Tempers flared at the Bonifay City Council meeting as a local resident demanded the firing of Bonifay City Clerk Beverly Gilley.
Local business owner and resident Wayne Powell presented council members with a letter which he stated served as a formal complaint against Gilley.
“It’s concerning Powell’s Heavy Equipment and me signing the petition [to make the city clerk an elected position],” said Powell. “If some actions ain’t took on this, then I have made some phone calls – and it’s not to councilmen – to see if there’s other actions I can take with this.”
Powell’s letter detailed interactions with Gilley, specifically a phone call his son, Jason Powell, received from Gilley and what he called “the unprofessional manner in which she conducts herself.”
According to the letter, the clerk called to express her anger that the elder Powell had signed the petition, allegedly stating that “she was the only reason Powell’s Heavy Equipment was winning bids for the jobs put out by the City” because Mayor James “Eddie” Sims had allegedly stated that the company would never do any work for the City because he “had no use for them.”
“Jason expressed that he thought we were getting the work honestly, by having the low bid, being local, and completing jobs in a satisfactory manner,” wrote Wayne Powell. “Beverly then declared it was not and reiterated again that it was her and only her who had to convince the mayor to consider Powell’s Heavy Equipment for bids.” Powell went on to say that the conversation ended in Gilley stating that in response to Wayne Powell signing the petition, she would “never facilitate support to the Powells in any way to secure any bids with the City, as well as would never get another job with the City of Bonifay if it meant she had to assist.”
Powell went on to list instances in which his wife, Judy, and daughter, Julia, had been treated rudely by Gilley at meetings; however, when he met with Mayor Sims to ask that she be disciplined, no further action was taken.
Mayor Sims admitted that Gilley has not received any written reprimands.
“The mayor has failed you,” Judy Powell told the Council. “He has failed us all by not holding her accountable.”
“I’m not going to let this go,” added Wayne Powell. “It is my current stance that if a part or all these issues are not addressed and cannot be resolved with acceptable action, my next step will be filing a formal complaint with the State of Florida. It is my request that the current city clerk be relieved of her duties, effective immediately.”
Gilley, who was advised her possible termination could be discussed, forewarned Council Members in an email that she believes any action taken to fire her would be retaliatory, in part because she recently filed an ethics complaint against Councilman Roger Brooks.
“I have received knowledge that some of the members of this Council have had conversations and discussed my employment termination based on accusations of a local citizen,” Gilley wrote. “That the Council intends to vote to terminate my employment tonight and have discussed how they are going to vote outside the council meetings (which is illegal). No Councilmember should ever discuss city business with each other privately.”
“Based on the fact that I recently filed an ethics complaint against Vice Mayor Brooks, I would see this as unlawful retaliation on the part of the Council,” she added. “Over the years, I have been treated differently due to the fact that I am female. I am not referred to by name, simply my title. My entire female staff was not afforded the same protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have no reprimands in my employment file, nor have I done anything that would be grounds for termination.”
Gilley went on to state in the public meeting that she believed the demand to be of a personal nature.
“The Powells have been harassing me and calling me ugly names on social media for three years,” she said.
City Attorney Michelle Jordan advised council members that due to the recent ethics complaint and the lack of any written action against Gilley, the board may want to research what type of liability they may face if they choose to terminate her from the position.
City Council tasked Jordan with seeking input on the matter form the Florida League of Cities.