Historic City News contacted the office of St. Johns County Administrator Michael D. Wanchick this morning in an attempt to clarify events surrounding an article that appeared on the front page of The Record this morning alleging that County Commission Chairman Tom Manuel is the subject of an FBI criminal investigation.
Karen Pan in the Office of Public Affairs, verified some of the published comments and clarified some questions on others.
Radio Talk Show commentator Kerry McCarthy, who usually hosts Commissioner Manuel on her privately financed Friday morning talk show, apologized for Manuelâ€™s understandable absence from her WFOY program this morning. McCarthyâ€™s comments supported her belief in Manuelâ€™s innocence – until proven guilty. McCarthy also said that she did not have a long time friendship with Manuel; having met him since his rise to political power in the past couple of years.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation Field Office in Jacksonville will not comment on the details of any ongoing investigation until it is concluded or results in an indictment or public trial.
Special Agent Jeff Westcott of the FBI’s Jacksonville office said, “There is an ongoing FBI investigation of Mr. Manuel. There may be more people to be interviewed.â€ according the The Record article that appeared this morning.
Administrator Wanchickâ€™s office received a call from St. Johns County Sheriff David B. Shoar to inform them of the news concerning the Manuel investigation â€“ news that Shoar says he learned from the FBI. I called Sheriff Shoar early this morning and he confirmed his discussion with Wanchick for the purpose of preparing county staff for this process.
Karen Pan says that Wanchick contacted each commissioner on Wednesday afternoon by telephone to inform them of his conversation with the Sheriff. Wanchick has continued to be in communication with members of the Board regarding this turn of events since his initial call to them on Wednesday, according to Pan.
On Thursday afternoon, Wanchick called a meeting of the county department heads to announce the retirement of County Commissioner Jim Bryant and other business, including the announcement by the Sheriff that Manuel was under investigation by the FBI. Shoar attended yesterdayâ€™s meeting, not to discuss details of the investigation, but to encourage county department heads to cooperate fully with FBI investigators who may be contacting them in the coming weeks.
According to Wanchickâ€™s office, he was concerned that the members of the Board and county employees were going to hear about this in the media before they heard it from the source; so he acted to make everyone aware of his communication with the Sheriff as quickly as possible.
Iâ€™ve written to Chairman Manuel, by e-mail, offering him an opportunity to present any information that he may have that could be discussed publicly on the topic of this investigation. As of the time of this article, he has not responded.
It is expected that there will be an official announcement from the county administratorâ€™s office once more is known about this developing story.