City Commission Gives Attorney "Unsatisfactory" Marks in Annual Review
Board Discussed City Attorney Chuck Galloway at Workshop Session
Last updated 4/1/2023 at 3:51pm
It was a very unhappy group of Lake Wales City Commissioners who spent more than 45 minutes discussing their generally dismal evaluations of City Attorney Chuck Galloway Wednesday.
At their regular workshop meeting the commission discussed the notes they had turned in as part of an annual performance review.
Galloway received a total of eight "unsatisfactory" scores from four commissioners who completed their evaluations. Commissioner Daniel Williams had not yet submitted his, saying he wanted to meet with Galloway before doing so, but added his own critical comments during the discussion.
Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson, himself a former city attorney and one-time counsel to Florida Governor Bob Graham, was vocal in his criticism. "I value competency and doing it right," Gibson said.
Some of the unhappiness stemmed from a botched city notice of a zoning change to accommodate a proposed ADS plastic pipe plant.
Galloway defended himself, saying "ADS is the perfect storm that brought all this to the surface. It started with faulty notice that didn't comply with city ordinance." The issue caused a major headache for city officials during a still-pending approval process for the controversial ADS manufacturing plant.
Gibson made it clear that the discovery that the city has been posting "defective legal notices for 20 years," and the fact Galloway had remained unaware during that time, was one of his concerns.
"I didn't want to get into his business," Gibson said, "and I've been quiet all this time...it made us look like bumpkins."
Galloway was recently fired as attorney for the Village of Highland Park due to a perceived conflict of interest. Highland Park is opposing the proposed plant, and their new legal counsel pointed out the error in the Lake Wales' public notice..
The wide-ranging discussion included criticism from Commissioner Daniel Krueger on what he called "the toxic waste dump we almost bought," a reference to a small parcel that once housed a gas station, suspected of having ground-water contamination.
The property was proposed by staff, including Galloway, and approved by the commission, sitting as the CRA board, for purchase as a site for a "welcome" sign for $60,000 despite having no other viable use and an appraised value of $408. LakeWalesNews.net exposed the dubious aspects of the deal and the offer was withdrawn.
In his comments, Williams referred to Commissioner Terrye Howell's repeated demands for information regarding video footage of a police shooting that occurred in August, as well as the expected reinstatement of suspended Commissioner Kris Fitzgerald.
Body camera footage of the shooting has inexplicably still not been released to the public. Galloway's repeated response has pinned the fault on the state attorney's office and sheriff's department, but no action has been taken on the matter.
Likewise, Galloway's response to the Fitzgerald situation has been to say that it's between her and Governor Ron DeSantis. Multiple attempts by LakeWalesNews.net and The Ledger have failed to elicit a reply from the office of the governor, his counsel, or his press office.
Florida statutes call for Fitzgerald to be reinstated by the governor after her acquittal last November. Williams wanted to know why Galloway didn't pursue the issue with a letter of his own. "Why wasn't an answer given to Commissioner Howell?"
"We have to say 'do that' or he doesn't do it," Williams added.
Gibson agreed, saying that "we haven't done all we can do, we haven't cleared that up" and gotten an answer as to the governor's intentions.
Gibson complained that Galloway's lack of action made the commission look bad.
Of the four who reviewed Galloway's performance, Krueger gave him the lowest score of 'unsatisfactory' in all five categories. Howell gave him two such scores, and Gibson one. Galloway also received six "needs improvement" ratings, three from Mayor Jack Hilligoss, who was absent from the workshop.
It is expected that Williams will complete his review worksheet prior to Wednesday meeting of the commission. The meeting has been pushed back one day in order to accommodate the city commissioner election on Tuesday, and the certification of the results.