Dettra Reinstated In E-Mail Flap

Ryan Dettra is back on the job at St. Augustine Amphitheatre after being placed on paid administrative leave by St. Johns County, Fla., officials June 11 because of a series of e-mails in which the venue GM criticized the county administrator and others.

Two fraud investigations have been launched because of Dettra’s allegations of misuse of public money, even as Dettra returned to work July 8.

Reached at his office the morning after the county released its incident report and reinstated him, Dettra told Pollstar that while he is limited in what he could discuss about his case, he is “happy to be back and doing the best for the community.”

St. Johns County has placed Dettra on six months of probation and cut his salary in response to the incident, in which Dettra, in an e-mail to county officials June 8 accused the county of paying $30,000 to a construction company for work that was never done on the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall under construction.

In one e-mail, Dettra blamed county administrator Michael Wanchick for escalating costs to the Ponte Vedra project and saying the county is losing up to $1,346 per day in potential revenues because of delays.

“It is under [Wanchick’s] guidance that we have a project that has tripled in cost,” the St. Augustine Record quoted Dettra’s e-mail as saying. “It is under his direction that we are spending taxpayer dollars to solicit private funding through our friends of the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall Board.”

He also accused officials of awarding the bid to Bush Construction even though it was not the lowest bidder. The company also allegedly received a $30,000 payment for an unusable design after a six-month delay, according to the paper. The project was reportedly put up to bid again before venue managers were presented the changes.

Dettra blamed other county employees by name for delays in the project, but reportedly asked them to put aside any differences and figure out a way to make the project work.

“This project doesn’t have to do with politics …” Dettra reportedly wrote. “… It’s a question of how do we do the right things for the community and utilize our resources to keep costs down.”

Dettra has reportedly retained a lawyer to represent him in the investigation, which he acknowledged focuses on the issues that led to Dettra’s leave. It’s not clear the suspension was because of his e-mails, and attorney Richard Rumrell told the Record that there have been no discussions about Dettra resigning or otherwise leaving the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.