection with an activity financed in whole or in part by federal funds, Pluta continued.
The complaint filed with the Office of Special Counsel alleges that Grantland, as director of Port St. Joe Public Works, was in violation of the Hatch Act due to two federal grants the city received.
One grant was for improvements to wastewater treatment facilities; the second a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the new center being built at North Florida Child Development across U.S. Highway 98 from the Gulf/Franklin Center.
The CDBG was to build a road to the center and fund other infrastructure.
However, city auditor and clerk Charlotte Pierce notified the Office of Special Counsel that the Port St. Joe Water and Wastewater Department is overseeing the wastewater upgrades and that Public Works was not involved in the road project for North Florida Child Development.
“We understand that (Port St. Joe Public Works) does not receive federal funds and neither (Grantland) nor (his staff has) any duties connected to the above referenced federally financed projects. Further, (Port St. Joe Public Works) performs duties independent of federal financing,” Pluta wrote.
“Based on the preceding, we do not believe that (Grantland is) performing duties in connection with federally financed activities” and therefore no violation of the Hatch Act was found, Pluta concluded.
When Grantland first sought the District 3 seat in 2008 an opinion was sought from the Office of Special Counsel whether his continued employment with the city constituted a conflict under the Hatch Act.
At that time, the city was using a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for street and sidewalk improvements along Williams Avenue.
As noted by the Office of Special Counsel at the time, Pierce, then solely the city’s grant writer, and Gail Alsobrook of the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency were responsible for pursuing the grant and the hiring and supervising of the project was overseen by the city manager, Charlie Weston, Alsobrook and city engineer Bill Kennedy.
Weston also told Special Counsel attorney Mariana Liverpool that no employees Grantland supervises in Public Works were involved in the project.
At that time, Liverpool wrote that “we do not believe (Grantland is) performing duties in connection with federally financed activities, and as such, are not covered currently by the provisions of the Hatch Act.”
In both the 2008 and 2012 letters, the latter received last week, the attorneys note that should Grantland’s employment change, for example should he become involved in duties in connection to a federally-funded project, Grantland should contact the Office of Special Counsel for additional guidance.