Ethics Complaints against Walton Co. Commissioner Dismissed

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Two complaints against Walton County Commissioner Larry Jones have been dismissed by the Florida Commission on Ethics.
“As I told you a year ago, I was confident I hadn’t done anything inappropriate,” Jones said. “I’m just glad to see they did an investigation and came to the same conclusion.

The commission’s decision not to pursue sanctions against him apparently has convinced Jones, who did not seek re-election this year, to apply for the Walton County administrator’s job. “I’ve said I would and I probably will,” he said. “I’ve not applied yet. I’ve got until Wednesday to decide.”

Separate complaints were filed against Jones last year by Walton County residents Suzanne Harris and Mike Judkins. Their complaints were released Thursday along with the announcement of the commission’s findings.

Harris and Judkins alleged that in 2009 Jones accepted the job with Waste Management, which was providing garbage service to the south end of Walton County, without notifying county officials. “The mere act of employment with a company that is doing business with the county presents a violation of the (state) code of ethics,” Harris’ complaint, drafted by then-Walton County Attorney Clay Adkinson, stated.

The complaints also alleged that when Jones accepted the job he knew or should have known “it was offered to influence his official actions,” ethics commission documents said. The complaints said Jones misused his public office by advocating on behalf of Waste Management and using his influence as a commissioner to better position Waste Management’s business interests in the county.

In dismissing the allegations, the Commission on Ethics found no probable cause to believe Jones “used inside information gained by reason of his public position to secure a benefit for his employer,” according to a news release issued Wednesday afternoon.
“An allegation that he misused his position to benefit Waste Management was also dismissed with a finding of no probable cause,” the release said.

In dismissing the charges, the ethics commission rejected its investigator’s opinion that there was probable cause to believe Jones had violated state law.

Jones decided to take the job after consulting with then-Walton County Attorney Mike Burke, who found no legal obstacles, the ethics commission found. The commission likewise rejected the investigator’s finding that probable cause existed to believe Jones had voted as a commissioner on items that benefited Waste Management.

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