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Lynn Haven Terminates Building Inspector Following Arrest

Newly Renovated Lynn Haven Senior Center .jpg
The newly renovated Lynn Haven Senior Center was among the buildings Michael Gordon's company inspected. Gordon was arrested on charges related to fraud and official misconduct.

Lynn Haven city commissioners ended the town’s contract with a local building inspector Tuesday after his recent arrest on felony charges of fraud and official misconduct.

Michael Gordon, 59, signed off on more than 80 inspections conducted by unlicensed professionals, according to the city’s police department.

“He was the licensed building official,” said Mayor Pro Tem Dan Russell. “It was his job to ensure that his employees were licensed to do the work.”

Gordon’s company allegedly profited more than $12,000 from illegal inspections. The investigation is ongoing.

Police Chief Ricky Ramie spoke briefly about the case after a city commissioner expressed doubt about Gordon’s arrest. Ramie responded that he has pictures, “where he [Gordon] sent unqualified employees in to do inspections."

“My biggest fear is putting an innocent person in jail,” Ramie said.

Ramie says police began investigating Gordon after they learned of a "failure to inspect" complaint about his company to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

After some discussion, the commission voted, 3-1, to stop contracting with Gordon’s firm, Gordon & Associates Inspections.

City Commissioner Judy Tinder voted against terminating Gordon's contract after she questioned his arrest. “As a human being, I just can’t even fathom that he would do this.” Tinder said she’d rather wait until there’s a verdict before terminating Gordon's contract.

Lynn Haven Mayor Pro Tem Dan Russell said Gordon shouldn't continue conducting inspections for the city while awaiting trial. “We’re trying to find interim inspectors to help us move forward,” Russell said. “But the city can’t sit still.”

The city — which is still recovering from Hurricane Michael —has requested help from Bay County and neighboring towns with building inspections as the city continues to receive certificate of occupancy requests, Russell said.

Commissioners also voted to stop contracting inspection services and hire a full-time building official.

Since July 2019, the city has paid Gordon’s company about $1 million, Russell said. That's more than $500,000 each year his business has been employed. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows city construction and building inspectors earn on average about $60,000 a year.

Russell says he expects the city will save money by hiring a full-time building inspector who’d work under the city manager.

“But whether it saves us money or not, I still contend we need to have this in-house,” he said. “A building official is a state official and the city needs to have some control over that department and over that official.”

Russell says the city can verify that its own employees are licensed. That isn’t necessarily the case contracting with outside firms, he said. “[Gordon] had employees who weren’t licensed to do the inspection,” Russell said. “We had no verification process to determine who he hired.”

City Planner Amanda Richard spoke at the meeting in favor of hiring a building official. She says a full-time employee in that position would make other staff members' jobs easier and would provide better service to residents.

“It has been very difficult,” Richard said. “We don’t have someone who’s there, in and out all day, who we could get in touch with and coordinate with. Right now we don’t have a building department, we have a permitting office.”

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.