Is anyone surprised that wacky wealthy St. Augustine Beach Mayor RICHARD BURTT O'BRIEN sees nothing wrong? O'BRIEN sees government as a cash register for his businesses. O'BRIEN has no moral compass and no ethics, and has gaveled citizens for criticizing LARSON and other City staff, acting like a honky tonk medley of Cato the Censor, a corrupt Southern Sheriff and Republican Lord of All He Surveys.
Posted June 13, 2017 05:42 am
By JARED KEEVER firstname.lastname@example.org
Print headline: Nothing wrong with building official's work in 2 cities, some way
‘Those people don’t know what they are talking about’: St. Augustine Beach building official says nothing wrong with extra work at two cities
In a city with no shortage of crises and contentious proceedings, the newest flap in St. Augustine Beach appears to have come over the weekend with the revelation that the city’s building official is also serving in that capacity for two other Florida cities.
At least one city commissioner says news that Gary Larson is working as a contractor for the Nassau County towns of Hilliard and Callahan concerns her, but many others are saying the news is no news at all, and, even if it were, is not at all irregular or illegal.
It was local activist Ed Slavin who appears to have dug the information up late Friday and sent the first of more than a dozen emails to media outlets and officials in all three cities that, among other things, asked for information concerning Larson’s arrangements and raised allegations of “unconstitutional dual office-holding.”
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In a phone interview on Monday, Slavin said he thinks there are still unanswered questions.
“Who else does he work for?” he asked.
But he also said Larson has been at the center of various controversies including the building of the Embassy Suites hotel at the north end of A1A Beach Boulevard that many said violated the city’s height ordinance as well as the recent revelation that a home being built by St. Augustine Beach Mayor Rich O’Brien violates a lot setback — all topics of which Slavin has been a vocal critic.
“At best he is inattentive to detail,” Slavin said, adding that he thinks Larson should resign or at least be the subject of a special meeting of the City Commission where he explains the arrangements.
“It’s an embarrassment to the people of St. Augustine Beach,” Slavin said. “How can he be a full-time guy when he’s doing the same job for two other cities?”
Larson is paid an annual salary of $93,694 by the city of St. Augustine Beach.
His work for Hilliard, which is done on a “contractual basis,” according to Town Clerk Lisa Purvis, nets him $150 a week, or around $7,800 a year.
Michael Williams, town manager for Callahan, said Larson’s work for his town is also contractual.
Larson gets paid a $250-per-month retainer and has a contract that allows him to make additional money depending on the workload, Williams said.
Purvis said that Larson working on an as-needed basis serves an important function for her town, which couldn’t afford to pay him, or anyone else, to work full-time.
“Nor do we have the work for him,” she said.
It’s an arrangement, that, according to St. Augustine Beach City Attorney Jim Wilson, is not all that uncommon.
Many small towns and cities across Florida contract with the building officials of larger towns to do the work, not only because they can’t afford a full-time official, but because there is a shortage of officials who have gone through the time and trouble to acquire the proper licensing.
Wilson said he looked into the matter for the Beach and spoke with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation — the agency responsible for licensing building officials — and was told there were no problems with Larson’s additional contracts and that they are quite common.
While he said he could understand how the situation could be interpreted as “dual office holding,” it was simply not the case with building officials working for small towns as a contractor.
“The reality is, the statutes allow it,” Wilson said.
And St. Augustine Beach City Manager Max Royle said the information in Slavin’s recent emails is nothing new.
Royle said he’s known about Larson’s arrangements since the time he was hired nearly 17 years ago.
“I made certain that he was aware his first obligation was to this city and not the other two,” he said.
And as far as Royle said he can tell, that has always been the case.
“I’ve seen him here at 5 in the morning,” he said.
Asked if he had concerns that Larson dividing his attention between three municipalities might have a detrimental effect on the quality of his work, Royle said he hasn’t seen any indication that that would be the case.
“I have never seen a complaint he wasn’t able to do his job because of workload problems,” Royle said.
But Commissioner Maggie Kostka, who just took office this year, suggested that is something that should be looked at.
She said Larson’s extra work was news to her, and troubling.
“It’s very concerning that we have someone that’s so critical to the operation of our city that has at least two other jobs,” she said.
Even if the legal side of the question had been answered, Kostka said, her primary concern was that working two other jobs — whether they be part-time or not — could be a distraction, and one that may not be welcome in such an important role.
“There seems to be a slew of errors recently that fall on the shoulders of the building department,” she said, but declined to elaborate.
Kostka said she is working on gathering more information and that she thinks the matter “needs to be addressed as soon as possible.”
Two other commissioners, though, didn’t seem quite as concerned.
Margaret England said she had been aware of Larson’s contracts for some time, but couldn’t remember whether she learned about it when she was serving on the Planning & Zoning Board or after she became a commissioner.
It was her understanding at the time, she said, that the arrangements had been vetted and there were no problems.
Asked if she thought such extra work could be a distraction, she said she couldn’t see how it was unlike her serving as a commissioner while working a full-time job herself. If Larson weren’t doing his job well, that would be a “personnel issue” to be dealt with by the city manager’s office, she said.
O’Brien took much the same tone.
“It seems like a long time ago it was brought to our attention,” he said, adding that he hadn’t seen any problems with Larson’s work as a result.
“I’ve never sensed that he had other irons in fire, so to speak,” he said.
And although he does, Larson said those irons don’t cause him any problems doing his full-time job.
“Absolutely not,” he said Monday adding that he works the additional jobs, typically, only on Wednesday evenings and sometimes on Saturdays when it is needed.
He said he knew Wilson had looked into the matter after Slavin’s emails prompted additional emails from at least one other critic of his office’s work, and suggested that he felt at least some vindication knowing that Wilson found there was no wrongdoing.
“Those people don’t know what they are talking about,” he said.
Commissioners Gary Snodgrass and Undine George did not return calls seeking comment for this story.
Gary Larson is a full time Building Official who hours are 8 am to 5 pm Monday thru Friday. Then he drives either 75 miles to the Town of Callahan or 85 miles to the Town of Hilliard for his other jobs ? At 74 years old ? He works nights in the dark or weekends when the other Towns are closed ? OH YA THIS IS NORMAL ! Only in Dysfunction Junction 32080 aka St Augustine Beach Floor a DUH !
Are we the Residents of St Augustine Beach really expected to believe that he only did work on nights and weekends on his other jobs ? So the Contractors and other people in those Towns who need the Building Official to inspect and sign off an inspection met with Larson at night or weekends only ? He inspected in the dark with a flash light at 74 years old ?
Mr. Larson also receives a Teachers Pension and a Social Security Check. How much is the .Student Loan Debt ? A Trillion Dollars ? College Grads are living in their parents houses and unable to find work in their Degrees. But Old SAB Building Official Larson needs the money, So three jobs, two pensions and ALL IS GOOD in the 1.87 Square miles of Dysfunction Junction aka St Augustine Beach Floor a DUH !
Why would anyone not want to work for city, state, or federal government? Forget the private sector, they keep tabs on you.
Mybe the reason Mr. Royle sees Mr. Larson at 5 AM is because Mr. Larson has just gotten back from Hilliard after a night of inspectin'?
It would be interesting to FOIA the records of Mr. Larsons city vehicle, if it has a tracking device installed. Also, if Mr. Larson has a city take-home vehicle it is to be used for only to and from work at SAB. If the vehicle is used for other things, it is considered to be a monetary benefit to him and is required to be reportable as compensation to the IRS.