Judge partially dismisses whistleblower lawsuit

A circuit court judge has granted Washington County’s motion to dismiss two of three counts in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a local heavy equipment operator.

Wesley Griffin, owner of A&W Excavations, Inc., filed the action January 12, claiming he was retaliated against for reporting unlawful employment practices within the county, resulting in his company being passed over for work in favor of Lagniappe Consulting, a competitor owned by Tony Lagman, brother-in-law Board of County Commissioners Chairman Tray Hawkins. The suit further alleged Hawkins received kickbacks in exchange for his participation in a government contract.

Counts cited in the original complaint included count 1 ­– public employee whistleblower retaliation; count 2 – common law negligence and count 3 – violation of Florida’s competitive bidding laws.

Attorney Eric A. Kress with Panama City based Warner Law Firm, P.A. filed a motion on behalf of the county in April to dismiss the counts of common law negligence and competitive bidding violations. Circuit Court Judge Ana Garcia partially granted that motion May 31 dismissing with prejudice the count relating to competitive bidding practices. As a result, Griffin cannot refile the claim that the county violated competitive bidding laws. Garcia also dismissed the count of common law negligence without prejudice; however, that count is once again active in the case following a second amended complaint filed Wednesday in circuit court.

The Board of County Commissioners has not commented further on the case; however, Washington County Attorney Matthew Fuqua told Washington County News the county would “vigorously defend” the matter.

“The County believes the records will reflect that any discontinuing of funding on the contracts in question was the result of funding shortfalls or cash flow issues and the contractors were treated even handedly,” said Fuqua in a January statement. “The County also believes the records will show Mr. Griffin and/or his company was paid over 1.5 million dollars on the projects in question and that A&W was awarded additional contracts after he maintains he was blacklisted.”

To read the previous story on this case visit:,7440?