JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax Ben Becker has learned one former St. Johns County employee raised concerns about ex-county administrator, Hunter Conrad, bringing religion into the workplace and playing favorites by hiring people from his church who may not have been qualified for their positions.
It comes as the St. Johns County Commission approved a settlement agreement with Conrad on Tuesday that includes a severance package worth a total of $165,408 and a mutual non-disparagement clause.
- Severance Pay (20 weeks)
- Health Insurance (20 weeks)
- Vacation Leave Payout (360 hrs)
- Sick Leave (25% of balance)
- Total: $165,408
Commissioners named Deputy Administrator Joy Andrews as the Interim County Administrator as they search for a permanent replacement.
Action News Jax first reported Conrad resigned under pressure on June 29 following a contentious Board of County Commissioners meeting on June 20 when Commission Sarah Arnold raised concerns about a toxic workplace culture.
Becker obtained an email written by an anonymous former St. Johns County worker who wrote, “From the very beginning, he brought his religion and faith into the workplace meetings which made me exceptionally uncomfortable. Some administrative staff were even selected because they attended Conrad’s church and they could be ‘trusted’ regardless of their qualifications...”
Conrad is a member of Turning Point at Calvary in St. Augustine where his father is the Senior Pastor.
In a video posted online, Conrad gave a sermon this past Sunday where he spoke about challenges in life without specifically referencing his own situation. “You are going to lose a job,” said Conrad in the video. “I know so many of you in here this morning are dealing with difficult things in your life.”
Former Economic Development Director Melissa Glasgow, who resigned in 2020 is a critic of Conrad. “I will say that in my 30 years of award-winning professional experience in government and economic development throughout the country, I had never been treated as disrespectfully than I was after Hunter was appointed county administrator,” said Glasgow in an email to Becker. “Many other directors felt that way too. His management style was one of avoidance and misdirection, so nothing would be on record and tied back to him directly. The result was total chaos behind the scenes causing extreme staff stress and burnout.”
Multiple sources tell Becker, Conrad had exhibited “troubling behavior” on June 28, ahead of a special meeting to decide his fate on June 30.
The county attorney sent an email to the head of facilities at the behest of Arnold, temporarily cutting off Conrad’s access to the administration headquarters “due to serious concerns about employee safety that were conveyed to County Commissioners and the Office of County Attorney by employees of County Administration.”
Becker also tried to find out if Conrad’s resignation had anything to do with the possible mismanagement of millions of dollars by the county government.
Emails show that in May 2022, someone in the administration was supposed to deliver a $2.4 million check to the St. Johns County Clerk & Comptroller’s office so that it could be deposited into an escrow account as part of a developer’s payment for the widening of State Road 16 at San Giacomo Road in front of the Grand Oaks development.
But based on internal emails, it was never accounted for and never deposited.
In February 2023, one worker in the administration wrote, “I don’t see it,” adding “I need to find this as soon as possible.”
It’s unknown what happened to that check, but it was never cashed, and the developer did eventually send a new one.
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Clerk of Court & Comptroller Statement:
“Protecting and safeguarding taxpayer dollars is one of our highest priorities and greatest responsibilities. Upon becoming aware of a missing check on the morning of February 18, 2023, we immediately conducted an internal review to identify any discrepancies and determine the nature of any process failures. The comptroller’s office found it had no record of receiving the check and no other checks were missing.”
It’s unclear if commissioners knew about this snafu before renewing Conrad’s contract in March when he received a $30,000 raise to $248,000 per year.
Becker texted Conrad and emailed the church for comment but never heard back.