Citizens Against Forced Utilities celebrates Stands tough against County Commission
Columbia County, FL (posted June 06, 2010 11:30 pm)
The The executive committee and CAFU members give the "no mandatory connection" sign at the Marion Street Cafe on Friday night. About fifty people showed up and joined in the celebration.
CAFU (Citizens Against Forced Utilities) celebrated their accomplishment of getting four thousand signatures on their petitions to stop mandatory water hookups in Ellisville and countywide this past Friday night at the Marion Street Café. They also celebrated standing tough against the county, after County Commission Chairman, Ronald Williams, proposed a secret meeting between himself, County Manager Dale Williams and four members of the executive board of CAFU, in which the press and public were banned. The purpose of the meeting – to negotiate a compromise with the group.
About fifty supporters showed up at the Marion Street café for the celebration, but the real story is how CAFU stood up to long time commissioner and Board Chairman, Ronald Williams and refused to meet in secret, which would have been a clear violation of the purpose and intent of Florida's Sunshine laws.
This part of the story began after the thirty minute County Commission meeting ended Thursday evening, when Chairman Williams corralled Elaine Reeves, Chris Williams, Joyce Collins and Toby Witt along the side of the auditorium.
Long time Commissioner Ronald Williams.(file photo)
According to Chris Williams, "I was approached after the Board meeting by Commissioner Ron Williams and he asked us to attend a private meeting. He said there would be no press. And he said that he wanted to offer us a compromise. The meeting was to include me, Elaine Reeves, Joyce Collins, Toby Witt, him and [County Manager] Dale Williams."
During Thursday's County Commission meeting, no one made a motion authorizing Chairman Williams to negotiate or offer a compromise to anyone. This is nothing new in the murky good old boy world of the legendary Columbia County.
Following the advice of their attorney, CAFU filed a letter with the County Commission cancelling the Monday morning meeting. (Go to letter)
Elaine Reeves added, "They are saying there is a problem with our petition."
Chris Williams: "He said he wants to compromise."
Chris Williams continued, "I asked, 'Why would we want to compromise at this point?' He said, because you have a problem. We asked him what it was and he said come to the meeting and I'll tell you.'"
Chris Williams: "I said we followed the rules. He [Commissioner Williams] said, 'You don't have it. Despite everything you do not have it.'"
The Observer: "Did you agree to the meeting?"
Chris Williams: "We tentatively agreed to the meeting, but we said we don't have the authority to negotiate for the group."
Executive Committee member Elaine Reeves joined the conversation.
The Observer: "I understand you filed a letter with the County saying you would not meet with them. Can you tell me about that?"
Ms. Reeves: "We are just plain folks, we are not professional politicians. I felt uneasy about this, so I called our attorney."
The Observer: "What did he tell you?"
Ms. Reeves: "Basically, he said that we didn't have the right to change it at this point, even if we wanted to. He told us there was no reason for us to enter into any meetings or negotiations."
The Observer: "So that is why you filed your letter with the County?"
Ms. Reeves: "Yes. That was the advice of our attorney."
On Sunday night executive board member and County Commission candidate, Toby Witt told the Observer, "I am proud of what we did and I hope the commission listens to the voice of the people."
(County Manager Dale Williams did not return a call for comment)