Escambia’s Odd Couple Hell froze over and pigs began to fly when Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino made the motion to hire George Touart as the interim county administrator. They say politics creates strange bedfellows, but this may be the oddest political couple in recent memory.
The Valentino-Touart feud began six years. Valentino is the Connecticut Yankee who moved here to establish his successful technology company, Collector Solutions. Touart grew up in Pensacola. His family is one of the oldest in the community. His father was a Pensacola police officer.
Both have healthy egos and like to hear themselves talk. They have butted heads several times
When he was county administrator, Touart had not supported Valentino when he first ran in 2006. Touart and his crowd preferred Pensacola native Edwin Roberts. Valentino beat Roberts in the GOP primary by only five votes, 4,371 to 4,366.
In 2007, Touart lost the county administrator job after newspapers reported of his private business dealings that he failed to disclose to the commissioners and the public. Rather than let Touart use his accrued leave to extend his employment so that he could become vested in the Florida Retirement System, it was Valentino, along with Commissioners Kevin White and Marie Young, who voted to only give him 90 days.
Touart had thought he was getting a severance package when he retired in September 2007, but he jumped the gun and made his announcement in a meeting before the commissioners voted on the package.
A few weeks later, Valentino participated in a sting operation that tried to catch the county administrator swapping his severance package for land the commissioner wanted for sports complex in his district. The telephone conversation was recorded by the state attorney’s office, but no charges were made.
In 2010, Commissioner Gene Valentino was indicted for soliciting campaign funds from his commissioner’s office. His supporters believed that his opponent in the GOP primary, George Touart, was behind the allegations.
Our paper could find no proof that Touart had anything to do with it. However, Touart did use the pending trial as campaign fodder, telling the paper several times that Valentino was unstable and he was confident that the commissioner would be convicted and removed from office before the August primary.
Instead, the judge dismissed the charges days before the primary. Despite spending $65,302 on his campaign, Touart placed last in the four-person race with only 595 votes. He spent about $109.75 per vote he got.
Apparently we are to believe that all has been forgiven and Valentino and Touart are bosom buddies. We will have to wait to see how long this marriage lasts.
I give it three months, at best.