Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday July 23rd 2019

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The Buzz 7/11/19

The Tale of Two School Districts At the end of June, the Florida Department of Education released the state assessment grades for the school districts. Santa Rosa County sent out a letter touting its successes. No announcement came from the Escambia County School District.

“We would like to celebrate another outstanding year of state testing results, securing our place as a top academically-performing school district,” said Santa Rosa’s Assistant Superintendent Bill Emerson in a press release.

In English Language Arts, the proficiency rates for all grade levels in Santa Rosa County ranked between third and fifth highest among Florida school districts. Escambia students, grades 3-10, trailed the state average, though slightly less than last year. Of the state’s 67 districts, only 18 have lower percentages of students proficient in language arts than Escambia County.

In mathematics, all grade levels in Santa Rosa County, except one, and both algebra and Geometry End of Course Exams had proficiency rates ranking between third and seventh highest among Florida School Districts. In Escambia County, students were 11 percentage points behind the state average. Only eight districts have lower percentages than Escambia County.

In science, the proficiency rates for fifth grade, eighth grade, and the Biology End of Course Exam in Santa Rosa County all ranked in the top five highest among Florida districts. In Escambia County, fifth graders were two points higher than state average, but the district trailed the statewide averages for eighth grade and biology.

In social studies, the US History and Civics End of Course Exam proficiency rates for Santa Rosa County ranked in the top seven highest among Florida districts. Escambia County trailed state averages by double digits—which may explain Mike Hill’s election in 2018. Only four districts in Florida had lower percentages than Escambia County.

Sheriff Responds Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan called an “all hands” meeting last week to respond to allegations made by a woman who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for sex crimes involving her teenage daughter.

“It’s incumbent upon me as the head of this organization to put these rumors, innuendo and propaganda to rest,” said the sheriff.

Leah Manning claimed in a May deposition that she had sexual relations with the sheriff and offered as proof that she had his cell phone number in her contacts on her phone and had named her dog after him. She alleged there was a video of him half-dressed but had no idea who had the video.

The deposition was part of her daughters’ federal case against Morgan that alleged pressure from his administration may have deterred Internal Affairs personnel from fully investigating Leah and Doug Manning’s sex ring that involved deputies. One deputy, Mark Smith, was acquitted of criminal charges, and the other, Walter Thomas, was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The stepfather, Doug Manning, was also convicted of abuse charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The sheriff’s attorney had filed a motion to block him giving a deposition in the lawsuit, and if a deposition was conducted, that it would be sealed and unavailable to the public.

At the press conference, Sheriff Morgan said that the investigation into the Mannings was conducted by the State Attorney’s Office, not his agency.

“You may ask, why, sheriff, are you bringing that up?” he said. “Because of the assertions and allegations have been made that the sheriff ran and/or manipulated the criminal case as well as the internal affairs investigation. That would be extremely difficult for me to do when I was not the head of the investigation.”

He added, “To the best of my recollection and knowledge, I have never met Leah Manning. To the best of my recollection and knowledge, I have never met Doug Manning. To the best of my recollection and knowledge, I’d have never met either child. Unequivocally, I say that’s the best of my recollection. I have never met any of these individuals.”

He said during the infancy of the case, investigators found Leah Manning’s phone had several numbers, including his official cell. He said some have incorrectly reported on Facebook that it was the personal cell phone, but it wasn’t, according to the sheriff. However, he wouldn’t have been surprised.

“During the conduct of my campaigns for Sheriff Escambia County, I routinely put my personal cell number on business cards and the flyer,” said Morgan. “So for anyone in this county to have my cell phone would not be uncommon.”

He had his Intel department analyze the records of his official cell phone, personal cell phone and personal landline. The investigators found no contact with Manning. Sheriff Morgan said, “You would think that would put the issue to rest. Unfortunately, it is not, so we continue again with this case.”

Morgan said that he doesn’t manage Internal Affairs investigations because it would be inappropriate to do so since he is the final review in the process. He said that only once in his 11 years as sheriff has he disagreed with the findings of an IA report.

“I will tell you that I’m somewhat baffled by this case ending up where it is,” said Morgan. “I will tell you that I’m making the statement today and meeting with the press and members of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office to let you know that you have a right as employees of this agency to know that you have someone who’s leading you that believes in character and integrity.”

Later on July 3, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Timothy denied the sheriff’s request for a protective order that would shield him from having to give a deposition in the civil lawsuit on Friday, July 5.

“It is beyond question that any sort of personal relationship that Defendant Morgan might have had with Manning could have affected the fulfillment of his duties as sheriff in the investigation and supervision of his own deputies,” the judge wrote. “Accordingly, the court finds that Plaintiff has met this burden to establish relevance.”

The judge also declined to seal the deposition, citing the press conference where the sheriff took questions from the media regarding the allegations made by Manning.

Mark Your Calendars DIB Parking & Traffic Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 11, in the Bowden Building, Room #1, 120 Church St.

The Chappie James Museum is sponsoring a talk with Pensacola City Councilwoman Ann Hill at 10-11 a.m. on Saturday, July 13, at the museum, 1608 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

District 1 Commissioner Jeff Bergosh will hold a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 15, at Beulah Middle School, 6001 W. Nine Mile Rd.

The Florida Department of Transportation is holding a public workshop regarding the U.S. 90 (West Cervantes Street) Pedestrian Safety Improvement project at 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16, at Brownsville Community Center, 3200 W. De Soto St.

The first meeting of the Medical Examiners Search Committee will be held at 2 p.m. on July 17 in the Multimedia Room located on the first floor of the M.C. Blanchard Judicial Center, 190 W. Government St. The purpose of this committee is to recommend an individual to the governor for appointment as the Chief Medical Examiner for the First District.

Zoning Board of Adjustment will meet at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, in the Hagler-Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Pensacola City Hall.

Architectural Review Board will meet at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 18, in the Hagler-Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Pensacola City Hall.