Watchdog Activist & Waterfront Development Woes Follow Kisela to City of Destin

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By TOM McLAUGHLIN
315-4435 | @TomMnwfdn
tmclaughlin@nwfdailynews.com

DESTIN — The State Attorney’s Office has expanded its investigation of city credit card use to include everybody that has one.

The decision to open its investigation to include all 34 city employees was made Wednesday, after city officials requested an investigation into City Manager Greg Kisela using the card for a personal purchase.

“We intend it to include all members of city government who use that type of card,” said Bill Bishop, the chief assistant state attorney for Okaloosa County.

The call for an investigation of Kisela was the second in a week to come to the State Attorney’s Office from Destin.

On Oct. 20, Kisela handed a letter to City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell, notifying her that he had turned her city card purchase records over to authorities.

“I am advised of irregularities regarding the use of the City of Destin credit card issued to you for your use incident to City business,” the letter said. “By all appearances the use reported is personal in nature.”

Ramswell protested after receiving the letter that Kisela was singling her out for persecution.

She said Kisela was angered by objections she’d raised to recommended changes in the city’s comprehensive plan.

A public records request made following Kisela’s decision to report Ramswell revealed that the city manager had purchased baseball tickets with the city credit card.

He reimbursed the city and, in an email sent to council members following the revelation, called the purchase inadvertent.

Kisela, who is out of town this week, declined via email to answer questions about the city card controversy.

“Since this matter is under review by the State Attorney’s Office, I cannot comment,” Kisela said.

Destin Mayor Mel Ponder, one of the 34 in city government possessing a city credit card, welcomed the State Attorney’s Office investigation.

“If this is what they feel they need to do, I’m fine with that,” Ponder said. “At the end of the day, we need to do the right thing.”

Ponder, Ramswell and Councilwoman Sandy Trammell are the only elected officials with city credit cards.

City spokesman Doug Rainer said other council members chose not to have cards.

Records indicate that in September, Ponder also wrote a check to the city as reimbursement for charges to his Destin-issued credit card.

While he maintains that he did nothing wrong, Ponder did deviate once from the city policy dictating how meals are paid for on business trips.

Destin’s travel policy requires city elected officials to pay for meals out of pocket and receive reimbursement at a per diem rate upon their return. Ponder put three meals on the city card during a trip to Orlando.

Bishop said the State Attorney’s Office investigation will be “very thorough” and could last weeks “and maybe months.”



.Destin residents comments

Diana Lynn

We should all expect to see this city cleaned up and there is more to uncover then charge card use! Let’s see how good the Dept is at uncovering all the unjust.

Breck Ardery ·

Kisela is probably interviewing for his next job. I really have to question the intelligence of our city leaders who rehired this payaso….

Johnny Wykoff

Can the State Attorney look into a few other government entities while he’s here?

Sandra Williams ·

Hopefully the State Attorney General’s office will do a through deep clean of the officials in the City of Destin.

Patti Terjak ·

Kisela really just needs to step down, quietly, with dignity.

Rodney Janes ·

Too late for “with dignity”!
Like · Reply · Oct 29, 2015 11:20pm

Eagle Ray Charters ·

How corrupt is Okaloosa County? Sheriff, TDC Director, Crestview police, now Destin gets in on the corruption. Unreal

Charles Walsingham ·

Santa Rosa County has a CC that was caught using the county credit card to buy his daughters prom dress, gas for the whole family and what was done about it. Nothing thanks to our useless states attorney. Expect to hear a lot of excuses!

Brian Ricks ·

The paper has still not given any clue as to what the rules are for using the credit card, with the exception of business meals.

Rli Mike

That didn’t take long ….

Tyson Fricker

If you’re on city business, why should you have to front the money for food and then request reimbursement? That’s
Add a comment…
 

Glen Jones ·

Works at Retired

“…………I inadvertently used my city issued credit card to attend a spring training baseball game…..”

That’s the kind of city manager only Okaloosa county would attract! He can’t tell his personal credit cards from the city’s????

Doesn’t say much for the Councilwoman either!

Reminds me of a Seinfeld episode. When George Costanza is caught having sex on his desk at work, he asks in perfectly faked earnestness, “Was that wrong”?

