WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The investigation into the Walton County Board of County Commissioners’ spending has come to a close, but the fallout continues.
Earlier this summer the Clerk of Courts, Alex Alford, released a report alleging the entire commission misspent taxpayer money.
The investigation started with an anonymous tip to Alford’s office about county commissioners misusing their county cards and county vehicles.
“We knew this was going to blow up because it’s an ugly read and it’s really an unfair read because it’s not an exhaustive investigation and that’s what we conveyed to the Sheriff’s office as well that we don’t know, or didn’t then, believe that it constituted fraud,” Alford said.
Alford said they handed their report off to the Sheriff’s office who then turned it over to the State Attorney’s Office.
“Really, the whole mess that we have seen so far was simply because the Sheriff’s Department and State Attorney’s office had a miscommunication about when their investigation was over and when I could release my public records request,” Alford said.
News 13 spoke with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and they said the State Attorney’s office told them to tell Alford’s office he could release the report and they weren’t going forward with it.
Sheriff’s officials said a week later the State Attorney’s office called and said they were sending the report to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
While the report’s release was not an issue for either agency, the decision to forward the report to the FDLE forced Alford to remain silent on a now explosive topic.
Alford said he couldn’t talk about his agency’s report in public or talk to the county commission until the criminal investigation was over.
“It really wasn’t fair to the county commissioners, it certainly wasn’t fair for me because now I have to listen to how I’m the bad guy at the county commission meetings and not being able to tell them exactly what’s going on,” Alford said.
We spoke with prosecutors about this case and they said that while they did advise him to not speak with anyone about the case they could not legally prevent him from speaking with the county commission.
County Commissioners for weeks accused Alford of refusing to meet with them — something he said was out of his hands entirely.
“But there have been statements made – it’s been difficult,” Alford said. “But we will work with the county, we will continue to work with them, we don’t have a choice we are the elected officials and we have to work.”
As a result of the confusion over whether or not the report was an audit, Alford said that is part of the reason why they are now looking to change the name of their Internal Audit Department.