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Palm Coast Thursday, May 2, 2019 5 months ago

City staff members disciplined after accepting whiskey, chocolate from builder

The alcohol was all returned unopened to the builder.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

One city of Palm Coast employee has resigned, and five more have been disciplined with unpaid suspensions, after an investigation found that they had accepted gifts from a builder before last Christmas. Another employee resigned before the investigation began.

A whistleblower used the city's internet-based reporting link to alert supervisors of the incident, which occurred Dec. 20. City policy bars employees from accepting gifts from customers.

According to a city investigation report, Blue Crown Construction co-owner Sergey Nevod arrived at the Building Department in the morning with a bottle of Jack Daniels, eight gift boxes of chocolates and eight gift boxes of Crown Royal whiskey.

Nevod, who had business before the city, handed the gifts to Planning Technician Teresa Williams and specified which employee was to receive each gift. The employees worked in planning, permitting and utilities. He also spoke with an employee, Plans Examiner Daniel Rewis, about a permit hold. Rewis later received a bottle of Crown Royal, the city's investigation found.

Williams hid some of the gifts in a cabinet behind her desk, and others beneath her desk, in the approximately 10 minutes it took to transfer all of the items over the counter, according to a city investigation report.

The entire transfer was visible to another customer — a business owner — who was seated nearby, and who "turned in his seat watching the entire alcohol transaction unfold," according to the city investigation report. "The optics of these transactions, coupled with the interaction with the plans examiner, cannot be understated," the report continues.

The incident was also captured on the city's security cameras.

One employee — Rickie Lee — refused the gifts outright. He'd been out of the area when Nevod arrived, and, when fellow employee Lydia Musgrove later brought him the Jack Daniels that Nevod had designated for him, Lee told Musgrove to return it to Nevod. He also reported the gift to a supervisor.

Another employee, Alisha Mobley, accepted a bottle of Crown Royal that Musgrove had handed to her wrapped in a coat. But, after the Christmas break, she brought back the unopened bottle and told a supervisor. She said that although Musgrove had told her it was a gift from a contractor, she hadn't known exactly what it was when she took it.

Williams was given a five-day suspension, then resigned. Rewis had resigned before the investigation started. Musgrove was given a five-day suspension. Mobley, Jackie Gonzalez, Lucia Nabico and Marga DeFreitas were each given a two-day suspension. 

All of the alcohol was returned to Nevod unopened. 


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