Marcelle Bell ·

Glen mark my words. There will be plenty of crow to eat before its all said and done.
Like · Reply · 1 · Oct 26, 2015 7:47pm

Retha Alexander Shreve ·

He “inadvertently” used it for a baseball game?? Her story holds more merit then his does. I’m sorry but I believe that he is targeting Ramswell because she voted against something he wanted passed. At least she has the scruples to stand up for what she believes in. She reimbursed the city just like he did so what’s the difference. I think he should resign as he is a city EMPLOYEE that is paid by the citizens of Destin.

Retha Alexander Shreve ·

While he was down there to attend his “uncles funeral” no less. Really?? You’re going to go to a baseball game before or after attending a family funeral? Some loved one…

Scott Monson ·

what’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

Guess that didn’t go according to Kesela’s plan – karma’s a bitch when you don’t play by the rules Greg!

Cheryl Ann

yep yep..
Like · Reply · 1 · Oct 26, 2015 7:21pm

Cheryl Ann

lier lier pants on fire..GROW UP BOTH OF YOU.Fire them both

Marcelle Bell ·

Cheryl mark my words there will be plenty of crow to eat before its all said and done. And just for the record, Kisela is a paid employee who can be fired, Ramswell is not paid.
Like · Reply · 2 · Oct 26, 2015 7:49pm

Charley Aultman

Marcelle Bell …Harry Truman said if you have to eat crow it’s best to eat it while it’s warm…LOL
Like · Reply · Oct 27, 2015 4:12am

Marcelle Bell ·

Charley Aultman and it seems Kisela’s Last Supper is near.
Like · Reply · Oct 27, 2015 6:54am

Trip McCabe ·

The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.

Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, November 4, 1775

Diana Lynn

It is good to see the press giving fair representation in exposing Destin City Manager Greg Kiesla’s personal use of a his City charge card. Further discovery on the use of all the council members cards is needed now! There is a community waiting to get the real story and truth published. Maybe even get the DIstrict Attorney’s office, State and Federal Investigation of Destin City Hall.

Johnny Wykoff

Past and present members need to be looked at with all the other government entities that use taxpayer money in Destin.
Like · Reply · 2 · Oct 27, 2015 9:33am

Marcelle Bell ·

Books are filled with chapters, and I am certain this is just the beginning.

Michael E Doughty ·

Common sence should alert you not right. Those guilty should resign and admit. Really think using government credit card for personal use okay as long as pay back? Nonono

Patti Terjak ·

I believe if there is further research, there will be more council members with the same agenda.. The difference here is they are non paid voted in by the citizens of Destin, where as our city manager is paid position chosen by that same council! He honestly should be the first to go! I believe they were at a loss when Maryann put in her 2weeks notice

Tonya Quinn ·

God don’t like ugly, when you stay in a glass house don’t throw stones. He should be fired immediately. He is the only one we pay. Hippocrite.

Brian Ricks ·

Is it against policy to use the card for personal expenses? If so, these two should be reprimanded or fired. If not, move the hell on, quit wasting tax payer money and tell these two to grow up. If the policy is not clear, then clear it up. It ain’t that hard folks.

Marcelle Bell ·

For the sake of conversation, let’s just say there is no policy, then this is a no brainer. But how do you waste tax payer money if its paid back? Someone made a comment to interest being owed for the loan. If a credit card is paid in full at the end of each billing cycle than there is no interest charged. Who needs to grow up? Your comment is confusing.
Like · Reply · 2 · Oct 27, 2015 7:05am

Brian Ricks ·

Marcelle Bell I am sure the State’s attorneys office has better things to do than get involved with these two’s pissing contest, if there is no policy. The tax payers pay the States attorneys, that is the waste of money, not the pittance of an interest charge. The fact that either would use their city issued cards for personal use raises even more questions about their ethics. These are supposed intelligent people either elected or appointed to do the city’s business and using the cards for personal use is just plain stupid, whether you pay them off or not.
Like · Reply · Oct 27, 2015 7:28am

Marcelle Bell ·

Brian Ricks But for the record, it appears here in the article, the Mayor is the one who turned Mr. Kisela in for his credit card use as well. So, I’m not sure where there is a pissing contest going on. Its hard to be an armchair quarterback from over 2,000 miles away. Come sit in our Council Meetings, attend our Envision meetings, and be a part of the process before you start telling everyone else how to play by the rules. Just sayin.

