Two Bay County employees charged with official misconduct

Local News

Ross Pritchard and Crystal Owens

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Two Bay County employees were charged with official misconduct as part of an ongoing corruption probe being done by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.

Ross Pritchard, a deputy building official, and Crystal Owens, a building code officer were arrested Thursday.

“During the course of another investigation, it was learned that Ross Pritchard, a licensed contractor and owner of RP Builders as well as a building inspector for the county, had conducted inspections of work completed by his own construction company,” officials wrote in a news release. “This is a 2nd-degree misdemeanor in Florida. After speaking with witnesses, investigators learned Pritchard also altered information in the official public records after the fact to hide his actions and remove his company name from the record.”

Investigators added that Crystal Owens altered an official public record, a Bay County Building Permit, to reflect a different contractor as contractor of record on that permit. She changed the name from Banfield Construction to RP Builders.

“Banfield Construction, due to the suspicious nature in which they obtained their licensure in Calhoun County, had been prevented from working in Bay County,” investigators wrote. “When Owens changed the permit from Banfield, a personal friend of hers, it covered up what amounted to unlicensed contracting in Bay County.”

They added that Owens admitted she completed the paperwork on an inspection for Banfield Construction when she was never at the residence and did not complete the inspection, stating she did it because Banfield was a friend of hers.

“We appreciate the work of the Sheriff’s Department,” said Bay County Manager Bob Majka. “Transparent, open and honest government remain our priority.”

The employees in question will remain on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the case.

 “This is an ongoing investigation,” Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said. “We remain committed to holding officials accountable to the people of Bay County.”

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