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Heritage oak tree advocate files complaint against Florida county in tree removal

Escambia County is at the beginning of an ethics complaint investigation into Development Services Director Horace Jones over his handling of a heritage oak tree — the largest ever measured in the county — that was cut down at a future storage facility site despite an ongoing lawsuit attempting to halt the proceeding.

Resident Margaret Hostetter emailed county officials last week filing an ethics complaint against Jones, claiming he lied in saying that his staff had reviewed the development order that allowed the 85-inch diameter oak on the A+ Storage Palafox site to be cut down and questioning his actions leading up to the tree’s removal.

A tree service worker cuts down the heritage oak at 6155 N. Palafox on Oct. 30. The tree service started cutting about 11 a.m. and quit about 2 p.m. when attorney William Dunaway came to the scene with a temporary injunction.

There was a pending appeal in Escambia County court on Oct. 30 when property owners moved forward with cutting down the tree. Attorney Will Dunaway, who is representing the plaintiffs Emerald Coastkeeper Inc. in the lawsuit, hand-delivered an emergency injunction to the worksite that same day to stop the work, but he arrived after all of the tree’s limbs had been removed.