Ohhhhh and Greg Kisela is a quite handsomely paid City Employee, while Councilmembers and the Mayor are elected volunteers.

Like · Reply · Oct 27, 2015 8:58am

Johnny Wykoff

I could always tell a company credit card from my personal ones. Maybe some eye exams are needed.

Courtney Pershing Davies

THIS is who is supposed to be *managing* Destin?! Wow, what a disgrace he is. Guess this falls under “Do as I say, Not as I do.” And all the while Mrs. Ramswell is fighting tooth and nail to keep our lovely Destin’s integrity intact. Seems that the wrong person is under the microscope. Councilwoman Ramswell, please do not give up and please continue fighting to preserve Destin as the place we all know and love. I know many people that support you, even if they are not vocal (yet). We truly appreciate all you’re doing and support you!!! You make a difference! Now if we can just make the city council a fair and ethical body of people who TRULY listen to the concerns and outcries of their people!


absurd.

By MATT ALGARIN
315-4462 | @DestinLogMatt
malgarin@thedestinlog.com

Posted Nov. 17, 2015 at 8:17 AM
Updated Nov 17, 2015 at 4:32 PM

Prebble Ramswell

Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell

Destin City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell was served with a cease and desist letter by local attorney Dana Matthews Nov. 4.

The letter, written by Matthews on behalf of his client Peter Bos, states that Ramswell has published defamatory material, “more specifically false allegations about my client and his business practices that have slandered his reputation and constitutes per se defamation.”

More specifically, the letter refers to an email Ramswell sent to City Manager Greg Kisela and Destin Land Use Attorney Scott Shirley, which in part was published in The Destin Log, as well as the Northwest Florida Daily News and on Ramswell’s personal website.

“You have made comments that propose to be statements of fact that are patently false,” the letter reads, citing very specific examples. “As a result of the statements, my client is prepared to seek all legal remedies available including filing a complaint seeking both compensatory and punitive damages as provided under Florida law.”

Matthews writes that he and Bos will abstain from filing the complaint against Ramswell if she meets two criteria: Within 10 days of the date on the letter, she sends a letter to The Destin Log and Northwest Florida Daily News retracting her “false statements,” as well as publishing a retraction on her personal website.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no letter of retraction was received by The Log.

The second criteria calls for Ramswell to cease and desist any further defamatory communications regarding Bos that in any way disparages him or his businesses by stating or publishing false statements.

For her part, Ramswell read from a prepared statement during Monday night’s Destin City Council meeting, where she had provided her colleagues a copy of Matthew’s letter.

With her voice cracking as she read, Ramswell called the letter a threat.

“Let me state for the record, I will not be bullied or threatened into not performing my public duties,” she said. “I won’t be bullied or threatened into shirking my job as a councilmember. Not by Mr. Bos, Mr. Matthews or anyone.”

Ramswell made a point to note she has appropriate documentation to support each of the points made in Matthew’s letter.

Given the threat of litigation, Ramswell inquired about the city providing her legal representation, which is available to any member of the city council through the city’s insurance provider.

“I was elected to serve in good faith and speak to the needs, wants and concerns of those who live and work here and whom voted me to be their voice,” Ramswell said. “I have a duty to do what’s right by them and will continue to do so, not just because it is my duty, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Ramswell has been very outspoken in recent months as it relates to a variety of issues along Holiday Isle, such as a portion of land known as Parcel B, which is owned by Bos and associates, as well as a hole allegedly caused by the Emerald Grande shuttle were a number of near drownings have been reported by residents. She has also spoken out about building heights on Holiday Isle as the city navigates its way through proposed changes to the comprehensive plan 2020.

Ramswell, as well as other officials with city-issued credit cards, are currently under investigation by the state attorney’s office for possible misuse of their city cards.

The 10-day window Matthews laid out in the letter to Ramswell expired Nov. 16.

When reached by phone Tuesday, Ramswell told The Log she would take advantage of the city’s legal counsel and would stick by what she said during Monday’s meeting.

Whether or not legal service is extended will be up to the city’s insurer, Kisela told The Log. He said a determination would be made based on the facts and allegations presented.


