Reams shows commission money saved

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

Clerk of Court Kirk Reams recently provided the Jefferson County Commission with a memo listing several of his accomplishments since returning to office some five months ago.
The letter, which Reams says he submitted for informational purposes, lists numerous instances where he was either able to save, or gain, the county hundreds of thousands of dollars through his intervention.
In the letter, Reams notes that in February he received a memo from the state informing him that $500,000 of reimbursement funding for the county was being placed in non-compliance and would be eliminated if the proper documentation wasn't submitted. The reason for the noncompliance, Reams said, was that in his absence, the required paperwork for the A-Building had not been submitted by the November 2018 deadline.
“Through communications with the Department of State and further research, I have been able to re-secure the reimbursement funding of $500,000 by providing the necessary paperwork and the grant is now closed out,” he wrote in the memo.
Also upon his return, Reams wrote, he had performed an internal audit of all road projects and related reimbursements and discovered that two reimbursements had not been submitted to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
“The lost funding amounted to $562,000,” Reams wrote. “Initially, I was told by the FDOT personnel that these projects were closed and therefore not eligible for reimbursement.”
After multiple phone calls and a meeting with upper level staff at the FDOT's District 3 office, however, he had ultimately been able “to secure reimbursement funding of the $562,000,” Reams wrote.
“In order for the FDOT to be able to accomplish this, the Turney Anderson Road resurfacing project will be postponed until we can reapply,” Reams wrote. “However, the FDOT has previously paid for the construction document for this project and the county is in a good position to have it funded again in the near future.”
Also, Reams wrote, during the year that he had been out of office, he had noticed a contractor who was preparing to resurface a road with county funds, which road had already been approved on the state list for resurfacing at the state's expense.
“I made a few phone calls and the project was halted,” Reams wrote. “This resulted in a savings of $200,000 that could be put toward other roads.”
Similarly, he wrote, because of personnel turnover at Dewberry Engineering, which handles the county's engineering needs, a grant of $195,000 for the Wacissa River Headwaters Park had become “lost in the shuffle.”
“With the help of (Dewberry) engineer Josh Baxley,” Reams wrote, “I was able to work with state personnel to properly return the grant funds (since we had secured another grant), which saved the county from unnecessarily spending our matching funds.”
Reams noted on Wednesday that the errors he discovered had occurred as a result of his not being able to communicate with staff during his year's suspension because of his legal problems. He added that other than Commissioner J.T. Surles, who had responded to the memo and thanked him for his services to the county, the other commissioners had made no comment.
Reams was suspended from office for nearly a year, stemming from a charge of petit theft. A jury eventually cleared him of the charge, but he had to sue the governor and the Florida Senate president to be reinstated to office.
He is now in a legal battle with the commission, which has refused to pay the $100,000-plus that he acquired in legal fees defending himself.