Fallout over controversial hiring at Orange County Clerk’s Office
By Rhetta Peoples
Orange county voters leaned in to listen to a recent story that aired last week about Orange County Clerk of Courts, Tiffany Moore Russell’s decision to hire her former aide, Attorney Roberta Walton as Self-Help Division Manager.
While the meat of the story is not new news, the story attacked Walton and assumed she was receiving preferential treatment because she is a close friend, sorority sister and formerly worked for Russell. Some Orange county residents sounded off on social media saying the news report neglected to mention Walton is highly-qualified, professionally and ethically, for the role.
We did more digging into this story and Walton has a long history of professional success in Orlando.
Attorney Walton admits she made a crucial mistake years ago, while in college in Tallahassee, and pled guilty to charges when she cashed a check for a friend while working as a bank teller over 15 years ago.
Since then, Walton finished her undergraduate degree in Social Work, was accepted and graduated from law school, passed the Florida Bar, practiced law in Orlando with a primary focus on serving low income families who could not afford legal representation.
In addition, Walton served as Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell’s aide in District 6 and worked at a thriving law firm in Orlando while raising two young boys as a single parent.
Walton admits she regrets her decision in college to cash the check and paid restitution. Walton told us, “There were a total of 11 people on my docket. The restitution was a combined amount between us. It was joint and severelly liable. I paid the whole amount because I needed to start anew.”
Russell was elected by voters of Orange county last November which tells some, her choice for a candidate for this position is trusted, vetted and will ultimately serve the needs of the community.
Yet, it does not come without some resistance from the community.
Russell made history twice already by winning a campaign with far fewer campaign dollars than her opponent and by helping to lead the way to legalize same-sex marriage in Orange county even before the ban was lifted nationally last month.
The Orange County Clerk of Courts office has met more controversy under past leadership. After former Orange county Clerk of Courts Lydia Gardner died, two members of her staff wrote themselves more than $271,000 in severance. Their actions made headlines as they never “severed” themselves from working at the clerk’s office. They continued to work while receiving regular payroll in addition to the $271,000. Although there was more than enough evidence to terminate the two employees and press charges, they were allowed to much later resign.