Stew Lilker’s

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County Commission Drags Lord Through Coals

In another outrageous display of disrespect, discourtesy and just plain rudeness, Columbia071101_Lord shell shocked copy County’s Board of County Commissioners outdid itself at its November 1st. board meeting, dragging Janet Lord of the Salvation Army through the coals. The Board’s grilling of Ms. Lord was among the all time lows from a Board that seems to take pleasure in disrespecting the public and skirting the law.

Ms. Lord’s presentation began innocently enough as she asked the Board to approve a Pre Trial Release Supervision contract that was pre signed by the former Chief Judge of the Circuit Court, Judge Julian Collins, and the Clerk of the Courts, P. DeWitt Cason.

Ms. Lord distributed letters of support and recognition from all four Circuit Court Judges including the present Chief Judge, the State Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office and the Clerk of the Courts. The letters were dignified, respectful and to the point. P. DeWitt Cason’s remarks summed up the feelings of all the letter writers telling the Board:

  • I have, worked with Salvation Army Probation Services during my entire tenure as Clerk of Circuit Court for Columbia County. During this time they have supervised many of our county court cases in reference to probationers. I have always found them to be very cooperative … I stand behind the agreement that I signed that was presented to the board the first quarter of this year on their behalf. I have no reservations in recommending to the County that their services be utilized.


The Salvation Army had been doing probation supervision in Columbia County for thirty years before they, along with Wainwright Judicial Services (Wainwright) began doing pre trial felony supervision in 2002. When Jessica Lundsford was abducted and killed the main office of the Salvation Army told Ms. Lord that they had to hold back until the liability issues were straightened out.

On May 24, 2005, Ms. Lord wrote a letter to all the prosecutors, judges, the public defenders and Wainright. She explained that until the liability issues were settled, they would no longer be permitted by the company to do felony pre trial release. About two days later, according to Wainwright, “We provided a letter indicating that we would take over the contract and we would provide those services.”

The issue of pre trial supervision, with cooperation of all parties was resolved in two days.

On January 18, 2007, the Salvation Army submitted a contract pre-signed by the Chief Judge and the Clerk of the Court. The item was put on the Board’s January 18, 2007 agenda. No one ever told Ms. Lord that the Salvation Army contract was on the Board’s agenda. Ms. Lord did not find out about the meeting until sometime later.

As things are known to happen in Columbia County, Jerry Vaughn of Wainright Judicial Service’s Tallahassee office did discover that the Salvation Army contract was up for discussion that evening. He showed up for the meeting to speak against the Salvation Army’s contract. Mr. Vaughn explained to the Board that in order to do pre trial felony release Wainwright hired one additional person, Ms. Amanda Dix. Ms. Dix worked under the supervision of seventeen-year employee Wanda Jones, who Mr. Vaughn introduced to the Board.

Mr. Vaughn conveniently omitted the fact that Wanda Jones is Wanda “Bailey” Jones, the cousin of Commissioner Stephen Bailey. Commissioner Bailey did not volunteer that information. No one did.

This brings us to the November 1, 2007 Board meeting.

Go to transcript


Com. Weaver, loaded for bear, asked Ms. Lord, “You’re asking for approval of a contract to supervise felony?”071101_Dewey grililing Lord

Ms. Lord responded, “Felony pre trial release. Not in place of Wainwright Judicial Services, along with. So there will be two. Just like there are two county probation contracts.”

Com. Weaver shot back, “You came before this board earlier?”

Appearing surprised by Com. Weaver’s tone, Ms. Lord replied, “Well, the contract did, yes sir.”

Knowing full well that Ms. Lord was neither advised nor in attendance at the Jan. 2007 meeting, Weaver did not ask where she was. Instead, he barreled on, berating the surprised Ms. Lord for supervising felony cases even though they didn’t have a contract.

Com. Weaver, “Then why are you coming asking us to approve the contract if you are going to do it anyway?”

Maintaining her composure, Ms. Lord answered, “ … we are doing it at the urging of Judge Paul Bryan, who in April, I believe it was, said that I should try again, because I was unaware it was on the agenda at the time it was presented.”

Com. Weaver still refused to acknowledge that Ms. Lord was not advised of the January meeting and instead explained his “heartburn” at the Salvation Army continuing to do pre trial supervision “whether Judges assign it or not.”