 

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6 Opinions on “Watchdog Activist & Waterfront Development Woes Follow Kisela to City of Destin

  1. This is just a sad reminder and a solemn warning to our city officials and a reminder of their fiduciary responsibility to their constituency. We have a sad and recidivistic history of hiring city administrators that have long searchable histories of being fired or asked to resign from previous assignments, long histories of EEOC lawsuits, actions against them for harassment and abuse of their subordinates, grandiose spending & dynasty building, and being summoned & hired by marginal city managers without even applying for the positions, bypassing viable applicants, and circumventing the civil service rules. Kisela and Harden both had troubled pasts and were I.C.M.A. alumnis invoking their Lifesaver status to save numerous Managers In Transition, AKA recidivistic shit canned city administrators.

    The tradition in Port Orange has been Greg Kisela, Wayne Saunders, Jason Yarborough, Marie Anderson, David Harden, Alen Rosen, Paula DiChiara, and now Tracy Rhiems, Andrew Neff, and Bransford Abdumma. When will the madness stop? Why is the city council failing us over and over again? How much irreparable collateral damage will they suffer?

    Remember the saying of the great essayist and philosopher George Santayana,” Those that do not learn the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat history over and over again.” Lets stop the madness while their is still some hope left for Port Orange. Lets embrace a new paradigm an eradicate the stupidity, special interest, and dishonesty. If you want to continue this madness then all you need to do is vote for Don Burnett as mayor in 2016. If you want this madness to desist I suggest that you vote for Ted Noftall in 2016.

  2. I read your post and all the hires have a common denominator. They are all from the outside. This is not succession planning it is succession failure. Can you really believe there was not a worthy internal candidate for ALL of these positions? I’m not buying in. The great puppet master has courted each manager to hire those with no knowledge of our City so political favors can continue without notice.

  3. Do you remember all the people the hypocrite Greg Kisela scapegoated in Port Orange? Allen Green and Don Burnett acted as if Kisela was some sort of a demigod. He left here in a disgrace and laid the framework of an escalating implosion of the integrity of Port Orange which is now being reinforced by this next generation of administrative management.

    • You are right Floky. Green and Burnette could not heap enough praise on Kisela.
      Mrs Laney and Kisela joined back stabbing Burnette in his unsuccessful effort to have Ted removed from the Audit and Budget Board
      Burnette will be DOA in next years Mayor election if he actually resigns to run.

  4. Rewind back to the archives on this blog when front line anonymous city employees forewarned the city council and the taxpayers about the unscrupulous pasts and deceptive present practices that miscreants like Greg Kisela, Wayne Saunders, Jason Yarborough, Mary Anderson, and et al had perpetrated as a matter of practice. Rewind back to the archives of POG TV where the mayor and our city council lavished praises on these miscreants until their deception show came to a screaching halt. Rewind back to the archives of POG TV where the city council shortly thereafter sang a different tune as if it was them independently that rooted out these miscreants as if they did not vet them and lavish praise on them in the first place.

    Now let it be stated for the record that the same front line anonymous employees have presently been revealing to the blog that the council has vetted and lavished praises on a whole new generation of miscreants namely David Harden, Jake Johanssen, Alan Rosen, Andrew Neff, Tracy Rhiems, and Branford Abdumma. The council has vetted them and lavished praise on them initially also, and now there are tell tale signs that they may have made bad decisions in facilitating the acquisition of this new senior management team. The hand writing is on the wall that we are heading for a recapitulation of the scandals and revealed incompetence that emerged during the Kisela administration. One constant in all this is that councilman Don Burnette was always at the forefront of supporting these imploding administrations and lavishing praises on their less than perfunctory performance. When the levee breaks in the near future it will be interesting to see the council members scramble to change their position and get on the opposite side of their bad decision. When that happens they will all try to take credit for seeing it coming and limiting the city’s exposure.

    • Rheim and Abdumma inherited a complete mess from previous administrators. They seem to be doing a good job in their attempts to clean up the mess first, then implementing proper policies (which was never done by Saunders or Anderson – both terrible hires) .
      Neff on the other hand, inherited a smooth well run department and is running it into the ground swiftly. If the council doesn’t see this they are blind.

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