This year, Destin said goodbye to another city manager, Crestview’s police chief was fired, Fort Walton Beach’s police chief resigned and a grand jury criticized DeFuniak Springs officials for failures that led to lost revenue.
On what many would consider to be a more positive note, Okaloosa County voters approved the county’s half-cent sales tax referendum.
After two years on the job, Carisse LeJeune resigned as city manager in July after a majority of the City Council cited concerns such as a lack of trust and a division between the staff and council.
LeJeune was Destin’s fifth city manager since 2002. One of the previous managers had served two stints at the helm.
In early December, the council unanimously approved having Interim City Manager Lance Johnson take over permanently. He served as Destin’s parks and recreation director from 2006 until this past August, when he was named interim manager.
Tony Taylor, the city’s police chief since 2012, was fired by Mayor David Cadle in June.
Taylor’s termination followed an investigation into allegations of favoritism, rule inconsistency and unfavorable shift scheduling. The allegations came from more than 30 of the Police Department's officers and administrative staff.
“As my investigation progressed, it became evident that an atmosphere of misconduct without consequences as well as favoritism by some officers had been allowed to flourish at the Crestview Police Department,” Cadle said the day Taylor was fired.
Jamie Grant, a 28-year veteran of the department, began serving as police chief Dec. 7 after having served many months as interim chief.
Fort Walton Beach
Ed Ryan, the city’s police chief for almost two years, resigned in June rather than be placed on administrative leave while an inquiry was conducted into 12 complaints lodged against him and Maj. Tracy Hart.
The complaints from then-Officer Don Hall alleged misdeeds that included gender and racial discrimination, the mishandling of arrest procedures and theft of taxpayer dollars.
An outside attorney's investigation of the complaints was completed in August and found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Robert Lovering, former police chief of Port Richey in Central Florida, began serving as the interim police chief in October.
After a State Attorney’s Office investigation, a Walton County grand jury found problems with the city’s policies and procedures and was critical of officials’ unresponsiveness to state warnings of possible consequences for not completing audits.
The jury’s findings were released in February. The investigation had followed the revelation that the city had lost almost $221,000 in state funding because it didn't turn in annual audit reports for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
In June 2017, City Attorney Clayton Adkinson had turned a report over to the City Council in which he detailed the loss of the funding from sales tax revenues and municipal revenue sharing funds.
In November's general election, more than 62 percent of the voters approved levying a half-cent sales tax for 10 years.
The tax took effect Jan. 1. It is estimated to generate about $19 million annually for public safety, transportation and stormwater system capital improvements.
Almost $12.7 million will go to the county. The rest will be divided among its nine municipalities, based on population.