Ms. Lord explained a concept that evaded Commissioner Weaver and the Board and is part of the fabric that holds this country together, “Because I am not in position to tell a Judge that I am not going to do something that he orders me to do.”

One might have thought that would have been good enough and the conversation would have stopped there, but it didn’t.

The Board continued to badger Ms. Lord and at one point in the conversation the Chairperson, Com. Porter asked County Attorney Marlin Feagle, “Can you shed some light on to whether or not the judiciary can assign these cases to an entity without a contract and whether or not we must adhere to that?”071101_Marlin

County Attorney Feagle answered, “I guess to a certain extent there’s still some separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Legislative Branch … The statute did not specifically address pre trial supervision of felonies … which means they are being supervised before they are found guilty or sentenced … I believe that there needs to be a contract approved by the county.”

Com. Porter asked if the Judiciary had the latitude to require the county to accept these felons even though the county didn’t have a contract with the Salvation Army?

County Attorney Feagle answered, “ … if the judiciary interprets the statute the same as we do, then it would require a contract. There is no black and white answer to it.”

Com Bailey jumped into the fray asking Ms. Lord if at one time both the Salvation Army and Wainwright were both splitting the pre trial services?

Ms. Lord answered that was correct. She explained about the Jessica Lundsford incident and the problem it posed for the Salvation Army. She explained how the Salvation Army handed all their cases over to Wainwright and again explained that no one told her about the meetings that took place. She concluded by telling Com. Bailey, “ … we realized that the county is in the position that they feel they need to have a contract.”071101_Stephen listens

Com. Bailey shot back, “Well, the position that I have with this is Wainwright stepped up to the plate and took those pre trial supervisions for Columbia County and Salvation Army didn’t.”

Com. Bailey concluded, “ … It makes me wonder are you going to follow a contract if we have one together now.” Ms. Lord tried to speak, but Bailey continued, “So with that being said, I make a motion to deny the contract request.”


Com. Skinner, the only Commissioner who treated Ms. Lord with any decency, asked, “Ms. Lord, let me understand. The Circuit Judge gave you an assignment order?”

Ms. Lord replied, “Yes sir.”071101_George Skinner

Com. Skinner turned to County Attorney Feagle, “OK, Marlin. Who under the constitution; who has the authority here? Is it the Circuit Judge or is it the County Commission?”

County Attorney Feagle read from the statute injecting his own comments (which are omitted), “… A private entity under the supervision of the Board of County Commissioners or the Court, may provide probation services for offenders sentenced by the Court … any private entity providing services for supervision of misdemeanor probationers, must contract with the county, in which the services are to be rendered.”

At no time during the Board’s discussion did the County Attorney mention that the statute, or any statute referred to pre trial felony release cases.


After one last attempt by both Commissioner Weaver and Commissioner Bailey to discredit and humiliate Ms. Lord, the torture, for both Ms. Lord and the onlookers, finally ended with the Board’s unsurprising rejection of the pre signed contract from the Salvation Army.

Neither the Board, nor the County Attorney asked the County Manager, Dale Williams, why the Salvation Army was not advised that their contract was coming before the Board in January of 2007. County Manager Dale Williams could have supplied an answer to that and how Wainwright’s representative in Tallahassee discovered the contract was going to be on that agenda.

It was out of character for this Board not to ask and this County Manager not to answer. Anybody who knows anything about Columbia County knows it. And that’s just about everybody.

Long time resident, Donna Lindboe told this reporter, “It was horrible, just horrible. I felt so bad for that lady. It was so obvious what was going on.”

I had spoken to Ms. Lord about the meeting I apologized to her, telling her I felt terrible for the way she was treated. She thanked me and said, “I’ve had apologies from the secretary who was taking the minutes and from the Clerk of the Courts for what happened. And they said some people have been calling.”

Commissioner Skinner told this reporter, “I’ve known Ms. Lord for a long time. It was horrible the way she was treated. I will be calling her up to apologize.”

The Salvation Army, a non profit organization universally known as being one of the finest and most honorable charitable organizations in the world, took thirty percent of the money they were collecting from the pre trial felony release program and contributed that money back to programs that benefited the community.

The County Commission didn’t ask about that.