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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Commission News

Columbia County's Charter Review Commission: Eliminating somebody's rights is their theme


The Columbia County Charter Review Commission met last night. Nobody showed up, except one person, Jason Futch, who is sitting on the isle. Mr. Futch is running for County Commissioner.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night, the Columbia County Charter Review Commission met for its last session before beginning its public hearings. The Commission's failure to engage the public; to allow them to participate in the process in a meaningful way; or to listen to them with an open mind, paid dividends to Columbia County's handpicked Charter Review Commission. Only one person from the public show up at last night's meeting, Jason Futch. He is running for County Commissioner.

This Charter Review Commission's main purpose appears to be eliminating the rights of the public, department heads, and the county manager.

The Berry Amendment

The Berry Amendment, named for its provocateur, proposes to end the requirement of Enhanced Public Notice.

The Enhanced Public Notice provision was added to the Charter during its last revision cycle in 2005-06, with a public vote of support of over 82%.

Last night, the CRC voted unanimously to leave the Berry Amendment, repealing the Enhanced Public Notice requirement on the ballot.

Enhanced Public Notice is a model piece of local legislation, which requires the County Commission to post its agendas and supporting material on the internet.

The proposed relevant language of the Berry Amendment, repealing Enhanced Public Notice, will look like this in November:

Shall Article 2, Section 2.11 of the Home Rule Charter for Columbia County, Florida be amended, removing obligation to provide Board agendas and materials via the internet, removing determination of nonfeasance in office for failure to provide such information, removing obligation to provide notice and materials for subordinate boards...

___yes ___no (emphasis added)

Has Enhanced Public Notice been a problem?

There has never been a time that something of a critical nature has come up where the county hasn't pulled it so that everyone, the Commission and the public, can get up to speed.


File Photo: County Manger Dale Williams

The Observer spoke with County Manager Dale Williams this morning and asked him if the County can comply with the Enhanced Public Notice provision of the Charter.

The Observer asked, "If the Enhanced Noticed requirement stayed on the Charter, would you be able to continue to do it?"

County Manager Williams answered, "We would continue to try to comply with the spirit of whatever the Charter requires us to do."

The Observer asked, "Do you think you could do it?"

County Manager Williams answered, "We have been doing it."

During the Public Hearing process, the Charter Review Commission can vote to remove the Berry Amendment from the ballot in November.

Some other ballot initiatives of the CRC

The CRC voted to remove the right of a County Department Head to appeal his removal by the County Manager to the Board.

The CRC voted to allow the County Commission to remove the County Manager at a special meeting, which the residents may never find out about. If the Berry Amendment passes, that is guaranteed.

The CRC voted to remove the public's right to vote for an elected County Attorney and instead have the Board appoint one.

The CRC voted to establish a County Redistricting Committee that would have absolutely no power.

The CRC voted to establish two at large County Commission seats. If passed, the Charter revision would also increase the cost of the County Commissioners to the residents by approximately $100,000 a year.

Former Tax Collector Ray Walker led the charge to remove a provision that would have only marginally increased the cost. The CRC followed along.

Epilogue

The next step in the process is the CRC public hearings.

At any time during these hearings the CRC can jettison the Berry Amendment and also fix some of their other foolishness.

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