Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Putnam Board Is Tense at Meetings; Hostility Is Brewing between Two Members

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Putnam Board Is Tense at Meetings; Hostility Is Brewing between Two Members

Article excerpt


Flying accusations, detailed investigations, intrigue and allegations aren't reserved for reality television in Putnam County.

Tuesday nights, twice a month, people can watch the drama play out live at the local School Board meeting.

"The hostility is so evident that many people after our board meetings will speak to me and other members of my family" about what happened, School Board member Lisa Parsons said.

The cliff-hanger question: Can the elected superintendent and the five School Board members put their individual disagreements and personal differences aside?

In this small community, where the school district is the largest employer, those who don't see the meetings may hear about it around the water cooler the next day: word that School Board member Tom Townsend butted heads again with Superintendent David Buckles; that Buckles was censured by the state for an ethics violation; that there are rifts and squabbles among the group.

"There is no doubt there have been meetings that have been uncomfortable," said Townsend, whose open arguments with Buckles have led to such headlines in the local paper as "Buckles fires another salvo at Townsend" and "Buckles, Townsend clash again."

The circumstances change. In one December incident, Buckles accused Townsend of campaigning during school hours for Jim Davis, who was running for governor. Buckles days earlier was fined $3,000 and reprimanded by Gov. Jeb Bush after the state Ethics Commission found Buckles had used his position to discourage an opponent from making a run at the superintendent post.

David Ward, a Putnam County parent who has filed handfuls of unsuccessful ethics complaints against Buckles, is using the commission's finding now to call for him to either step down or be recalled. He said the ethics violation flies in the face of character schools are trying to instill in students.

Buckles declined to comment on Ward's most recent efforts, but he did not think it uncommon for people in public office to face such critics. …

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