SHALIMAR — At first glance, the wording of an agenda report seemed startling and made tempers flare Tuesday at the Okaloosa County Commission’s hurricane preparedness workshop.

The message, however, stemmed from a misunderstanding, County Administrator John Hofstad said after the meeting. The workshop focused on the county’s response to Hurricane Michael last fall and what improvements should be made in advance of future major storms.

The Category 4 Michael packed winds of up to 155 mph and made landfall Oct. 10 near Mexico Beach in Bay County. Okaloosa County escaped the hurricane relatively unscathed.

Among other storm-response concerns, the county staff and commissioners on Tuesday discussed the agenda report headed with the words, “Failure to report.”

When the county Emergency Operations Center was activated as Michael drew closer, “Positions trained on a specific emergency support function (ESF) and EOC operations did not report to the EOC,” county staff said in the report. “Some positions reported, stayed only for the initial briefing, then left and never returned.”

That description brought Commissioner Nathan Boyles to a boil.

He fired off questions to Ken Wolfe, who has served as the county's emergency operations coordinator since 2001. Boyles wanted to know whether the employees who didn’t report to the EOC were county workers and if they were fired or received other discipline.

“A couple” of them were county workers and they were not fired, replied Wolfe, who didn’t say anything about “other discipline.”

Commissioner Graham Fountain also chimed in.

“If they don’t show up, they have to hit the road,” Fountain said.

Boyles then asked Wolfe who was in charge of the county when officials declare an emergency. After Wolfe answered that the commission and the county administrator were responsible, Fountain and County Attorney Greg Stewart noted the correct answer is the emergency management coordinator.

“That’s you,” Boyles said, pointing at Wolfe.

Near the end of the workshop, Fountain said he was at the EOC during most of the storm.

“Ken, I don’t think you answered (Boyles’ last question) correctly, but I don’t think anyone at the EOC didn’t know you were in charge and were the incident commander,” Fountain said. “We had a very good system of you keeping us briefed and up to snuff.”

After the meeting, Wolfe told the Daily News that besides the two no-shows, four or five county employees had reported to the EOC and then left without returning.

When asked about any disciplinary actions, he said, “It’s not in my ball of wax. I have no idea.”

Wolfe said such actions are handled by county Public Safety Director Stefan Vaughn and Hofstad, both of whom were standing nearby.

“I’m not aware of anyone at this point being disciplined,” Vaughn said. “I’m not entirely sure of who didn’t show up” for duty at the EOC.

“The first I’ve heard of it was today,” said Hofstad, who added that he would meet with Vaughn and Wolfe about the issue.

After talking with them following the meeting, Hofstad said the entire matter was a misunderstanding.

“I’m not aware of any county employees who had abandoned their post,” he said. “We had staffing for every critical ESF (such as fire, utilities and public works) at that (EOC) event. It was just a situation where the emergency management chief was unfamiliar with the people that were there.”

Hofstad also said he didn’t think the handful of people who came to the EOC at the start of the storm and left were county employees.

“At the EOC, we probably have about 100 people going in and out at any point in time,” he said. “We have a lot of representatives of municipalities at the EOC. They might attend the initial briefings and then pull out to manage their issues with their respective jurisdictions. I think that’s what they were talking about” in the agenda report.

Hofstad said the staff will further clarify the matter after it receives the EOC’s full roster accountability, including log-in/-out reports.

While Wolfe was in charge of the EOC during Michael, Vaughn will lead it during future major storms, Hofstad said. He said that unlike Wolfe, Vaughn can manage all aspects of public safety and coordinate with 911 communications and the Sheriff’s Office.

Hofstad noted the county was going through a transition in leadership as Michael churned closer to the region.

Vaughn was named director of the Public Safety Department two days before Michael, the most powerful storm to hit the Florida Panhandle. He had served as its interim director since May.

Wolfe's emergency management division is part of the Public Safety Department. Besides his public safety role, Vaughn continues to serve as the county's Department of Corrections director.

Hurricane season begins June 1.